There’s a strange relationship between sports and music. When music is used in support of sports (like that “Na na na na hey” song), it goes together like Nutella and literally anything else in the world. But when a foolhardy rock star decides to pay a direct tribute to his or her hometown heroes, the results are decidedly…awkward.
It’s an odd relationship to consider, especially since there are some terrific artists writing songs about legendary teams. Problem is, more often than not they usually come off less like an earnest tribute and more like a forced family photo. So, for your benefit, we’ve combed through all those cringe-worthy songs and reviewed some of our “favorites.” Enjoy.
(Note: these songs are specifically by an artist, for a team. No regular team anthems like “Brass Bonanza.”)
The Flaming Lips – “Thunder Up”
The good ol’ Flaming Lips tweaked their song “Race for the Prize” into a pump-up ditty for this year’s Oklahoma City Thunder. And the timing couldn’t be better – as we speak they’re fighting for an NBA Championship. Listening to this song is kind of like guest-starring on an episode of Bizarre Foods, taking a big, healthy bite out of some steaming, grey, half-identified organ, and realizing, “Hey. That’s…that’s not bad!” I mean, the deck is certainly stacked here. If I traveled back to 1998 and told you that a teal-and-orange team called the Oklahoma City Thunder would be the subject of a Flaming Lips pump-up song, your questions would probably be: 1) Huh? 2) Is that a WNBA team? And 3) You have a time machine, why aren’t you stopping Hitler?
That said, Wayne Coyne is kind of in that Beck/Bill Murray school where I don’t fully understand what he does, or why he does it, but it usually turns out all right. “We got an ocelot playing harmonica. He’s very talented.” Oh. Ok.
So, you know. Benefit of the doubt and all that.
The Baseball Project – “Don’t Call Them Twinkies”
According to Wikipedia, the Baseball Project is a “supergroup formed by Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn and Linda Pitmon.” Not only does this stretch the definition of “supergroup” to some pretty uncomfortable lengths, but this apparently baseball-themed band went with just about the weakest possible baseball name they could have (alternatives – and I’m spitballing here: The Leadoffs, The Relievers, The Closers, Batting Clean-Up, The Dugout, The Cracker Jacks, etc. Hell, even “Spitballing” itself would be a better name).
This particular song is a pretty wordy tribute to the Minnesota Twins, specifically, 1965 through the early to mid-90s. Craig Finn from The Hold Steady takes the vocals, so if you’re cool with his voice (read: excitable man who loves saying words and needs to clear the caramel from his throat) you’ll dig it.
If you’re a Finn fan, you’ll be wondering if there’s a reference to church (yep, at 1:27), and to St. Paul (right again – at 00:57), and booze (the entire outro is about raising toasts, so there you go). The real issue with this song is that right when you’ve had just enough it…keeps going. It’s two minutes too long. The worst part is, despite my lukewarm feelings towards the song, it’s still probably one of the top 5 rocker-written sports anthems ever. Eesh.
Scott Stapp – “Marlins will Soar”
I…wh-what the hell is this!? This isn’t some internet prank? Scott Stapp actually recorded a pump-up song for…the Miami Marlins? That’s like a…bag of farts endorsing rotting food. And don’t give me any of that “two-time World Series” nonsense. It’s Miami. Their entire city looks like a Diddy video and everyone wears white for some reason. If I want to take a cheap shot at their boring, ineffectual baseball team I’m going to do it.
The fact that marlins actually can’t soar (it’s science) is probably on the low side of atrocities committed by this mercifully-brief song. If you want to know what it sounds like, don’t search the internet for it; I’ll tell you. Imagine the Muppet Sam the Eagle stuck in a dryer while breathily stringing together unrelated baseball terms. And in the background? Needlessly overwrought guitar riffs. The best example of this is, in my mind, the standout stanza of the entire song:
A pahurrrfect game / A tuhhrriple play / Anoethur play / I’ll pray – yes! / World Series Champs we’ll b<sound of a bat cracking>
It’s just…it reads like a “South Park” parody, right? But it’s a real thing that was recorded and that people apparently listen to. WHY? According to Wikipedia, “In 2006, Hit Parader ranked Stapp as the 68th greatest heavy metal vocalist of all time.” They forgot to mention that there are only 50 heavy metal vocalists.
Just, ah God. Come on, Florida. Would you please get with it one of these days? Please? You’re almost all coastline and you’re warm and you have alligators and you actually have to try really hard to be screwing it up this badly. Get it together.
Prince – “Purple and Gold”
Ah, finally! If anyone can write a kick-ass sports anthem, it’s Prince! He’s one of the funkiest people alive AND one of the most underrated guitar players AND bass players ever! I am chomping at the bit to hear this one.
(Heavy, world-weary sigh)
(Slow, meaningful sip of whiskey)
H-hey. You guys remember when Prince bought a $6 Casio and got ripped on who knows what kind of liqueur and recorded a sports song?
I don’t even know where to begin here. It sounds like I recorded Atari noises with a Talkboy and–
Wait, I’m not being fair. Let’s take a closer look at the lyrics. There’s gotta be something worthwhile here:
we r the ones who have now come again
and walk upon water like solid ground
as we approach the throne we won’t bow…
Woooooooooo. Ok. If you’re keeping score at home, Prince just compared Vikings fans – every Vikings fan – to Jesus Christ (in a decidedly misspelled manner). It’s both patently ridiculous, and exactly the kind of nonsense you’d never see a Christian ponder–OH! I get it! Very clever, Prince.
The song still sucks.
Well, there you have it. My apologies to fans of Wiz Khalifa, Li’l Wayne and any other tragic sports anthems I’ve missed but I’m…I’m just not doing this to myself anymore. From now on if you want to support your team just…buy a damn foam finger or something.
How about a beer to go with that ballgame? Brian used his expertise as a cicerone to find ManCave’s favorite spring beers. –>