Soundtracking the 2014 World Cup
Songs crafted solely for the World Cup are nothing new. This has been happening since 1962 when Chile hosted the tournament. Official songs gave way to unofficial songs and then to a whole anthemic soundtrack that serves as half souvenir and half advertising campaign. This year is no different with FIFA officially sponsoring another soundtrack entitled The 2014 FIFA World Cup Official Album: One Love, One Rhythm. The cover art alone is a vibrant collage of people dancing, a soccer ball, and a toucan that converge to illustrate someone’s face. The album includes “banging pop tracks by artists from around the globe”, according to iTunes. That is why Pitbull is the first artist featured on this album.
Pitbull, whether you like it or not, is A Thing. There are plenty of people who enjoy his music because his music is correlated to a good time. He conjures up the imagery associated with the premiere of Pain and Gain: a lot of Bud Light, bottle service girls, and a possible Mark Wahlberg sighting. Pitbull is the kind of thing that Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t necessarily like, but he plays it just because women dance to it which helps make for a good practice. The song itself, “We Are One (Ola Ola),” is the official song of the 2014 World Cup. Thus, ESPN will probably play this song in the same manner that they play Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night” during college football season. So, if you’re not a fan, I would suggest you mute your television sets when the broadcast heads for commercial because the official track of 2014 sounds like every other Pitbull song from our modern era.
Also included on the soundtrack are Shakira, who performed the official anthem of the 2010 World Cup, as well as Wyclef Jean. Both are artists that corporations seem to rely on whenever they are going for international flair. Wyclef has Haitian roots? Get ’em! Shakira’s from Colombia? Close enough to Brazil! These songs, like Pitbull’s opener, are loud. A lot of energy, a lot of electronic bleep bloops among their respective yodels. Wyclef is also featured alongside previous collaborator Carlos Santana who offers a chance to sprinkle some of his Grammy dust on a soundtrack that could be in contention, given the way the Recording Academy votes. Also among the slew of international artists on this soundtrack is this year’s asshole by way of ubiquity, Aloe Blacc.
“I’m the Man” was everywhere this past year on almost any broadcast that referred to sports. It’s the self-affirming track that tells you to dust off the haters and do your thing. You’re the man, Johnny Football – you were picked by a homeless dude! Aloe Blacc is here to deliver another self-affirming track that riffs off of Nas. “The World is Ours” is the Coca-Cola sponsored track on this album that will bolster Blacc further given the success of the corporation’s last World Cup sponsored song, “Wavin’ Flag”. If you weren’t already on the sugar high of feeling yourself in 2014, prepare for Coca-Cola to supply you more.
Among the perceived freshness of Aloe Blacc are a few acts that you may remember from an earlier time. The first, from Puerto Rico, is Mr. Living La Vida Loca Ricky Martin. Martin returns with “Vida”, a thumping track that is a softer take on what Pitbull is already doing on this album. It’s the “Spanglish version” which means someone in music has decided to put a name to the Pitbull-like iteration of this song. There’s also the Baha Men on here which you might remember from the always existential, “Who Let the Dogs Out?”. The track they contribute, “Night and Day (Carnival mix)”, is a nod to Brazil’s huge festival which is rooted in Caribbean traditions. The only question I have about this move that will also go unanswered is why the Baha Men and why now?
Every song is not rooted in the bombastic airhorn maximalism of today’s dance music. The Brazilian artists that contribute to this soundtrack – Psirico, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown, and Rodrigo Alexey – still keep the energy going without cramming so much sound into a recording that it leaves you feeling disjointed. It’s a nice change of pace and feels more like a party around a soccer game than Godzilla-like destruction. An oddity that sticks out on this album is the Isley Brothers whose “Do Your Thing” is remixed as a Studio Rio version. They just layer cowbells and shakers all over the track in an attempt to give it a more South American flair. You can hardly discern Ron Isley’s voice from all of stuff they have thrown on top of it. It’s as if he’s trying to break out of the din of noise to sing “let me out” so he can do what he wants to do.
This advertisement for the World Cup is meant to channel the uplifting spirit of the event on the horizon. Yet, I think you will primarily be inspired to remove these noises from your auditory canals to stop them from invading your brain. The World Cup coincides with summer jam season which already produces some of the most ear worm-y stuff of each year. So, if you want to leave enough capacity for you to process an Australian girl impersonating Nicki Minaj, I suggest you stay far away from this cacophonous album of Latin sounds being thrown against a flavela roof.