Best and worst of World Cup 2010 songs

[MUSIC WATCH] Have you ever watched a brilliant ad or segment on television and been blown away by the accompanying music, only to find that there is no mention of the artist or song name your heart so greatly desires?

I tend to have this problem every four years when the World Cup rolls around because there are so many "Official" and "Unofficial" theme songs that it's hard to keep track.

Below is a list that encompasses sanctioned and unsanctioned songs by notable artists that have been featured on television or gone viral on the Internet.

The best and worst themes of the 2010 World Cup are rated on a 5-point scale. The songs are judged on a combination of their originality, topicality, and wow factor.

Shakira – “Waka Waka”
1 out of 5
Why is a Colombian woman singing FIFA’s “official” theme song and telling me “Waka Waka, This time for Africa!” In the video she appears in quasi black-face and does some sort of African Tribal dance with a bunch of guys with spears. Is it just me or is Shakira setting the standard for racial insensitivity? Throw in the fact that “Waka Waka” means “Do It” in Fang, which is a language commonly spoken in Cameroon, and it makes you wonder what in the world she was thinking. Last time I checked the World Cup was in South Africa, not in Cameroon! Thankfully I’m not the only one who has raised the issue, as many South Africans are appalled by the video's offensive material and the overarching message that “all Africans are all the same."

Weezer – “Represent”
2 out of 5
Weezer’s “Represent” is a pretty ordinary sounding track. For a person who claims to be a soccer fanatic, you would think lead singer Rivers Cuomo could come up with some more original content for his lyrics. It’s worth a listen but I don’t know if I would fork over the 99 cents to buy it off iTunes.

U2 – “City of Blinding Lights”
2.5 out of 5
Not surprisingly, U2 struck a deal with ESPN to feature their music in the network’s World Cup ad campaign. The only problem is that the song they chose to feature, “City of Blinding Lightings,” is the same song that ESPN ran with their ads during the 2006 World Cup. It’s actually a pretty good song, the only problem is that it got stale four years ago in Berlin. I’m also pretty tired of U2 doing a theme song for every single major event known to man. I get that Bono is super into giving away his money and saving African children from poverty, but Ireland didn’t even qualify for the World Cup. He should have taken a cue from his countrymen and sat this one out.
For video, click HERE

R. Kelly – “Sign of a Victory”
3 out of 5
Upon hearing that R. Kelly had jumped on the World Cup theme bandwagon, I was mortified. However, I figured I would reserve judgment until after I had given the track a listen.  I was pleasantly surprised by the catchiness of the tune, and for some reason I couldn’t stop listening to it. Yes it’s cheesy, yes it’s generic, but it makes me smile when I hear it. I suppose that has to count for something.

Clint Dempsey – “Don’t Tread”
3.5 out of 5
It wouldn’t be fair to judge Dempsey on the same scale as the other “professional” musicians on this list, but sadly his song is considerably better than a number of the other ones on here. Dempsey’s jump into the rap game was another one of my “oh no” moments, until I actually gave the song a chance. To his credit, his vocal delivery is clean, and instead of making the typical rap video that showcases the excess of a glamorous lifestyle, he chose to feature the mean streets of Texas where he honed his soccer skills. Something about the chorus and the historic meaning of the term “Don’t Tread on Me” (used on early American Revolution flags) just gets me pumped. I also love that Dempsey is taking a not so subtle jab at the Brits.

Akon – “Oh Africa”
4 out of 5
Akon might win the award for most generic lyrics ever written for this song, but, considering he is Senegalese, at least it makes sense why he would write a song called “Oh Africa.” His music video employs some really cool special effects, and he also gets a boost in street cred for having Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres cameos.

Gnarls Barkley – “Going On”
4.5 out of 5
This song wasn’t written specifically for the World Cup, but the folks over at the Puma advertising department sure did a good job convincing us otherwise. Gnarls Barkley’s 2008 single “Going On” provided the perfect accompaniment to the inspiring ad campaign that revolved around an African jersey of unification. Although Nike’s “Write the Future” ad is breathtaking, it’s nice to see an ad campaign that features real Africans and their genuine excitement to be hosting a World Cup.

K'Naan – “Waving Flag”
5 out of 5
Simply put, this might be the greatest World Cup theme ever. I know that’s a bold statement, but can you think of an artist that has gone from relative obscurity to superstardom on the strength of a World Cup anthem? I can’t. It also helps that K’Naan believes the lyrics he is singing. He is from Mogadishu, one of the most war-torn cities on the planet. When I hear this song I think of how Nelson Mandela championed the fight against apartheid. I think about how Didier Drogba used his influence as an athlete to stop a war in his native Ivory Coast, if only for the duration of the 2006 World Cup. “Waving Flag” is more than a mere soccer anthem, it is a sincere cry of hope for an entire continent, from a man who has experienced the horrors of war firsthand. No World Cup song has ever carried a more powerful message.
For video click HERE.

9 comments about "Best and worst of World Cup 2010 songs".
  1. Terence Chu, June 17, 2010 at 4:37 a.m.

    Waving flag is an awesome song. The original version thought, is actually better than the world cup version. Truly heartfelt cry for peace lyrics. I liked shakiras live performance of her song, but the video is pretty horrid.

  2. Derek Mccracken, June 17, 2010 at 10:07 a.m.

    You "white bread" fans who only listen to whatever is "mainstream" and in English.

    Here in Pittsburgh, PA I listen to MTV3 (the Hispanic version of MTV which is offered on Comcast cable) as often as possible.

    On there, they have a pretty good Daddy Yankee song called "Grito Mundial" literally means World Cup Scream, but translates more as World Cup Shout out. It is broadcast on that channel quite often.


    I guess since it's in Spanish, it disqualifies it ranking on the Whitebread, Soccer America list????

  3. Lloyd Elling, June 17, 2010 at 1:52 p.m.

    Waving Flag by K'naan gets our vote. We played Waka Waka (English & Spanish) and Waving Flag. Our U-12 travel team girls loved Waving Flag. They picked up the tune and lyrics almost immediately. Dancing to it came naturaly for them. Not bad for a group of little girls. One day, they will fuly understand the depth of the words in "Waving Flag". Cheers to you K'naan and your band. You have touched all of us!

  4. Bus Driver, June 17, 2010 at 2:39 p.m.

    @Derek Mccracken:

    I don't think you're being fair at all. "White bread"? Really? Last time I checked, that's a pretty passive aggressive slur. Second, it's completely unwarranted one at that.

    1) There are eight songs on this list, only one of which is white American (Weezer). I guess you could count Clint Dempsey's song too, but he's hardly the lead in it. The list is pretty darn worldwide. A South American act, an Euro act, two African acts... come on.

    2) This is an English language publication. Doesn't it makes sense that most of the songs featured would be in English?

    3) Your translation of Grito Mundial, is wrong. Actually, both of your translations. "Grito Mundial" means "Shout Out Worldwide." No where in the song title is the word "Copa." The song, however, does mention the World Cup, and it's an okay song... but it's also shameless self promotion for his album "Daddy Yankee Mundial" (if you've been paying attention, you'll know that means "Daddy Yankee Worldwide).

    4) Just because your favorite World Cup song isn't included, there's no reason to be so petty and snide. Chances are, it was just an oversight. Maybe next time, you should just suggest adding the song you like. Try something like this: "Hey, you guys missed this song by Daddy Yankee. It's really good, you should check it out!" That way, you'll come off as way less of a prick, and maybe actually contribute something.

    My $.02.

  5. Dan Kaplan, June 17, 2010 at 3:19 p.m.

    1) Daley is right, you sound like a prick. 2) Shakira is Columbian which in Pittsburgh, PA, where you listen to MTV3 (the Hispanic version of MTV which is offered on Comcast cable) as often as possible, is considered Hispanic.
    3) No one cares that you "listen" to MTV3
    4) If you turn and face the TV while listening you'll probably get to watch MTV3

  6. <3DaDdY yAnKeE<3, June 17, 2010 at 3:33 p.m.

    Not to bust balls - but since when did Daddy Yankee becomes obscure and alternative. I mean, don't get me wrong, I feel Daddy Yankee's rhymes as much as the next guy - but he is hardly an obscure non-"mainstreem" Latin American artist. You might as well have chosen Menudo - I'm pretty sure my 16 year-old sister is just as familiar with both.

    - Dame mas gasolina

  7. Bus Driver, June 17, 2010 at 4:38 p.m.

    No joke, Daddy Yankee modeled Grito Mundial after a 1998 song by Ricky Martin... who was in Menudo... thus, the above comment is pretty spot on.

  8. Bus Driver, June 17, 2010 at 4:39 p.m.

  9. Dan Woog, June 17, 2010 at 5:54 p.m.

    This special World Cup mix by K'naan is truly spine-tingling. I've watched it dozens of times, and never get tired of it. It will always say "World Cup 2010" to me.

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