In case you didn’t hear, a little sporting event called the World Cup begins this week in South Africa. For one month, the majority of the world will watch to see which country will emerge glorious, while also getting in arguments with Americans over them calling it “soccer” (aside…”soccer vs. football” is the stupidest language debate, even dumber than “pop vs. soda”). It’s gonna be a great month of athletic action, even if my South African friend tells me there is a 95 percent chance something horrible will happen in the host nation.
To help guide teams to victory, pop groups from nation’s going to the World Cup often record special songs for the occasion. Japan, heading to the tourney this year, gets aural help from small-nation-sized pop troupe EXILE, who have recorded a song titled “VICTORY.” The addition of an uplifting J-Pop song surely will help the Japanese side, but can it motivate them enough to advance out of a very tough group? The answer is no, the Japanese team isn’t very good and if they force a draw out of any opponent they deserve applause. But can EXILE’s song at least stand out as better than the other country’s respective Cup songs? Let’s break it down.
Japan: EXILE’s “VICTORY”
Seeing as the World Cup will be held in Africa for the first time ever and that details pretty big, a lot of these songs seem to be trying to sound vaguely “African.” Which…is flippin’ great because African music generally rules, especially the percussion. EXILE seem to be at their best when they aim at imitating a specific sound…the only other song of theirs I recall enjoying tried really hard to sound Spanish…and here they go all out. “VICTORY” sounds great because it barely resembles a typical EXILE song. Here, African percussion gets joined with Lion King-big wordless chanting and the whole affair sounds flat-out triumph. The galloping beat even manages to make up for the usual EXILE crooning. Sure, it’s an EPCOT Center take on African sounds, but even a diorama can blow your mind sometimes.
The Netherlands: Gerrit & de Kokosnoten “Holland gaat aan Kop”
I can’t find an official song for football powerhouse the Netherlands, so I consulted World Cup Song. It’s a website where anyone can submit a song for there country. This ditty by the duo (?) Gerrit & de Kokosnoten currently ranks as the top Holland-themed song and the fifth best tune overall. I can see why, as it’s really catchy. Yet it’s also kinda…like an Irish drinking song? Which would be cool if the World Cup featured games in Dublin and Cork. Unfortunately, the games happen in the southern hemisphere this year, so this track doesn’t seem particularly representative enough. Unless Amsterdam resembles Shannon a lot more than I thought.
Nephew Featuring Landsholdet “The Danish Way To Rock”
Whereas Holland’s song didn’t sound particularly Dutch, Denmark’s most-viewed World Cup song on YouTube actually features members of the Danish National Team singing. Can’t knock that. Unfortunately, despite team involvement, “The Danish Way To Rock” turns out to be “repetitively and with a little synth thrown in for good effect.” Nephew seems to be taking cues from 80s hair metal, but none of the bands who actually managed to write catchy songs that sounded great in arenas or coming out of car stereos. This sounds like sub-grade WWE theme music. Don’t hurt me Danish team!
Cameroon: Papa Africa “World Cup 2010 Song”
Sorta a stretch, as the YouTube description for this video also claims Papa Africa hails from Poland and Germany. I can’t find a better video for Cameroon…unless you want me to roll with Akon which isn’t happening…and besides this is a fun little dose of sunny pop. And he wears a Cameroon jacket! This definitely wins the group for feel-good number, all bright horns and warm guitar strumming. Papa Africa’s voice is the audio equivalent of a freshly hosed-down Slip-N-Slide, totally chill but also really fun. Not to mention his smile in the video makes all my problems dissolve in blasts of sun.
Japan and EXILE win because 1.) Papa Africa’s song isn’t exclusively about Cameroon despite still being pretty bright and 2.) Japan deserves to win something this World Cup.
4. The Netherlands