Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Do You Know 10 of the Most Memorable Songs of the Olympic Games
Muse's hyper-anthemic "Survival" may be the most talked-about Official Olympic song this year, but it's not the best. Sure, the music video is crammed full of Mini Cooper product placement, but singer Dionne Bromfield deserves some props for sounding like she's actually having fun on this Torch relay song.
2008: Liu Huan and Sarah Brightman's "You and Me"
At the opening ceremonies at 2008's Beijing Olympic Games, musical theater queen Sarah Brightman and all her magical hair extensions joined Chinese Mandopop atop a glowing globe for a song about global unity. Fun fact: There is an entire section of Liu Huan's Wikipedia page dedicated to his hair.
2004: "Oceania" by Björk
Let's be real: There were probably a lot of people who didn't know quite what to make of Björk's epic "Oceania," which she performed at the 2004 Summer Olympics Ceremony just after the Parade of Nations. But the all-vocals tune — its rhythm provided by beat-boxer Schlomo — is definitely the most original Olympics anthem ever. The lyrics don't even include the words "reach," "win," or "togetherness."
2000: "The Flame" Tina Arena
Tina Arena is pretty much the Australian Celine Dion, only with fewer chest-thumps. The former child star rang in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia with her song "The Flame," which was about the Olympic flame and greatness and stuff.
1996: "Reach" by Gloria Estefan and Diane Warren
Gloria Estefan co-wrote her 1996 hit with adult contemporary staple Diane Warren, who has mastered the art of producing Music Moms Love. It even features the spirit-lifting backing vocals of a full choir and one of those life-affirming key changes that can be found in any Warren song worth its weight.
1992: Freddie Mercury and Monserat Caballé's "Barcelona"
When opera star Montserrat Caballé approached Freddie Mercury about producing a song for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, he jumped on the idea and took it a step further, suggesting they collaborate on an entire album for the occasion. The resulting Barcelona had one of Mercury's greatest solo hits in its title track, but sadly, he was never able to perform any of the songs at the games — he passed away from AIDS in 1991.
1988: Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time"
Songwriter Albert Hammond envisioned Elvis Presley singing "One Moment in Time" when he co-wrote it with John Bettis for the 1988 Olympics, but it's hard to imagine anyone but Whitney Houston pulling off triumphant, soaring vocals. The song was wildly successful, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 nine weeks after its release.
1988: Koreana's "Hand in Hand"
This Giorgio Moroder-produced track is pretty much exactly what one expects from an official Olympics theme song: Cheesy, with plenty of motivational platitudes. But it's worth watching the video, if only for the amazing late '80s haircuts and sunglasses.
1984: Herbie Hancock's "Junku"
There were a number of special themes created for the 1984 Olympic Games in Sarajevo, but the most fun (and, admittedly, most dated) among them was the Field Theme, a.k.a. Herbie Hancock's "Junku," which featured traditional African instruments like the kalimba over a steady synth beat. Okay, yes: It sounds just like "Rockit," but... earthier.
1980: Tônis Mägi's "Olimpiada"
The United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which means a whole bunch of people missed out on the magic of Tônis Mägi's spirited theme song "Olimpiada." Though the kitschy song was released at the tail end of the disco era, it was still one of the Estonian singer's most popular works. Hopefully the backup dancers were able to make it to the opening ceremonies.
To craft a glorious Olympic anthem is no easy feat: A successful song requires mass appeal on a global scale, and a melody that's appreciated everywhere from Moscow to Minnesota.
This year, UK rockers Muse were met with a fair amount of snark over their effort "Survival," a sweeping, epic production that sounds a little too like self-parody to achieve the desired dramatic effect. With lyrics like "I'll light the fuse / and I'll never lose," the song skips straight into competitive cliché — but so has practically every official Olympic song, with a few notable exceptions.
Few of these songs are actually great (some are borderline awful, really), but they did manage to capture the spirit of their respective times. How does "Survival" stack up in light of these gems?