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From timeless hits to lullabies and from opera to samba: The best and worst World Cup songs

The World Cup in Qatar is already underway and the organizers are urging us to indulge in the football feast, despite all outrageous circumstances surrounding the organization and the host country.

For many years now, tradition dictates that every World Cup should go with its own theme song, reflecting the atmosphere of its time, the musical traditions of the hosts of the event and the footballing passions of the fans.

There was also a trend for the official song to be more than just one, and for the championship in Qatar, the ambitions are huge in all aspects, including this one – so FIFA made as many as four official anthems for the tournament.

Songs from some of the sponsors have also been released, and as a result Qatar 2022 has been enriched with a whole soundtrack, although generally quantity has come at the expense of quality.

The songs of the 2022 FIFA World Cup are the ones that are unlikely to stick in your mind for long. It doesn’t help that they sound like summer dance hits, and as we know, the unprecedented decision to move this championship to winter was made long ago.

But theme songs remain an important part of any World Cup, and over the years there have been ones that have gained significance beyond the event for which they were created. However, there were also quite a few inglorious failures.

Today we recall a few examples of both types.

Let’s start with the failures:

Il Divo and Toni Braxton – The Time of Our Lives (Germany 2006)

A slow and melancholic song that would only be suitable for a compilation with missed penalties and painful dropouts.

The 2006 World Cup song proved that ballads are simply inappropriate for World Cup anthems.

Big tournaments need fresh beats to get people dancing, singing and jumping, not reaching for their tissues.

Pitbull feat. Jennifer Lopez and Claudia Letite – We Are One (Brazil 2014)

On the other hand, sometimes trying to be too colorful and too high-spirited leads to such results.

This rambling and forgettable song tries to capture the magic of Brazilian samba, but the clichéd melodies and rhythms don’t help it at all.

And the message that we should all come together and love may be appropriate for a World Cup, but it comes across as too sugary and is the genre’s biggest cliché.

Anastasia – Boom (Japan & South Korea 2002)

The 2002 World Cup song took a different approach and had nothing to do with the host countries. On the other hand, it captured the spirit of its musical age in the best possible way and therefore aged like yogurt instead of wine.

Boom is painfully standard early 2000s electro-pop that recalls other better songs and presents Anastasia at her most ridiculous.

In the video, she looks like some kind of space cowboy, and the shots with her have nothing to do with football, nor with the hosts of the championship, Japan and South Korea.

And these are the best examples:

Placido Domingo – El Mundial (Spain 1982)

The legendary tenor indulges in the emotions of football with this lively and cheerful song, which cannot help but cause many smiles even today – 40 years after the World Cup in Spain.

Domingo unfolds his enormous voice in a composition that manages to simultaneously capture the spirit of Spain, the solemnity of a football event and all the grandeur of operatic music.

However, the song did not bring luck to the Spaniards, who were eliminated early and did not manage to achieve anything big in their home championship. Perhaps, however, it is not by chance that the champion becomes the homeland of opera – Italy.

Ennio Morricone – El Mundial (Argentina 1978)

The 1978 World Cup cannot be remembered fondly, as it was held under the rule of a military junta in Argentina under the command of dictator Jorge Rafael Videla.

Therefore, the unusual circumstances surrounding the tournament are not few, but there is still something good – one of the greatest film composers, Ennio Morricone, gets the opportunity to decorate the history of the world championships with his own anthem.

The king of spaghetti western soundtracks creates an epic and solemn composition that would be worthy of a Hollywood movie. Today, we return to it as a relic from the time before pop music began to dominate World Cup songs.

Shakira – Waka Waka (South Africa 2010)

Shakira’s hit remains a benchmark in the genre to this day and shows just how popular the official song of a major championship can become, as long as it’s done right.

Waka Waka is fresh, danceable, uplifting, with an irresistible beat and just enough of a traditional African flavor to evoke the right emotions and draw attention to the host country. And even if we exclude the occasion of its creation, it has all the qualities to be a summer hit. So over three billion views on YouTube to date shouldn’t surprise us.

The song is also known for introducing Shakira to soccer star Gerard Pique during the filming of the video. The subsequent love story made them one of the most famous star couples, but in that year it came to their noisy separation.

Ricky Martin – La Copa de la Vida (France 1998)

This is still the absolute pinnacle of World Cup songs.

No one else so effectively blends a strong footballing message with an evergreen melody and the talent of a great artist at his absolute peak.

At the same time, La Copa de la Vida manages to avoid any sweetness and to this day remains an iconic nineties hit that can captivate you even if you have no affinity for football.

When he released the song, Ricky Martin had not yet finished his wildly successful fifth album (the one with Livin’ La Vida Loca on it) and would hardly have achieved such a hit further down the line had it not been for the France ’98 anthem.

His incredible live performance at the 41st Grammy Awards is one of the highlights of his career.

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