You can call it Jock Jams. You can call it Hype Music. You can call it Pump Up the Volume.
I just like to call it a damn good soundtrack.
It’s not a good sporting event without a solid disc jockey, and often the atmosphere of a game is dictated by what song is playing at the given time. Some songs even emphasize events happening in a game, making the moment even more special to the ones who chose to attend.
Music only heightens the intensity and emotions surrounding the game, often generating crowd noise meant to distract the opponent or invigorate the home team to make a play.
Obvious songs like “We Are the Champions” (written and performed by Freddie Mercury of Queen in 1977) come to mind when a champion has been crowned in an arena, and the song is certainly one of the better sports jams of our time.
Other arena favorites, such as “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, are crowd pleasers played to get an audience involved in singing and dancing and carrying on, perhaps during a media timeout or halftime show.
It works so good, so good, so good, every single time it plays. Here are a few songs I love to hear, or would love to hear, when I go to sporting events.
“The Boys are Back in Town” – Thin Lizzy (1976)
Released on the album Jailbreak by Irish rock group Thin Lizzy in 1976, “The Boys are Back in Town” is a great home arena song to hear, especially if the team has been on a rather long and difficult road trip and has just returned to the confines of its stadium.
“Fuel” – Metallica (1999)
Nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1999, “Fuel” is just the song to get any crowd completely jacked up for whatever is about to happen. The high octane overture is certainly a crowd favorite at football games around the nation and definitely heightens the adrenaline of everyone within earshot.
“Shoot to Thrill” – AC/DC (1980)
I guess you’re wondering why I didn’t pick “Hell’s Bells,” “You Shook Me All Night Long” or “Back in Black.” Honestly they are all great choices for this list. Angus Young and Co. spent decades pumping out crowd-pleasing riffs, most of which are blasted across PA systems in stadiums around the world. However, when I hear “Shoot to Thrill,” I think basketball games, hockey games or any sport with a denizen of beautiful cheerleaders rocking out to this song.
“In the Air Tonight” – Phil Collins (1981)
I’m not sure even Phil Collins knew how ridiculously epic this song would become. I honestly can’t decide what’s more powerful at a sporting event, the lyrics “I’ve been waiting for this moment for all of my life” or the drum solo at 3:40 that turns everyone and their grandmother into the greatest air drummer of all time. Either way, this song is a must for any good mixer in the booth at a game.
“We Will Rock You” – Queen (1977)
Unlike its radio counterpart “We Are the Champions,” as the two are often played consecutively, “We Will Rock You” fits almost any situation and at any time during competition and is a sure-fire way to crank up crowd volume. Ranked No. 330 on The Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs of All Time list, the simple rhythm is enough to get any casual fan into a game. Stomp-stomp-clap. Stomp-stomp-clap. Stomp-stomp-clap. WE WILL, WE WILL ROCK YOU. Yeah, I think that does the trick.
“Get Ready” – Rare Earth (1970)
Though not exactly a sports-driven song, “Get Ready” was the last song written by Smokey Robinson in 1966 for The Temptations. Certainly a love-making song for the casual listener, “Get Ready,” in my oh-so-humble opinion, is a much more family friendly version of its modern translation in today’s music scene, and the vibe of the song should get a crowd moving and grooving and cheering in the stands.
“Work Hard, Play Hard” – Wiz Khalifa (2012)
Though the edited version would be the one to blast over the stadium speakers, the beat of the song and simplistic chants of “work hard, play hard” would be enough to get any crowd crunk. Khalifa has been a rap artist on the scene since his single “Black and Yellow” exploded on the airwaves in Sept. 2010, and his newest single certainly measures up to the anthem-style rap necessary for a powerful game atmosphere.
“Folsom Prison Blues” – Johnny Cash (1955)
Similar to “Sweet Caroline,” “Folsom Prison Blues” delivers in the entertainment department and is great filler for commercial breaks, seventh inning stretches and injury timeouts. Cash delivered a song beloved not just by country fans, but music enthusiasts of all types who appreciate an emotionally charged song with a steady beat and catchy hook. This song is perfect for crowd participation and is particularly easy to sing.
“Right Here, Right Now” – Fatboy Slim (1999)
Compiled by Fatboy Slim from The James Gang and Angela Bassett samples, “Right Here, Right Now” is a big-beat rhythm that will punch you in your eardrums and rip off your face. The song could easily be played right before a do-or-die moment for a team or perhaps as a team is mounting an improbable comeback against a fearsome opponent. Either way, the song is good and sees considerable play in the U.S.
“Runaround Sue” – Dion & the Del-Satins (1961)
Call me crazy, but every time I hear this song, I think of the epic defensive montage in Little Big League as the Twins climb up the leaderboard in search for the AL Pennant. This song is a fun, bouncy tune that is super short and can easily be squeezed in when things are a little edgy or stagnant and can bring the crowd back to life.
Column by Edward Marlowe, Staff writer