Ranking the 10 best (and worst) Olympics theme songs – USA TODAY
Like competing on the balanceÂ beam or sprinting to theÂ finish line, writing a song can be an Olympic-caliberÂ feat. Every two years, artists are called upon to record a tuneÂ that will capture the mood of the summer and winter Olympic games. Before Friday’s opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro (NBC, 7:30 ET/PT), we look back at the best and worst athletic anthems.
10. Survival, Muse
At the time of its release in 2012, BBC radio host Jon Holmes memorablyÂ compared this London Olympics theme to “an orchestra falling down some stairs” and the “noise of a rhino knocking a wall down.” The English rockers’ unbearable hodgepodge of crashing drums, dramatic strings and strained vocals may be the Games’ worst official song.
9.Â Barcelona, Freddie Mercury and Montserrat CaballÃ©
BarcelonaÂ is a fineÂ duet: taken off the Queen frontman’s 1988 jointÂ album of the same name with the Spanish opera star, whose sublime soprano compliments his elastic vocals. But the classical, yearning love song is unlikely to light a fire under any athletes’ feet and is better suited as an homage to the city, which played host to the 1992 summer event.
8. Rise, Katy PerryÂ
Perry’s dark, drivingÂ single for this year’s Games admittedly grows on you after a few listens, and its impassioned lyrics about perseverance are inspiring during such a distressingly violent summer. But one can’t help but wish that the effervescent pop queen had tried something a little more adventurous with the ultimately forgettable Rise, which sounds like a retread of past songsÂ Wide Awake and Unconditionally.
7. Oceania, BjÃ¶rkÂ
The Icelandic trailblazer blends rippling synths and whirring siren calls on this nautical ballad, written specifically for the 2004 summer games in Greece. But while the briny, Neptune imagery fits right into BjÃ¶rk’s unusual oeuvre, it’s hardly pump-up material.
6. Bang the Drum, Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado
By no stretch of the imagination is Bang the Drum a lyrical masterpiece. (Sample lyrics: “From the East / From the West / Each of us trying our best.”) And yet, the 2010 Winter Olympics anthem is a refreshingly upbeat addition to the Games’ often somber catalog, fueled by a peppy drum solo and unabashedly cheesy chorus about dreaming big.
5. Someday, Flipsyde
Hip-hop artists have mostly been passed over when it comes to penning Olympic tunes. But NBC made this Oakland group anÂ exception when it picked Someday as the theme forÂ the 2006 winter gamesÂ â a solid choice, given its motivational lyrics about overcoming adversity and unique combination of rap and Spanish guitar.
4. You and Me, Liu Huan and Sarah Brightman
This sedate duet could run the risk of putting you to sleep, with faint, almost childlike vocals from the Chinese singer and English soprano. But its resonant theme âÂ “You and me, from one world / We are family” âÂ makes thisÂ 2008 Beijing songÂ one of the Olympics’ most unexpectedly stirring.
3. Hand in Hand, KoreanaÂ
It’s near impossible to not be won over by the charms of South Korean band Koreana on this soaring throwback from the 1988 Seoul games, with earnest vocals and pulsing synths worthy of the podium.
2. The Power of the Dream, Celine DionÂ
Do you prefer the Canadian diva’s performance at the 1996 Summer Olympics kick-off, anchored by her silky vibrato and formidable belt? Or do you favor the milder rendition at the Games’ closing ceremony, sung by some 600 children from Atlanta, whose joined hands and dulcet voices drove home the anthem’s hopeful message? Either way, you can’t go wrong.
1. One Moment in Time, Whitney Houston
The gold standard by which all Olympic theme songs should be judged. Also written for the 1988 summer event, this top-5Â hit perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the Games: giving one’s all, facing the painÂ and ultimately becoming “more than I thought I could be.” But it’s also an expertly constructed pop anthem, which gradually builds to a trumpeting finish as Houston belts, “I will be free.” It’s a knockout vocal performance that only she was capable of giving, and one that elevates this from a rousing torch song to a timeless classic.
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