With the official 2022 World Cup song by Lil Baby and Tears for Fears recently releasing, we take a look at how it compares to songs from previous tournaments.
Lil Baby’s official song for the upcoming 2022 World Cup has received a fair share of stick online. Featuring a sample from Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” many have claimed “The World Is Yours to Take” doesn’t quite encapsulate the energy of the biggest sporting competition in the world, while others say it’s more Budweiser ad than World Cup anthem.
However, creating a track that an entire planet of football fans give a thumbs up to is a challenge, which is why we assessed how it stacks up with some of the memorable songs from previous editions of the World Cup.
Rating nine other anthems from the past, we decided to see for ourselves whether the backlash is justified or if this a classic case of nostalgia bias unfolding in front of our eyes.
2014: “We Are One (Ole Ola)” — Pitbull ft. Jennifer Lopez and Claudia Leitte: 7.5/10
The fearlessness, freedom, and finesse associated with the glory days of the Brazil national team is what made generations of observers fall in love with the beautiful game. This is precisely why World Cups and Brazil go hand-in-hand together, as do songs that incorporate Brazilian or South American culture in general.
“We Are One (Ole Ola)” by Pitbull with Jennifer Lopez and Claudia Leitte, had the ideal stage to do so at the 2014 World Cup in football’s promised land. Upon requests from the public saying the song had a distinct lack of the nation’s musical identity, the addition of the signature drums from Afro-Brazilian band Olodum was a much-needed authentic touch.
Despite Pitbull having a tendency to spit the most generic bars, being all-energy is what allows fans to get into the spirit of an upcoming World Cup.
Lopez also took the initiative of rapping and singing respectively in Spanish, as it is key for any World Cup song to exude a global sense of appeal. The addition of Leitte was a key one, considering the Brazilian artist was perhaps the finest feature on the song. He was understandably a natural fit to the track.
While the trio admittedly did not break any barriers, an uplifting and fast-paced song that did its best to understand the all-around Brazilian aesthetic is a victory in our books.
2010: “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)” — Shakira ft. Freshlyground: 10/10
For those that believe a perfect World Cup song does not exist, “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)” begs to differ. Rarely has there been a track as associated with a particular edition of the tournament than Shakira’s, which also featured South African band Freshlyground.
Inspired by Cameroonian hit song “Zangalewa” by Golden Sounds, “Waka Waka” was a fitting celebration of the first World Cup hosted by an African nation.
The incorporation of an African-Colombian rhythm coupled with a soca-inspired beat as well as South African guitar, the musical roots are in deeply ingrained in African culture.
Featuring one of the most euphoric choruses from any song in World Cup history as well, it was no surprise to see it peak as high as No. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. In addition, the music video was an instant classic, and had cameos from the likes of Gerard Pique, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Dani Alves. At 3.2 billion views, it stands as the 28th-most watched YouTube video of all time.
“Waka Waka” is simply as iconic as it gets when it comes to World Cup songs.
2010: “Wavin’ Flag (Celebration Mix)” — K’Naan: 9.5/10
The 2010 World Cup was special, not only in terms of Andres Iniesta’s unforgettable winner in the final against the Netherlands, but also the pre-tournament bangers.
“Wavin’ Flag” is our second 2010 entry on this list, and despite not being a song written exclusively for the competition, it has left an impact over a decade later. Dedicated to the people of Somalia and their cries for freedom, K’Naan managed to capture the energy of each nation at the World Cup and their aspirations for glory.
Handpicked by Coca-Cola as their official anthem for the competition, the “Celebration Mix” incorporated football-focused lyrics as well as upbeat percussion to create a more vibrant remix of the song.
And much like “Waka Waka,” “Wavin’ Flag’s” celebratory vibe and musical roots dedicated to Africa ended up being the perfect ode to the 2010 World Cup.
This version of the song amassed incredible global numbers, reaching No. 1 in European countries such as Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. As the Qatar World Cup is right around the corner, there is no shame in replaying a track that has aged gracefully to get into the spirit of things.
2006: “The Time Of Our Lives” — Il Divo with Toni Braxton: 6/10
This is not to suggest for a second that “The Time Of Our Lives” is a poor song by any stretch. In fact, judging it as a standalone track, it’s a tearjerking ballad.
Toni Braxton’s vocals are stunning and the four-man powerhouse of II Divo — classically trained singers from four different countries — were typically divine to listen to. The musical chops at play are undeniably on an outrageous level.
But a ballad that one would play at their wedding is the antithesis of a World Cup song. That’s where this track borders on parody in the context that it was placed in.
Despite references to leaving behind a lifetime of heartbreak to taste glory, songs such as these are meant to have a certain sense of whim when it comes to any country’s aspirations to be crowned as world champions.
The distinct lack of enthusiasm in the track emphasizes the bizarre decision by FIFA to crown it as the appropriate choice of song for the 2006 World Cup.
“The Time Of Our Lives” is one to forget and a template that must never be taken into account for the future.
2002: “Boom” — Anastacia: 5/10
Most of the songs on this list that receive a lower score have something in common — the artist failed to receive the memo. Such is the case with Anastacia, which emphasizes why “Boom,” despite being well-received, was not fit to be the song that one associates with the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
The song is a catchy pop record, which makes vague references to football as well as the competition. And for the majority of the track, one is left scratching their head as to what correlation the lyrics have with sport as a whole. For instance:
“If I go away / Would you follow me? / To that special place of tranquillity/ Where the river flows and the fields are golden.”
The pre-chorus bridge’s lyrics makes a case for being one of the most underwhelming World Cup songs in recent memory.
1998: “La Copa de la Vida” — Ricky Martin: 9/10
To many, “La Copa de la Vida” is the greatest World Cup anthem of all time, and there are plenty of arguments to suggest why the song is held in such high regard.
After the success of Ricky Martin’s single “Maria” in 1995, FIFA contacted him to create a song for the 1998 World Cup. Being arguably the biggest Latin pop artist in the world at the time, Martin managed to exemplify the spirit of football’s grandest stage with a release that was less song and more anthem.
Featuring elements of samba, Europop, and salsa, the world-renowned artist managed to symphonize cultures from Europe and South America, the two continents that have been instrumental in molding football into its moniker as “the beautiful game.”
While all the song’s other predecessors captured the spirit of the host nation, La Copa de la Vida’s appeal was down to how it struck a chord on a universal scale.
Ricky Martin understood the assignment and made a classic for the ages.
1994: “Gloryland” — Daryl Hall and Sounds of Blackness: 6/10
If there’s one thing that you have to give to Daryl Hall and Sounds of Blackness, it is that “Gloryland” is as American as a song can possibly sound. So much so that the composition itself would be fitting as an alternate version of the United States of America’s national anthem.
Several artists make the grave error of producing a World Cup song that simply does not align with anything about the host nation’s culture.
And it is worth saying that especially for American soccer fans, the patriotic nature of the official song may have been the perfect antidote to get them into the spirit of the tournament, despite knowing better as the USMNT was anything but in its heyday back then.
While the song certainly ticks all the boxes as a motivational anthem for the USMNT, it simply does not fit the bill of an official World Cup song. Furthermore, it is comically downbeat for a song meant to unite the world in basking in the glory of the most globally-watched sport’s absolute pinnacle.
With the song only fulfilling one aspect of the checklist — paying tribute to the host nation — it would be harsh to fully write off the official song that defines USA ’94.
But simultaneously, it would be far too kind to hail it as one to remember for the right reasons.
1974: “Futbol” — Maryla Rodowicz: 7/10
Unlike a chunk of the World Cup songs from the earlier editions of the tournament, “Futbol” is upbeat enough to get one rubbing their hands about the start of the competition. The light drums, guitar, and horns during the hook alongside the repetitive, yet catchy chorus make this stand out in comparison to the rest of its predecessors.
Polish singer Maryla Rodowicz’s powerful vocals add a sense of verve to this track, which carries a largely understated instrumental. The backing track is charming, but could have done with more meat to it, while also perhaps incorporating German culture as a whole to certify this song as a classic.
But Rodowicz belting out “futbol” throughout the track is how you do not mince matters and stick to the theme of a song. It’s far from being the best, but this is a World Cup song worth harking back to, especially for the ones that are unfamiliar with its inception in the first place.
1966: “World Cup Willie” — Lonnie Donegan (FIFA World Cup 1966): 7.5/10
Let’s get the negative out of the way. Much like “Gloryland,” this song is perhaps excessively focused on the host nation England.
However, there are two positives that separate this track from the anthem that defined USA 1994. For one, it uplifts the listener and isn’t inherently English in the manner that “Glorlyland” is American. It is almost to the point where it’s poking fun at the extremes it has crossed for the sake of being patriotic.
Secondly, England’s official song hones in on a national sensation at the time, “World Cup Willie,” which is rare for any host nation to do. Zeroing in on the buzz around the nation whilst promoting the lovable lion figure, this is as wholesome an anthem can get.
Yes, it perhaps lacks the verve of a “Waka Waka” but for its time, the ideation is commendably unique and the song is unavoidably adorable. As much as it may shock the Gen Z readers perusing through our selections, we’re jumping on the “World Cup Willie” bandwagon in 2022.
Slander us all you want but first, Google who won the World Cup in 1966.
2022: “The World Is Yours To Take” — Lil Baby: 3/10
There’s no denying that Lil Baby is reigning supreme as the leader of the new school of rap. So much so that FIFA went out of their way to handpick him to cook up the official World Cup song, which is unprecedented territory.
However, it isn’t a hot take to suggest that the Atlanta rapper’s effort came across as a throwaway track that possibly would not have made the cut for one of his albums.
Besides this very reality, it is also pertinent to discuss how the song fails to capture the essence of the World Cup in its entirety. While some of the lyrics make low-effort references to the tournament, the track also features possibly the most cringeworthy line out of any official World Cup song:
“I came here for fun, let’s get turnt up / Somebody pass me Budweiser, a cold one.”
Despite Budweiser’s involvement in the song, to namedrop them in one of the lyrics makes the American artist and sponsor come across as extremely out of touch with the tournament.
To top things off, sampling the hook from Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” makes for a chorus that has little to no correlation with the aesthetic of the song.
While Lil Baby’s track record since his rise in 2016 remains virtually flawless, the same cannot be said for this particular release, which makes it the worst ever World Cup song to date.