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A brief history of the worst-ever Olympic theme songs

Tuesday 2nd August 2016

It’s a fact of life that the music of the Olympics always sucks. Hussein Moses is here to take in the worst of it.

 

Image: Katie Parker

With all due respect to the late Freddie Mercury, there has only been one perfect Olympic theme song in the history of the whole entire world: Whitney Houston’s One Moment In Time.

Written by John Bettis and Albert Hammond (who is, you guessed it, is dad to Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr), One Moment In Time was released in 1988 as part of the soundtrack for the Seoul Games. The song would go top 10 in dozens of countries around the world, including number one in the UK, and Houston would even end up performing it at the Grammy Awards the following year. Also, the b-side to the single was called Love Is A Contact Sport, which is without a doubt the best ever title for a song loosely associated with a sporting event.

But we’re here because Whitney Houston is the exception to the rule; and the rule is that the music of the Olympic Games always sucks. Always.

It really shouldn’t be so hard: take a second to imagine how many people on the committee have to agree on whether an Olympic theme song gets the green light. Now take another, to comprehend the fact that they let Björk release an Olympics song that for some reason was sung from the point of view of an ocean (more on that soon).

If One Moment In Time is the Valerie Adams of Olympic music, the five songs that follow are like the athletes that wind up in those YouTube compilation videos of sports fails.

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Thiaguinho and Projota - Alma e Coração - Rio Olympics 2016

A missed opportunity, if ever there was one. The entire lead-up to the Rio Olympics has been about how much of a mess the entire thing is, so why not acknowledge it head-on? With Alma e Coração (Soul and Heart), all we’re left with is some empty raps about how “making mistakes is part of life / evolving is art” and a promise that we can have “a new world with good people only”.

How about we start over, call up whoever the Brazilian equivalent of Meek Mill circa 2012 is, and rename the song Welcome To Hell?

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Muse - Survival - London Olympics 2012

You would be forgiven for assuming that Survival is some sort of “Weird Al” parody. Written for the London Olympics in 2012, the song is a self-indulgent mess that's one part Queen rip-off and one part OTT symphonic power ballad. If you’re too afraid to press play, it’s at least worth your time to read through some of the actual lyrics.

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Björk - Oceania - Athens Olympics 2004

 
As the story goes, after being asked to write “a kind of Ebony and Ivory or We Are the World type song” for the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympics in 2004, Björk did what Björk does (aka whatever she wants). “The song is written from the point of view of the ocean that surrounds all the land and watches over the humans to see how they are doing after millions of years of evolution,” she said. “It sees no borders, different races or religion which has always been at the core of these [games].” Hmmm.
 

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Nikki Webster - We’ll Be One - Sydney Olympics 2000

As with most young stars, Nikki Webster had already lived about three lifetimes by her 18th birthday. She became a punchline in Australia with Strawberry Kisses and she’d eventually blame Tall Poppy Syndrome for the reason she chose to flee to LA. But it’s her performance at the Sydney Olympics when she was 13 that set it all off.

A few years on, she’d attempt a raunchy and unsuccessful makeover which saw her end up on the cover of gross lads’ mag FHM (“Look who’s turned 18! But it’s you, dear reader, getting the goodies...”) and would also find herself on Australia’s Dancing With The Stars. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t go down so well, either.

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Celine Dion - Power of the Dream - Atlanta Olympics 1996

Power of the Dream was only ever released in Japan, which is weird; and after performing the song at the opening ceremony of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Celine Dion ended up just giving away the money she made to the Canadian Olympics team, which is doubly weird. Maybe she knew that she would eventually land in Las Vegas where she’d make almost half a million dollars per show? Who knows. At the end of the day, it’s a win-win: she gets cashed up, but also stays out of everyone else’s consciousness for 99 percent of the time. Perhaps Muse should take note.

The Rio Olympics begin this weekend.



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