Ricky Martin’s “The Cup of Life” is the Official Song of the World Cup, while Youssou N’Dour’s “Do You Mind If I Play?” is the Official Anthem of the World Cup. What’s the diff? None, they’re both terminally bland, like much of Sony’s Allez! Ola! Olé!—Music of the World Cup, saved mainly by the melancholic ballad “Don’t Come Home Too Soon” from Scotland’s Del Amitri—all too appropriate for a team that scored against itself in the opening game. Where is the English Official Song, England United’s “On Top of the World,” written by Johnny Marr and Ian McCulloch and performed by a cast that includes the Spice Girls? And the similarly titled but decidedly unofficial “Top of the World (Ole Ole Ole),” which rhymes “footballer” and “printworker,” Chumbawamba’s current single everywhere but in the U.S.? “The song only has vague reference to football,” explains the band’s Web site, “and is aimed at internationalist rather than nationalist ideas about support of the game. The song is about people, not teams.”
The most memorable football tunes, of course, are shameless novelties like longtime German midfielder Franz Beckenbauer’s “1-0 for Your Love,” featured on the last World Cup’s esoteric compilation Bend It! U.S.A. 1994 (Harp), along with tongue-in-cheek tributes by popsters like Cornelius and Kahimi Karie. A follow-up, Bend It! Japan 1998, just came out on Cornelius’s über-hip Trattoria label in Tokyo. And if you’re looking for the likes of Grandad Roberts and his Son Elvis’s “Meat Pie, Sausage Roll (Come On, England, Give Us a Goal),” you need London’s Cherry Red catalogue; over 20 clubs so far, from Aberdeen to Wimbledon, are represented in the “Football Classics” series, and the label, scarily, now claims to be branching out into football spoken word.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 7, 1998