You’re in the British pomp-rock act Muse, and you’ve been charged with writing the official song for the 2012 Olympics, which will be held in London and which will be a massive event for your home country. How do you respond to this honor, especially in the wake of creating outrage among your loyalists by releasing a trailer for your upcoming record that hints a flirtation with dubstep? By crafting a five-minute epic that sounds like a mash-up of film scores and Billy Joel records, of course!
THE ARTIST (10 points): Muse have been keeping the arena-alt-rock flame since Radiohead’s post-OK Computer decision to get a little bit more abstract. Their larger-than-the-cosmos riffs and deathless devotion to them have kept those people who believe in real rawk happy, and they certainly write hookier songs than the similarly bombastic 30 Seconds To Mars. (Me, I still think “Muscle Museum” is one of the best second-tier modern-rock tracks of the late ’90s.) (7/10)
THE SONG (5 points): A minute of orchestral flourishes leads into some piano plinking that’s matched by a choir in a way that simultaneously recalls Danny Elfman’s film scores and Billy Joel’s more muscular songs; Matt Bellamy enters the proceedings at approximately 1:30 with the opening line “race, life’s a race, and I’m gonna win, yes I’m gonna win”; things get more gothic and ridiculous from there, first with a choir of hell-summoned men, then with a big, thick, guitar solo. Things crescendo even further, with Bellamy sounding increasingly tortured (check out his falsetto around the four-minute mark, where he almost sounds like a theremin!) as the rhythm section grinds and an insistent solo races around the fretobard. Finally, a chant of “Fight! Fight! Win! Win!” battles with the choir before Bellamy returns, screeching “I’m gonna waaaaannnnn!!! before the whole thing crashes to an end. It’s a hell of a track, a movie score in miniature, a five-minute soundtrack to a nightmare where all your tormentors are armed with guitars and playing the wankiest solos of all time, their faces painted with different nations’ flags. Also, I kind of never want to hear it again. (5/5)
DIVISIVENESS (5 points): “3,350 likes, 432 dislikes” on the above embed so far. (2/5)
VIRALITY POTENTIAL (10 points): Given that this song is the anthem of an event that’s going to dominate sports coverage from July 27 through August 12, “virality” is probably way beside the point. Although maybe this was designed to draw in those people who pride themselves on not being “into” sports? (9/10)
“FUCK THE HATERS” QUOTIENT (10 points): The Braveheartiness of the track sure seems to fly in the face of the Olympics’ overall “let’s celebrate the best and brightest from around the world” ethos. (3/10)
BACKLASH POTENTIAL (5 points): I really am dreading hearing snippets of the demon-man choir singing as I walk by Astoria’s open-air cafes, which will no doubt be blaring the Olympics next month the way they’re showing the European Cup now. But, you know, other people like over-the-top movie scores, so. (2/5)
THAT EXTRA JE NE SAIS QUOI (5 points): As sportswriter Emma Span noted, “The good news: given the security for these Olympics and the ‘light the fuse’ lyrics, if Muse tries to perform it live, they’ll be arrested.” Hooray! (5/5)
TOTAL: 33/50. Not trollgaze. If only I’d done this for the album trailer! Ah, nuts.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 28, 2012