While Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and a dizzying array of the globe's biggest soccer stars are featured in the new Beats promotional film short entitled “The Game Before the Game” released today, the real star of the clip, as is the case with most Beats promotional spots, is the song.
The film's powerful opening sequence begins with Brazilian soccer great Neymar Jr. (née Neymar da Silva Santos) preparing for his game, which always includes a phone call with his father Neymar Sr., a former soccer player himself. The elder gives his son a pre-game pep talk that Omar Johnson, Beats' chief marketing officer, described as a combination of “religion, motivation and a father's love.” In his gruff Portuguese voice, Neymar, Sr. delivers lines, subtitled in English, that read like sports poetry: “Run like you’re a crazy man chasing happiness;” “Run for your family and your friends;” and “It's important that you don't hold back.” Then boom! A pounding, foot-stomping blues beat kicks in, sounding like John Bonham with a shotgun, holding up a guttural-sounding blues vocal.
The new Beats song, "Jungle" is a collaboration between a Brooklyn-based four-piece called X Ambassadors and Jamie N Commons, a British blues, rock and folk musician. Both are signed to Alex Da Kid’s KIDinaKORNER label, a subsidiary of Interscope. While the song has been used in the “Welcome to Yesterday” movie trailer and for a “Orange is the New Black” spot, its inclusion in the Beats spot almost didn’t happen.
“We had a really huge track from a really huge artist,” Johnson explains. "The moment we heard this song, we literally said 'nope, that’s the right song.'" How the track is decided upon, as Johnson explains, has everything to do with Beats’ music DNA and, of course, Jimmy Iovine. “There’s this culture of producers at Beats, obviously,” Johnson says, referring to Iovine and Dr. Dre. “So we’ll go make the commercial, and then we literally sit in a room and Jimmy will sit there and he’ll get out the secret iPod with all of the secret music on it, and we’ll just start playing music and he’ll play the best ones. And then one song and [snaps his finger] -- done! As a hit picker for his entire career, he typically likes one, two, three songs and we got it.”
Movie posters for Beats new promotional film "The Game Before the Game" featuring Neymar from Brazil (left) and France's Bacaray Sagna. (Photo courtesy of Beats by Dre)
After the beat kicks in, the 5-minute short is all quick cuts and a dizzying array of the beautiful game's elite players going about their pre-game rituals. Cesc Fabrigas kisses the ring his girlfriend gave him four times, Luis Suarez kisses the tattoo of his children's names on his wrist for love and good luck, Chicharito begins every game by praying on his knees. Often, there's someothing with a “B” logo in close proximity.
The American non-soccer athletes or musician cameos may seem out of place, but will play well here. There's Nicki Minaj reading a magazine about soccer; a shirtless Lil Wayne with a soccer medallion; LeBron James selecting a pair of headphones; and Serena Williams sporting the American team colors on her freshly polished nails. There’s also gorgeous travel shots of Rio and favelas and an out-of-place sex scene that is, perhaps, someone else’s "game before the game."
Nicki Minaj's cameo in Beats new The Game Before the Game" promotional film short.
The film's release coincides both with the upcoming World Cup and the launch of Solo 2, Beats' best-selling headphones. “Four are sold every minute,” Beats president Luke Wood said before a screening of the film last night at New York City’s Bryant Park Hotel. He compared the second iteration of the Solo headphone to several iconic sophomore releases, including Nirvana's “Nevermind,” Public Enemy's “It Takes a Nation” and the Beastie Boys' “Paul's Boutique.”
The campaign, directed by Nabil Elderkin (Foals “Late Night, Bon Iver “Holocene”), is Beats' biggest spend ever, according to Johnson. The brand will roll out several short-form versions of this campaign with a series of TV commercials in more than nine countries and five different languages.
All of which raises the question, does Beats know who is going to win World Cup? Beats' track record this past Super Bowl was impressive picking the Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman for its "Hear What You Want" campaign. While neither Wood nor Johnson would say if they knew who would win, with Brazil's Neymar Jr starring in "The Game Before the Game," well, you do the math.