Soccer and music have always been tight friends. From World Cup anthems to songs that have inspired soccer stars to dance on the field, music moves this sport. Now, with the World Cup kick-off literally around the corner (play begins on Thursday, June 14), the frenzy for soccer-inspired music has reached a feverish pitch.
Deezer, for example, reports that streams of past soccer anthems have increased by the triple digits in the past two months. With so much music flooding the market, it’s bound to get confusing, so we’ve simplified it for you. From Ricky Martin’s 1998 hit “The Cup of Life” to today’s “Live It Up,” here is the definitive list of the best World Cup songs ever.
“Live It Up!”: The Diplo produced Nicky Jam, Will Smith and Era Istrefi track is still in its infancy, but it’s catchy and growing. With a ska/reggae beat, unifying message and easy to remember chorus (“One life, live it up, cause you got one life), we can see ourselves singing along at the closing ceremony.
“Waka Waka” (Shakira, feat. Freshlyground): Shakira, Shakira is the queen of the World Cup. 2010’s “Waka Waka” has been the most successful World Cup anthem ever, coming in at No. 38 on the Billboard 100, and notching 1.8 billion YouTube views, more than any other soccer anthem, and the 26th most-viewed video in YouTube history. So what if we still can’t figure out what the chorus says? Today, 8 years after its release, the video still averages over 1 million views per day.
“The Cup of Life,” Ricky Martin: Beyond the fact that the performance of “The Cup of Life” at the 1999 Grammy Awards jump-started the “Latin explosion,” the track penned by Desmond Child and Robi Rosa for Martin to sing at the 1998 World Cup is a brassy, Latin/global blockbuster and boasts the most soaring, anthemic World Cup chorus ever. (What, are you going to argue with “Un, dos tres, allez, allez, allez”?)
“La cour des grands”: Youssou N’Dour & Axelle Red: Not to get confused, but “La Cour des Grands” (which translates to The Big Court, or The Big Leagues) was the official anthem of 1998, while Martin’s “The Cup of Life” was the official song. Although the sentiment of triumph and perseverance was the same, the French lyrics and more mellow rendition make these two songs ying and yang.
“Wavin’ Flag”: K’naan: Originally written by the Somali-Canadian artist as an inspirational song for Somalia, “Wavin Flag’ was remade as Coca Cola’s 2010 World Cup song in multiple versions. The inspirational message and catchy beat remain and made it a hit all over again.
“We Are The Champions”, Queen: The Queen classic was one of the official World Cup songs of 1994. Yeah, it wasn’t written specifically for the World Cup, but doesn’t matter. it makes the cut.
“La La La (Brazil 2014)”: Shakira feat. Carlinhos Brown: This mix of pop and Brazilian funk is a bit of a departure from the more anthemic World Cup fare. But the music video, featuring cameos from soccer stars like Lionel Messi, Neymar, James Rodríguez and of course, Piqué (not to mention son Milan), more than made up for it. This one’s a keeper.
“Colors”: Jason Derulo feat. Maluma: The 2018 official Coca Cola anthem leans more hip hop than pop, but still manages to make you dance. The original track by Derulo has been redone by stars around the globe, but the standard is the bilingual Maluma version.
“El Rock del Mundial”, Los Ramblers: Ever wondered where this World Cup song frenzy started? Right here with this 1962 rock’ n roll ode to all things soccer, written and performed by Chilean rock group Los Ramblers. There’s a coda to this story. In 2014, Billboard included “El Rock del Mundial” in its list of Best Soccer songs. Thanks to the ensuing buzz that generated, Los Ramblers again toured that year. This year, in February, two of the group’s members died in a car crash.
“World In Motion”, New Order: In all its late 80s glory, “World In Motion” was not the official World Cup song in 1990, but it landed English pop band New Order its first No. 1 on the UK charts. For lovers of all things 80s and 90s, it’s a must.
“Dar Um Jeito (We Will Find a Way)”, Carlos Santana Ft. Alexandre Pires, Wyclef and Avicii: So, this was the official anthem of the 2014 Brazilian games, and it’s quintessential World Cup in its use of multiple artists from many countries, upbeat tempo and message of glory and hope. But boy is it also fun. No wonder the track is finding new listeners in the streaming era.