The World Cup Theme Semi-Finals!

With Russia announcing Toni Halliday’s Nowhere To Hide as the official theme for the 2018 World Cup, there has never been a better time to look back at the most recent entries in this long-standing tradition.

Football attracts more people having a flutter than any other sport in the world. You can also probably bet on the chart position of most songs in the modern day. So, this could be the perfect opportunity to combine the two.  We therefore thought it would be appropriate to pitch, if you excuse the pun, the four most recent World Cup themes and give them our ranking.

Il Divo – The Time of Our Lives (Germany, 2006) 1/20

Il Divo
Il Divo live | Photo by Eva Rinaldi

This slow-burning ballad seamlessly blends the smoky vocals of R’n’B singer Toni Braxton with the operatic bellowing of Il Divo. The Time of Our Lives’ sparse arrangement, complete with vintage sprinkles of chimes and an abrupt key change, is classy if generic stuff.

The song is suitably atmospheric and has a nice mix of optimism and solemnness within its composition and vocals, but ultimately it fails to get the blood pumping. The lyrics are too cliché to be moving. It is a solid if unspectacular effort.

Shakira – Waka Waka (This Time For Africa) (South Africa, 2010) 4/12

One of the most resounding moments of the 2010 World Cup, for non-sports fans at least, was Shakira’s utterly bonkers closing performance of official theme Waka Waka (This Time For Africa). Riding a thumping baseline comprising of tribal beats, hand clapping and electronic squiggles, Waka Waka is a throbbing slice of carnival pop. Shakira’s booming vocals, complete with rising growls and quivering roars, perfectly complement the everything-but-the-kitchen sink production. The song manages to be simultaneously ridiculous and epic with Shakira’s bilingual lyrics proving equally nonsensical in both languages.

Whilst the echoing drum beats and rhythmic backing vocals are inspired, Waka Waka can feel a bit disjointed as it struggles to span its numerous but fleeting nods to various music styles and genres. Meanwhile, the opening build-up is as atmospheric as the closing fadeout is anti-climatic. Overall, a fine effort but one which becomes more and more flawed with repeated listens.

Shakira – La La La (Brazil, 2014) 2/5

Shakira live
Shakira live | Photo by David Wolff

Returning official theme belter Shakira pulled out all the stops to top Waka Waka in 2014, even roping in her soccer superstar boyfriend Gerard Pique to appear in the accompanying videoLa La La takes the formula of Waka Waka and strips it down before beefing back up what is left. Whilst the pounding tribal drums and assault of backing vocals are present and correct, Brazil 2014’s theme is a much less cluttered affair.

The sound of La La La is definitely more edgy with Shakira’s dubstep-lite breakdown being particularly contemporary. Moreover, the Colombian’s usually OTT delivery is more punchy, contained and feisty then normal, with her delivery being much more aggressive. The La La La hook is most certainly addictive, whilst the euphoric build-up of the middle-eight is worthy of any classic club hit. Although perhaps more generic than Waka Waka, La La La holds up remarkably better than its predecessor.

Toni Halliday – Nowhere To Hide (Moscow, 2018) 1/50

Nowhere To Hide is a dreamy electro-thumper which mixes Halliday’s airy vocals with huge, chunky electronic bleeps. Russia’s choice of theme instantly reminds of a pumped-up Goldfrapp with a heavy dose of Tatu thrown in for good measure.

Somehow being both slow-placed and highly dramatic, Nowhere To Hide is undoubtedly a quality slice of angst-ridden electro-rock but it seems an odd choice for the World Cup. Halliday’s melancholic lyrics and detached vocals are not exactly euphoric and the track’s languid pace and overall harshness is hardly going to inspire. This being said, a brave move that hopefully won’t score an own goal for Russia.

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