Battle of the World Cup Singles

Forget the actual football, our writers focus on the more important competition: which is the best World Cup single?

Editorial Team
5th December 2022
Credit: Facebook @EnglandTeam

Now we're comfortably into the World Cup 2022, it's time to look back at some of the best World Cup singles over the years.

'Colors' by Jason Derulo
Credit: YouTube @Jason Derulo

“Oh, what a feeling. Look what we’ve overcome.” The opening lines to Jason Derulo’s ‘Colors’ certainly capture the uplifting essence of the single. Whilst we proceed to hear the expected, refined sound of a Derulo pop track, the lyrics are what stand out to me. Each line is practically riddled with celebration. 

As far as I’m concerned, a World Cup single should contain two essential ingredients. First, a simple rhythm fit for a stadium. Equally, a message of community is required. Derulo is successful in ticking both boxes. Therefore, I can overlook the financial fizz of the lyric, “Can’t you taste the feeling?”, thanks to the joyous layering of his vocals which resemble those of a choir. The anthemic chorus seems to possess even stronger feeling after recent years, as the popstar reminds listeners, “Look how far we’ve come now.”

I think one of the reasons I appreciate the song so much is the memories I associate with it. Perhaps, it is the melodic production that sounds so much like the sun. With that being said, the single induces some grievance for the same reason. I can’t be the only one who wouldn’t mind returning to the summer of 2018.

By Dan Finch

'Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) by Shakira

Credit: YouTube @Shakira

Confession time: I do not like football at all. But I love memorable pop music that innovatives and bucks against current trends. Shakira achieved exactly this when she released Waka Waka (This Time For Africa) for the 2010 World Cup. With Shakira's last album before the World Cup (She Wolf), she jumped into the electropop craze started by Lady Gaga. While a good album in its own right, and it did well commercially, Shakira had given up her musical identity in order to to chase a hit single. However, instead of retreating back to her music of previous years, she decided to shift gears for her big World Cup single, and it's still one of the best songs to come out of both the World Cup and Shakira's broader discography.

Afo-fusion and other African influenced music genres have never been mainstays in pop music, so Waka Waka is still a breath of fresh air. After an invigorating intro of chants, Shakira leads the opening verse with a pulsating beat that feels like it could be from any of her albums. But then the chorus hits with a gust of African guitars and drums and the song becomes a fitting and dancable tribute to the 2010 host country. The inclusion of South African band Freshlyground also helps pay respect to Africa. Perhaps Freshlyground should have gotten more vocal lines rather than just the bridge. The other potential issue with the track is the lyrics being filled with generic and cliche platitudes, but overall, this will always be the quintessential World Cup song.

By Connor James Lamb

'World in Motion' by New Order

Credit: YouTube @neworder
Released in 1990, World in Motion became the soundtrack to England’s World Cup campaign in Italy that year, a song truly fitting for England’s successes that year. 

While England didn’t win that World Cup, being eliminated in the semifinals, it was their best World Cup performance since winning it in 1966. The song too was one of the most successful football songs of its time and has continued to soundtrack many of England’s football campaigns since. 

It has in recent years played second fiddle to ‘Three Lions’ or ‘Football’s Coming Home’ as it’s better known, but I personally still think that it’s England’s best football song to hear at tournament.  

The song was written by New Order, a band known for their popularity in the 80s, and it captures the sound of their most well-known songs such as ‘Blue Monday’. The song features not only catchy instrumentation but a good set of vocals from the band and members of the England squad. 

The most significant guest vocalist, however, is probably John Barnes who produces an iconic rap in the second half of the song. Put that with backing vocal from other England players and commentary from the 1966 World Cup win and you’ve got a perfect World Cup song. 

By Jack Evans

'Wavin' Flag' by K'NAAN

Credit: YouTube @K'naan Warsame

It would be rude to talk about World Cup Singles without mentioning one of the most classic tunes 'Wavin' Flag' by K'NAAN. After being chosen as Coca Cola's promotional Anthem for the 2010 cup, this song is quintessentially vibrant. 2010 marks the year that Spain won in South Africa, and was one of my own earliest memories of experiencing the sheer excitement of a World Cup.

For me, this song fuses national pride with a universality that allows players and spectators alike to dance together. There is a bouncy reggae rhythm that acts as a solid foundation as chants underpin the main melody. Coca Cola themselves described this song as 'inspired by the joyous dance celebrations familiar to Africa' as the cultures across the globe are united together through football and music (what more could you need?).

The lyrics are also a valuable part of this song. By the time I'm writing this, I have listened to this song for about twenty minutes straight (sorry if you have me on Spotify) but somehow I'm still not sick of it. The symbolic idea of "they'll call me freedom, just like a wavin' flag" is a bold and powerful one as the flags allude to the pride fans have for their own teams.

K'NAAN has brought together an infectious single with comradery to create the best World Cup single.

By Lucy Bower

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