BBC Culture

The pick of the World Cup songs

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Monty Python’s upbeat hit and Shakira racing an eagle compete with J-Lo and Pitbull to fire up fans. BBC Culture picks the best unofficial anthems.

Jennifer Lopez has pulled out of performing the official World Cup song at the tournament’s opening ceremony on Thursday. We Are One, recorded with US rapper Pitbull and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte, has been criticised for being generic, with a video “that looks like a cheap ad for a tour operator”.

Yet there are plenty of alternatives vying for the airwaves – including one from Monty Python, who announced on Sunday that they were releasing a version of their 1979 track Always Look on the Bright Side of Life as an unofficial anthem.

Here are five of the best tunes competing alongside the football in the 2014 World Cup.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Acknowledging the lack of optimism around England’s chances going into the tournament, Monty Python have added a verse to the closing song from their film Life of Brian. It was originally composed to cheer up a young man mistaken for the Messiah (played by Graham Chapman) as he dangled from a cross, but has since become a popular stadium sing-along.

Best lyric:

‘When you’re in the World Cup, And all your hopes are up, And everybody wants your team to win. Then they go and let you down, And come slinking back to town, It's time for this daft song to begin.’

La La La (Brazil 2014)

Shakira follows up her official song for the 2010 World Cup, Waka Waka (This time for Africa), with a track that features thumping rhythms and a monosyllabic chorus. The Colombian pop diva does Samba in a leather bustier, drafting in Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown for a guest spot on a new version of her song Dare (La La La). The accompanying video features her partner Gerard Piqué with his Barcelona team-mates Cesc Fàbregas and Lionel Messi and Argentina striker Sergio Aguero. As well as beating a giant drum, Shakira attempts to outrun an eagle while her one-year-old son kicks a ball at an elephant.

Best lyric:

‘Feel how the planet, Become one, Beats like a drum to the same rhythm, Hear the whistle, Kick the ball, The entire world soars like an eagle, In Rio we play like we dance, Only today – there’s no tomorrow.’

Zinedine Zidane

A song about Zinedine Zidane, in which Australian sports broadcaster Les Murray reads out the names of famous footballers over the top of an electronic track by the band Vaudeville Smash, has become a viral hit, with more than 430,000 YouTube views in just over a week. The video references the moment in the 2006 World Cup final when the French player headbutted Italian player Marco Materazzi, while men in Zidane masks have a kickabout in a convenience store. With driving beats and a soaring chorus, this is perhaps the only World Cup song that could make the cross over from sports anthem to club anthem.

Best lyric:

‘And he’ll burn through the dark like a fire (Puskás, Eusébio), So much more than the world was dreaming of wa ya ya (Beckenbauer, Platini, Best), He’ll fight (Charlton), And his light (Cruyff), Will shine on and on and on (Baggio).’

Red, white and blue

A honky tonk band marks the 20 years since the US first hosted the World Cup with a song celebrating fandom. The video features red-haired US defender Alexi Lalas, considered the standout player of the 1994 side, talking down the team’s chances as he signs a football; after a series of all-American scenes including bandannas, cut-off jean shorts and a pick-up truck he appears to have been convinced that the US can win.

Best lyric:

‘In ‘98 we lost to Iran, I nearly drove my truck off the Hoover dam.’

Bass like Home

Lily Allen – whose dad Keith helped to make what is arguably one of the greatest unofficial anthems ever, Vindaloo – has unveiled a garage pop tune called Bass Like Home with lines reciting England’s greatest contributions to the world. Vindaloo, an unofficial single recorded for the 1998 World Cup, was composed by Blur bassist Alex James as a parody of football chants, and went on to become a cult classic.

Best lyric:

‘Who gave you Shakespeare, who gave you Lennon, who gave you Gazza, twisted your melons. God save the Queen with a pint of lager.’

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