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Tune in: The World Cup.

June 11, 2010 \pm\30 2:24 pm

It is my birthright as an American (OK, a Canadian with a green card) to not give a shit about soccer except once every four years when my interest in pop culture news and all of my foreign-born friends’ fandom are enough to convince me to tune into the World Cup. Sure, I enjoy national rivalries (I cry like a baby watching the Olympics) and cute boys in shorts, so it’s kind of a win-win (even though, unless your name is David Beckham, I’ve probably never heard of you if you’re a professional soccer player).

Since I know next to nothing about football (other than I think that FIFA is the cutest-sounding sports acronym ever), I won’t bore you with predictions of which team is going to advance to which round or a dissertations on what this means for South Africa as a nation. Nope, I’ll stick to what I know. Which is music.

The World Cup has a long tradition of “official” songs (perhaps you remember Ricky Martin’s “Cup Of Life” from the 1998 games in France?), and this year is no different. The 2010 World Cup album, Listen Up, was just released and it features the kind of bombastic pop you’d expect would go over well with sports fans that love the not-so-subtle sound of vuvuzuelas. More troubling than the quality (because frankly, any lineup that features Wyclef Jean is going to be suspect to me) is the way the (mostly American) pop artists felt the need to incorporate African musical traditions into their songs as a nod to the tournament’s host country. Let’s just say that the overall sound is aiming for Paul Simon’s Graceland and settles for The Lion King.

The official songs include “Game On” by rappers Pitbull, TKZEE and Dario G and Shakira’s “Waka Waka,” but because I’m strangely obsessed with R. Kelly (in the worlds of someone much funnier than I–Aziz Ansari–“he is a brilliant R&B singer-slash-crazy person”), I’m most fascinated by his collaboration with the Soweto Singers, “Sign Of Victory.” Last night was the World Cup Opening Concert, which featured the aforementioned Shakira, Angelique Kidjo, Vusi Mahlasela and (for some reason I don’t understand) Alicia Keys doing “Empire State Of Mind.”

Last night’s kick-off concert was apparently the highest rated entertainment event in South African television history. And today’s opening ceremonies, which were attended by VP Joe Biden and Archbiship Desmond Tutu, featured R. Kelly performing his World Cup song. (Man, wouldn’t you love to watch Desmond Tutu dance along to all 22 chapters of “Trapped In The Closet” instead? I wonder if dignitaries are allowed to sing-along to lyrics about midgets pooping their pants?)

The lip-syncing is terrible and the only clip I can find is from Dutch TV, but I have to admit that even my cynical heart was melted by the African choir.

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One Comment
  1. June 11, 2010 \pm\30 5:32 pm 5:32 pm

    I am disturbed by Shakira using the mic stand as a way to rock out/weapon.

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