Greatest Olympic Anthems, From Muse & Whitney Houston to Katy Perry & Freddie Mercury
Olympic anthems really have only one job: to pump you up. They must do so by soaring, reaching for the stars, energizing, exciting, motivating and stringing together the kind of uplifting word jumble that you only hear once every four years. Sure, they're pretty corny, but it's hard to stick the landing on one that will last beyond the Olympics fortnight and not drive you crazy at four a.m. when your insomnia has you watching the trampoline quarterfinals.
Katy Perry is the latest superstar to throw her spangly unitard into the ring with the adrenaline-rushing "Rise," which dropped on Thursday night, followed by an appropriately amped video Friday morning (July 15). How does it rank among our seven favorite summer game songs?
As you count down the days to the Aug. 5 opening ceremonies, here's our countdown of the most inspiring Olympic anthems ever:
1. Whitney Houston, "One Moment in Time" (1988, Seoul)
This one has everything: Whitney Houston's powerful vocals, a No. 5 slot in the Billboard Hot 100, a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and classic Olympic lyrics ("I've lived to be the very best/ I want it all no time or less/ I've laid the plans now lay the chance/ Here in my hands/ Give me one moment in time.")
2. Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé, "Barcelona" (1992, Barcelona)
Whoever thought to pair the late Queen singer with Barcelona native and opera star Caballé was genius. Sadly, though, Mercury died from AIDS-related complications in 1991 and didn't live to perform the sweepingly dramatic song at the games. (The video was recorded in 1988, when Barcelona was selected to host the games.) It ended up being the biggest solo hit in Mercury's solo career, hitting No. 2 on the U.K. charts.
3. Björk, "Oceania" (2004, Athens)
You can't hire Björk to perform at the opening ceremonies and not expect things to get weird. The a cappella tune with beat-boxing from Schlomo bypassed all the usual buzz words in favor of, well, these gems about the mother of humanity, the ocean: "Your nimble feet make prints in my sands/ You have done good for yourselves/ Since you left my wet embrace/ And crawled ashore/ Every boy, is a snake is a lily/ Every pearl is a lynx, is a girl." So Björk. At one point she does swing, "your sweat is salty," so that's kind of excercise-ish.
As a bonus, she "wore" a gigantic dress that floated out to cover all the athletes. The Björkiest thing ever.
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Leave it to the singer who gave us the empowerment anthem "Roar" to nail the kind of emotional, adrenalin-pumping tune that will hopefully make everyone feel good about an Olympics plagued by some not great advance word about dirty water and Zika. Co-written by hit machine Max Martin, "Rise" hits all the notes.
"I won't just survive/ Oh, you will see me thrive/ Can write my story/ I'm beyond the archetype," Perry sings. "Victory is in my veins/ I know it, I know it." Yeah, nailed it.
5. Koreana, "Hand in Hand" (1988, Seoul)
One song was not nearly enough for the 1988 games. This Giorgio Moroder-produced bizarro banger is full of a checklist of Olympic song clichés: making the world a better place in which to live (actual lyric), breaking down the walls between us (another actual lyric), feeling the flame eternally inside us (see previous) and a choir of thousands.
6. Celine Dion, "Power of the Dream" (1996, Atlanta)
If ever someone was born to sing an Olympic power ballad penned by David Foster, Linda Thompson and Babyface, it was Celine. This ball of Canadian fromage had all the keywords (heart, magic spark, fire, strength, flame, the power of the dream, inspiration, courage), plus those majestic horns and giant gospel choir. "It's the moment that you think you can't, you'll discover that you can." Amen.
7. Muse, "Survival" (2012, London)
They almost had it all. The British band synonymous with over-the-top songs that get your blood and fists pumping were the perfect choice to represent their home country. And they certainly gave it all with this bombastic piece of rock/sports theater. Like a lost Queen track, the explosive song is packed with wailing guitars, a Wagnerian choir, singer Matt Bellamy's super-urgent lines about always winning, never losing, lighting the fuse, doing whatever it takes and revealing his strength to the whole human race.
Every. Box. Checked.