The corporate world often makes strange soundtrack choices when advertising their wares. Most timely and recent is NBC's use of The Clash's “London Calling” for the London Olympics promos, which may also be featured in the opening ceremony
. One only needs to skim the lyrics
to see why this is an odd pairing. It's not exactly a patriot's song, especially with the references to bleak futures and getting hit with a police truncheon.
It seems the people in charge of those decisions just wanted something that 1) Was recognizable to much of the public and 2) Used the word “London.” With the games imminent, looming larger every day, it's a good time to look at songs they also could have employed – songs about London that embody the spirit of the city and the games.
Adele – Hometown Glory
This is such an easy choice that I'm starting to wonder if they actually are using it and I just haven't seen it. Adele is the country's biggest homegrown star today, and wouldn't you know it, she has a song about hometown pride! Although there are no explicit name drops, we get it from the sound and passion of her voice: her world is England, and it is full of wonders.
The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset
If there is such a thing as an undisputed classic London song, it is The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset.” As far as recognition, this song is ingrained in pop music culture the world over. It's a simple song about observing London – the Thames river, Waterloo Station, and two lovers on a bridge. It’s tied to both the city’s identity and the country’s legendary ‘60s music history.
Blur – For Tomorrow
Damon Albarn is one of the best creatives the country has, and one of his songs that is generally accepted as a London exemplar is “For Tomorrow.” It's not the most commercial jingle, no. But it has lines like, “London cracks on a seamless line / he's hanging on for dear life / And so we hold each other tightly and hold on for tomorrow,” packed full of anxious anticipation for better or for worse. It captures a feeling that the athletes and the fans have at this time of year. Whether it's excitement or barely-clinging-on, millions around the globe are holding on.
Los Campesinos! – Every Defeat A Divorce (Three Lions)
Who says Summer Olympics music has to be about victory or local pride? Los Campesinos! has long posited that few things are as important as sports, and this song attempts to convey that. Although the song is about England's football team (hence the three lions), on an emotional level, it's about the investment you can have in your team and the cost of caring so deeply. We all know the glory high of winning in the Olympics, but the pain of losing is just as integral to the experience of the games. As the song goes, “If he hasn't blown the whistle/Then it isn't quite the end,” he's holding onto the thin hopes of pulling out one of those miracle victories we'll talk about for years. That's what sports is all about.
The National – England
Okay, two caveats: The National is a very American band, and I know “England” is not a synonym for “London,” but it still works for a couple reasons. First, it utilizes The National's penchant for grandiose, swelling music and that's all you want in your Olympics hype. Second, lines like, “You must be somewhere in London/You must be loving your life in the rain” and the rousing refrain of “'cause they're desperate to entertain!” means you can edit some emphasis on these lines to convey some relevance to the viewing audience. Request reprehension