EA Sports’ debuted its officially licensed FIFA video game in 1993, and has dominated the soccer gaming market ever since. Gameplay and graphics have improved incrementally every year and, from the very first installment, music has played an important part in the game’s ambiance and cultural significance.
Today, we pay homage to all the hours and virtual years spent in career mode by counting down the 10 best moments when music met the (digital) physical beauty of soccer.
Here they are, the 10 best songs from the FIFA soundtrack:
When “The Rockafeller Skank” first played through those opening credits of FIFA ‘ 99, one thing was certain—this song was catchy as all hell. Released the previous year, it would become a chart-topper, with remixes and a legacy that reached far and wide. It’s inclusion in FIFA provided the first stirrings of the importance of cultural relevancy through the game maker’s eyes, as well as provided just a really great work-out/video-game binge pump-up song for years to come.
The pounding piano line. The slick, syrupy vocals. The electronic backbeat. Oh, and the perfect timing. That’s what Lykke Li’s relationship with FIFA 09 entailed, as her cut “I’m Good, I’m Gone” found its place among the soundtrack for the soccer gods around the time that her music and name became common tender.
Remember the early 2000s? When emo still had a few years left, when mainstream punk was still rocking its Mohawk? Lest you forget, the early 2000s were also around the time when the last fringes of the Third Wave of Ska music were dying out, and Reel Big Fish were one of the last of their species to stand and fight the change in taste. This makes their appearance on FIFA 2000 all the more important.
When it comes to ambiance, Muse is all about creating sounds that echo for miles. When you call a song “Supermassive Black Hole”, you want to be sure that the reverberations that deliver match up to the scale you’ve hinted at. This is just another example of the band at their best, delivering slick arena rock that could fit perfectly in massive soccer stadiums all over the world. It’s hard to imagine any match being held without just a little bit of Muse to incite the crowd into an appropriate frenzy.
Gorillaz provided one of the catchiest themes I’d ever come to associate with a videogame. It was a jingle of the modern age for the modern age. What’s more, it was the first exposure I had to the Gorillaz—Damon Albarn and his animated ensemble changed the trajectory of 11-year-old me’s listening habits. And even after my appreciation for their sound shifted from its original appreciation, it’s a song I could come back and listen to for nostalgia’s sake.
Call this cheating, but sometimes we have to do what is necessary and just accept the yellow card. With highlights such as Flogging Molly’s, “To Youth (My Sweet Roisin Dubh),” a remix of Sarah McLachlan’s “World on Fire,” British rap group The Streets “Fit But You Know It,” and EDM overlord Paul Oakenfeld’s “Beautiful Goal (EA Sports Football Theme”, there was created an eclectic mix of hard-hitting songs from across the world. This was a testament to EA and FIFA’s dedication to a unified sense of soundtrack, and a steady thread of community that existed throughout the various scores over the years.
The early 2000’s were quite a year for UK indie-rock band Bloc Party, and one of their biggest hits “Helicopter” found an appropriate spot on the FIFA 2006 soundtrack. The lyrics spoke of embracing ones essence—they also raise the question in the song: “Why can’t you be more European?” The commentary on identity, though combative, spoke to a deeper level of finding a place in the world. FIFA provides a track for an idea of community, and “Helicopter” catered to that search.
The perfect mix of somber singing and serrated beats, the industrial sounds of “Myxomatosis” provided an appropriate soundscape for 2004, with contemporary, existential shadings that complimented the overall feel of the game. Plus, it’s Radiohead, dammit.
The ever-improving graphics and gameplay of the FIFA series met Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks” and became an anthem for maturing millennial — underneath its catchy, Swedish-pop centric jams was an underlying urge to go forth, net day dreams, and let them grow into fruition.
What started as a nostalgic, heart-gripping tribute to an ever-living dream to overcome a nation’s adversity grew into a regal cry for a world-wide realization of the freedom that we all deserve. It was a song that was rightfully sentimental, tracing K’naan’s roots in a torn Mogadishu, Somalia, to his realization that poetry and music would redefine his purpose. It was deservedly picked up by Coca-Cola for a fleshed out remix, gaining it more popularity than one could have imagined upon its initial release. As ironic as such celebration and amicable grandiosity seems, especially for a subject matter so grounded in struggle, it was the spirit of the fight for survival that established it as so much more.
When “Waving Flag” became the go-to song for the 2010 South African World Cup, it made sense that it would find its way to the game of the same name. Though there is still an unsettling feeling about the commoditization of war-scarred struggle, there is still an edge of beauty in the fact that this song was there, and available, on so many mediums. FIFA provided that opportunity for all the gamers plugging in to race down a digital field. Yes, to frown upon the outlets through which these messages are often presented is warranted, but the opportunity to bear witness to their truths is undeniable.