Last week, The Flaming Lips unveiled “Thunder Up! Racing for the Prize” — a track based off their seminal 1999 single “Race for the Prize.” It’s a whimsical and catchy pop song that the band hoped would latch on as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s anthem during the NBA playoffs. In sharing “Thunder Up!” with the world, the fellow OKC group actually did fill a void for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook & Co. — a team that lacked a defined musical identity since moving from Seattle.
An effective theme song can be adopted as part of a team’s culture. If it’s a good tune, it becomes the soundtrack to a playoff run. If it’s a epic hymn, it lasts for a lifetime. There have been plenty of attempts — we’ve ranked the 10 best in recent memory.
To qualify for this as one of the great modern anthems, these songs had to meet the following criteria:
- The song must have been released within the past 10 years.
- The song has to be a team anthem, not a player’s anthem. No entrance or introduction music for individual athletes.
- The song has to be received on some level by the team, players, or fan base at large, but can be either an official or unofficial theme song.
- For the scope of this ranking, we kept these limited to MLB, NBA, NFL, or NHL teams.
10. Minnesota Twins: The Baseball Project, “Please Don’t Call Them Twinkies”
The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn is a huge Twins fan. In an interview I did with him last year, he mentioned, “While my first girlfriend moved on, my first love — the 1987 Minnesota Twins — remains in my heart to this day.”
As part of his involvement with The Baseball Project — a supergroup composed of several baseball-obsessed musicians — he finally penned his Minnesotan theme song, paying tribute to the likes of Kirby Puckett, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and other Twins past and present.
9. Chicago Cubs: Eddie Vedder, “All the Way”
Pearl Jam’s front man grew up as a Cubs fan in Chicagoland. He’s thrown out a first pitch, sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and attended the Chicago Cubs’ fantasy camp. At one of those camps, Cubs legend Ernie Banks asked him to write a song for the team, and Vedder penned “All the Way,” which he played at the Vic, with Kerry Wood in the audience.
8. Phoenix Coyotes: The Black Keys, “Howlin’ for You”
The Black Keys have slowly but steadily ascended to the level of festival headliners and arena rockers. It was probably only a matter of time until some team adopted their music. It might as well have been the Phoenix Coyotes, whose goal horn is followed by a coyote howling alongside Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s blues-rock number off their 2011 album, Brothers.
7. Los Angeles Clippers: Tyga featuring Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan, “Lob City (Remix)”
California native Tyga originally released his club hit “Rack City” last December. That same month, he dropped a Clippers-themed remix titled “Lob City.” It’s a clever take on his favorite team, with Tyga changing his lyrics to “LOB City Clips/CP3 to Blake Griff” and rhyming Vinny Del Negro with Eric Bledsoe.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder: The Flaming Lips, “Thunder Up!”
Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne changed his original lyrics to the likes of “Thunder came thundering!” and “when they win, we win with them!” — all the while uplifted by their infectious “Thunder Up!” chant.
5. Baltimore Orioles: Warning Track Power, “How Bout Dem O’s”
Warning Track Power came together for the sole purpose of writing this catchy power-pop O’s anthem, which features J. Roddy Walston and The Business drummer Steve Colmus, along with several other Baltimore-based musicians.
4. Seattle Mariners: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “My Oh My”
The Seattle hip-hop duo wrote “My Oh My” as a tribute to longtime Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus in December 2010. The song gained a significant amount of local attention, which earned Macklemore a chance to perform at the Mariners’ 2011 home opener.
3. Chicago Blackhawks: The Fratellis, “Chelsea Dagger”
The Blackhawks adopted “Chelsea Dagger” as their goal horn song starting in the 2008-09 season, but it wasn’t until their Stanley Cup run the following year that the song became an integral part of home games. The Vancouver Canucks sure seemed to love it!
2. Boston Red Sox: Dropkick Murphys, “Tessie”
The Dropkick Murphys have had their musical footprint all over Fenway Park but sealed their place in Red Sox history when they rewrote “Tessie.” Boston Herald writer Jeff Horrigan asked the band to rework the song at the team’s request, changing it into a rock song with baseball-themed lyrics. And as Ken Casey stated, “You don’t say no to the Red Sox, growing up [as a fan in Boston].”
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Wiz Khalifa, “Black and Yellow”
Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” was an instant hit with the Steelers Nation. The hometown anthem not only resonated with Pittsburgh fans, but also prompted an inordinate number of spin-offs. Those subsequent renditions even became modern-day theme songs for teams lacking a recent theme song, ranging from Lil Wayne’s Packer song “Green and Yellow” to the Northwestern University remix “White and Purple,” created by Tom Hanks’s son.
Max Blau is an editor at Paste Magazine and has contributed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mashable and NPR. Follow him on Twitter at @maxblau.