Every time the Los Angeles Kings or the LA Galaxy lose, it’s Joey LaRocca’s fault.
At least that’s how it feels.
The Briggs’ frontman – whose song “This is LA” is played at both teams’ home games – understands the stakes are often high. Especially during playoffs and championship matches.
“It is kind of scary, because everyone is so superstitious before a game and if they lose, it all totally could backfire,” LaRocca said in an interview with Amplify.
It’s a crucial time of year for sports, with hockey and baseball playoffs under way. Sports and stadium anthems are a way to rouse fans and intimidate opponents so that hopefully, the home team is fired up and more likely to win.
The Kings, though, lost their bid for a spot in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Even so, the song remains an important piece of the team’s legacy – and the hope for a championship title next year.
“The lyrics are pretty dead on,” said Brooklyn Boyars, Senior Director of Game Presentation and Events for the Kings and AEG, which owns the team and its home ice at Staples Center. “This is LA, our city our home, Los Angeles, we never walk alone. Forever true we stay, in tribute to our city…no matter where we go, this is our home.”
Some sports anthems happen by accident, like “This is LA.” A song is played at a game a few times and sticks. But other times, stadium anthems are written with a particular team in mind.
Such is the case with rapper Petey Pablo, who wrote “Carolina Colors” for the Carolina Panthers during the team’s 2016 Super Bowl match-up against the Denver Broncos. A native of North Carolina who still lives there, Pablo said fans for years had been asking him to write a song for their beloved team. It was clear that the time was right when the Panthers became Super Bowl-bound.
“I just got fed up with people hitting me up on Twitter, saying, “Aww, Petey, you gotta do a song for the fans,” Pablo told Amplify.
“Carolina Colors” was composed in a day. The key to writing a great sports anthem, Pablo said, is coming up with a beat that will incite fan response; once that is done, the lyrics write themselves.
“Carolina Colors” is now the Panthers’ battle cry.
“I mixed it and mastered it and put it to the internet right away,” Pablo said. “Then it went crazy, because they were in the Super Bowl. I answered the call of the fans. It was like Tarzan just came to the jungle.”
“This is LA” was originally written as a shout-out to the Brigg’s hometown. The song is featured on the band’s 2008 album “Come All You Madmen.” But in the years since it was released, “This is LA” slowly became an anthem for Los Angeles hockey and soccer fans to help get their blood pumping before the first puck hit the ice or the first ball landed on the field.
“It’s a really unexpected, cool thing,” LaRocca said. “It was just a punk anthem to us. It caught wind at some point along the way and now it’s taken a life of its own.”
The most enduring sports anthems have a catchy chorus that can be interpreted as an assertion of power – or even a taunt, said Michael Beckerman, a professor of music at New York University. Consider “Na Na Na Na. Na Na Na Na. Hey Hey Hey. Goodbye,” the lyrics of the 1969 radio hit “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam. The song is a sports anthem chanted around the world, including at Chicago White Sox games since the team organist started playing it in 1977.
“It’s hard to say exactly why things become anthems,” Beckerman told Amplify. “One could probably distinguish hooks in songs from actual long form songs of the kinds used in international soccer, or even college football. They have to be short, and embody some aspect of emotion they are associated with.”
Neil Diamond’s 1969 classic”Sweet Caroline” is not only popular at bars because of its repetitive call and response hook, it’s also a staple at sporting events. For years, the song was played occasionally during Boston Red Sox home games at Fenway Park.
Zineb Curan, a spokesman for the team, told Amplify that when the Red Sox changed ownership in 2001, one of its new executives was astounded by how intensely fans got into the song – even though it has no connection to either baseball or Boston. Team execs decided “Sweet Caroline” would play from there on out during the middle of every 8th inning. Sixteen years later, it’s still a popular Fenway Park tradition.
Said Beckerman: “Sweet Caroline’ is based on the cute idea of the audience singing, and usually peters out after one or two iterations. Short, memorable, and powerful.”
Other songs that became big sports and stadium anthems include “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys, which also is played at Red Sox games; Blur’s “Song 2,” which has been the theme for World Cup soccer finals and has been played at San Francisco Giants’ games; “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, which has been cranked during the NBA finals; Guns n’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle,” which has fired up rowdy fans of the Cincinnati Bengals; and “Rock and Roll Part II” (also known as “The Hey Song”), a 1972 Gary Glitter track that has likely been played at every sporting event in the world and was featured in Oliver Stone’s 1999 football film “Any Given Sunday.”
Pablo’s 2001 hit “Raise Up” is often played at other sporting events around North Carolina. He is currently recording other sports anthems, but he said it was too early to discuss them.
“I just have fun with it,” Pablo said.
LaRocca, of the Briggs, said that while he is thrilled and surprised by the positive response “This is LA” has received from the city’s sports fans (many of whom would likely never, ever attend one of the band’s live shows), something even more unexpected happened: He became a sports fan himself when he started following the Kings.
“Just like that, I got invested,” LaRocca said. “I started going to games and seeing how they are doing as they are leading up to the playoffs. It triggered that in me. Instinctively, I wasn’t a sports fan kind of a guy, but this has changed that.”