Thursday, May 19, 2011


"On your feet people!!!"

Cracked has another fun bit up, this one about motivational songs (from the 80s) such as "Eye of the Tiger" and "The Final Countdown." For some reason these songs are really compelling and memorable, and I can't quite put a finger on it.

"Iron Man" by Black Sabbath is one of those songs that instantly hits you, with the first few guitar chords.

The Final Countdown really is an awful song, with weird and goofy lyrics. But when that synth riff starts up, it just grabs me. Songs like "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "The Circle of Life" (the Lion King theme) touch some odd nerve in people and motivate, somehow. Bon Jovi has a couple of these with "Living on a Prayer" and "Wanted: Dead or Alive," both live performance hits. The German metal band Helloween has quite a few of these kind of songs too, the sort you throw in while lifting weights.

Basically you can tell when this kind of song happens by watching the crowd in a live show. Europe isn't exactly a big act, but when that synth riff hits starting out "Final Countdown" the entire crowd starts to jump and cheer. Even stuff you don't really care for is more fun as a crowd. You might hate Triumph but sitting in the audience when "Never Surrender" fires up, you get on your feet. Journey might be too old and overplayed for you, but "Don't Stop Believin'" still gets you going in a live show.

There are others you probably know but don't know the name of, like O, Fortuna. This is part of an interesting collection of epic-sounding Italian folk songs strung together by Carl Orff and its been used endlessly in movies (particularly Excalibur). This is one that can't be embedded, so you'll have to hop to YouTube to enjoy it. And yeah, it is epic, the whole series of songs is like this. There are several classical pieces of this sort ("Ride of the Valkyries" comes to mind).

Many movie themes are very epic and inspirational. The soundtrack to the recent King Arthur movie is packed with them, as as the Gladiator soundtrack. Star Wars has two with the main theme and the Imperial March. The main theme from Pirates of the Caribbean is pretty great too. There's a company called Immediate Music that puts out stuff that seems like it should be theme music or in a game somewhere. One example: Heaven Help Us.

Other songs people find motivational like "Walking on Sunshine" which I just cannot stand, so it probably varies from person to person. In the right setting, some songs are inspirational when otherwise they're just obnoxious, too.

I'm not sure why some music works so well like this and others don't. I'm sure the theory behind it (key signature, tempo, etc) contributes, but it just seems like sometimes a piece just comes together in such a way that it just drives people emotionally.

It just must feel great to have come up with something like that, to hear it played and see how people react.


eric said...

Another sort of sub category would be marching band adaptations of popular songs... To me, nothing says "you are home" quite like hearing a small high school marching band belt out 'Smoke On The Water' or the star wars 'Imperial March' or that Dr. Who theme song during a football home.

Philip said...

Jimi Hendrix's version of "All Along the Watchtower".

An offbeat favorite of mine is the Soviet national anthem. Commie bastids, sure. One heck of a song, tho.