Special K For A Day Comment Count

Ace May 10th, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Earlier this week, Brian put forth the five things he would do if he spearheaded Dave Brandon's governorship campaign was athletic director for a day, with a singular focus on improving the football gameday experience. Me? I'm happy to leave the branding and ticket pricing up to him; all I want is Special K's job (lofty goals, I know).

While I love the band and wish they were featured more during games, I realize it's 2012, and when gearing your program towards appealing to a younger audience—especially recruits—blasting music over the PA becomes an integral part of the gameday experience. If done right, this can actually become quite a positive. Firing up "Sweet Caroline" so the student section can pretend they're at Rick's instead of a football game, however, is not doing it right.

That's where I come in. While a certain level of universal appeal is needed when playing music for the masses, it's entirely possible to make a kick-ass playlist without spinning "We Will Rock You" and "Seven Nation Army" like every other stadium/arena on planet Earth—in fact, it's best not to do so. A few ground rules before I get into the music:

1. Local appeal is great—and actually gets its own section below—but quality trumps location. Penn State, for better or for worse (okay, definitely worse), stole "Seven Nation Army" from the heart of Michigan and made it so I can't hear that song without thinking of Beaver Stadium, of all things. Why? Because that song is amazing, and they played the living hell out of it.

2. That said, variety is important. Penn State essentially plays the same two songs on a loop during games. The stadium playlist I put together while going through my iTunes library topped 40 songs. I like being surprised.

3. No matter what you do, a certain segment of the fanbase (read: most people over 40) are going to hate whatever I put below. This is largely because they would hate any piped-in music. I'm not trying to appeal to these people. Instead, I'm aiming for the 20- and 30-somethings—people who've developed musical taste—while knowing that college students will get drunk and rowdy to just about anything (seriously, have you been to Rick's?). I'll probably swing and miss when it comes to the 30-something crowd, but I'm 24 and putting on my Deal With It shades.

Alright, enough with the talk. Let's get to the music. [EDIT: After the jump, because all the YouTube videos are making the page lag].


[DISCLAIMER: Songs are edited when I could find a clean copy, but some lyrics are NSFW.]

Local Ties

The state of Michigan has a rich musical history spanning many genres, and that needs to be honored. And really, regardless of origin, there's nothing better to get you hype for a game than a little MC5, a band with ties to both Detroit and Ann Arbor.

"Kick Out The Jams" by MC5

Yes, that's the edited version, because I don't think "kick out the jams, mother******" would go over especially well. Unfortunate, yes, but that song still makes you want to smash your face through a plate-glass window.

"Till I Collapse (feat. Nate Dogg)" by Eminem

I'll admit, with zero shame, that one of the few songs I've enjoyed from Special K's selection has been Eminem's "Lose Yourself"—between the Detroit connection and the epic buildup of the song, it's great for stadium use. I humbly suggest adding another Slim Shady staple to the rotation and letting the late, great Nate Dogg get a voice as well.

"Superstition" by Stevie Wonder

Not only was Stevie Wonder a Motown artist par excellence, he was born in Saginaw. It takes all of four funky-ass notes from the bass to recognize this song, which may be played out to a certain extent, but has still held up remarkably well. I've never heard "Superstition" and thought it was being played at an inappropriate time.

Others: "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" by The Temptations (need a song from The Big Chill soundtrack); "A Long Time" by Mayer Hawthorne (comtemporary, grew up in Ann Arbor, song about Detroit); "Icky Thump" by The White Stripes (obligatory White Stripes, like this one better than "Conquest").

Rap (Yes, Rap)

This is where, presumably, I start scaring people off. Yes, I grew up in a generation where rap was not only accepted, but the main form of mainstream music. I drive around my suburban neighborhood with the windows rolled down as Biggie talks about kickin' in your door and wavin' his four-four. Hip-hop is here, and it just happens to be perfect for filling those 15-20 seconds of dead air between plays (so is the band, but that's not the point here). First, a few instrumentals intended for those short blasts of musical interlude:

"Shook Ones Pt. II" by Mobb Deep

Mobb Deep's "Shook Ones Pt. II" is also known as the instrumental from the 8 Mile final rap battle, which means my mom recognizes it even though she wouldn't know Prodigy from Asher Roth. If Special K played this during a game, I'd have a difficult time maintaining proper press box protocol.

"The Red" by Jaylib

For the uninitiated, Jaylib was a one-off collaboration between the late Detroit-based producer J Dilla and California producer Madlib. Dilla is generally regarded as one of the greatest producers of all time, and deservedly so. This hits the double-whammy of local origin and fantastic stand-alone beat.

Others: "Hustlin'" by Rick Ross; "Power" by Kanye West; "Can't C Me" by 2Pac.

But I'm not done, since rap doesn't just have to be a filler. I'd be fine with a commercial break being filled by any of the following jams:

"Intergalactic" by Beastie Boys

RIP MCA. Also, instant appeal to all of our Jewish students and alums.

"So Fresh So Clean" by Outkast

For my money, Outkast's Stankonia is the greatest pre-game hype album of this generation. Before flag football games in college, my friends and I would spend the car ride listening to this, "Gasoline Dreams", "Spaghetti Junction", and "B.O.B.". We finished just one game away from playing in the Glick, and much of the credit goes to Andre 3000 and Big Boi.

"Can I Kick It?" by A Tribe Called Quest

Classic Tribe. Classic Lou Reed sample. Classic call-and-response. Perfect for right before a field goal or, potentially, as the key component to an elaborate fake punt.

Others: "Awnaw" by Nappy Roots; "Da Rockwilder" by Method Man & Redman; "It Was a Good Day" by Ice Cube;

RAWK (and RAWK-Like Substances)

Get rid of Pop Evil and introduce some guitar-based music that doesn't make me want to commit hari-kari.

"For Those About to Rock" by AC/DC

AC/DC is absolutely essential, and this song gets less play compared to many of their other songs. Great for filling the time when the band is done with the pregame show but kickoff hasn't quite arrived (in other words, when they normally play Pop Evil).

"Renegades of Funk" by Rage Against The Machine

Rage Against The Machine's phenomenal cover of a Afrika Bambaataa classic. Another of my flag football pregame staples. "Bulls on Parade" is also completely acceptable, especially if we ever see a backfield of Thomas Rawls and Stephen Hopkins.

"Baba O'Riley" by The Who

Yes, "Baba O'Riley" is a stadium staple across the country. Tell me you wouldn't still get hype hearing this crescendo over the stadium speakers. If you said no, that's fine, because you'll be listening to the radio broadcast on your headphones anyway. /reverse get off my lawn

"Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen

For two reasons: (1) Queen is the greatest arena rock band of all time, and if you argue for KISS I will sock you in the nose, and (2) the profound effects of this song are perfectly captured in a Shaun of the Dead zombie-killing spree.

Others: "Thickfreakness" by The Black Keys (if Ohio wants to steal The White Stripes, I'll gladly steal The Black Keys); "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival; "Street Fighting Man" by The Rolling Stones.

Funky Music (White Boys Optional)

Section inspired by this blog's unabashed love for the rump-shaking "Across 110th Street" instrumental.

"Chocolate Buttermilk" by Kool and The Gang

My gawd, that horn arrangement. Can the band please play this? They need to get on that yesterday.

"Get Up Offa That Thing" by James Brown

If the Godfather of Soul can't convince you to stand up and move around a bit, or at least shake your ass in your seat, I declare you legally dead.

"Look-Ka Py Py" by The Meters

Booker T. and the M.G.'s rightfully get credit for being pioneers among instumental funk groups; unfortunately, this means The Meters often get overlooked. Educate yourself.

"Pick Up The Pieces" by Average White Band

Simply put, the funkiest collection of individuals to ever hail from Scotland, barely edging out, um, er... [crickets].

Others: "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" by Michael Jackson; "Dance To The Music" by Sly & The Family Stone; "Low Rider" by War.


A few songs that didn't fit into any of the above categories.

"Midnight City" by M83

An über-popular song that's actually good. Treasure those.

"Halfway Home" by TV On The Radio

Appropriately fills the dead air after the band's halftime show is over.

"Sell Out" by Reel Big Fish

For some reason, this gem from the 90s ska revival is only played by the basketball pep band, as far as I know. It's actually not the best Reel Big Fish song—that would be "Beer"—and I'm going to stop talking before you all figure out that I went through a ska phase in high school.

One man's musical taste, of course, may send you screaming towards the exits with blood shooting out of your ears. Commence your evisceration in the comments.


M Go Snacks

May 10th, 2012 at 3:48 PM ^

I think anybody that likes this song is taking crazy pills. Yes, Zoolander crazy pills. I can't think of a song that has a more cheesy, nonsensical chorus in all of music.

DISCLAIMER: I know none of the other words to this song. Maybe those other words explain the following questions. 

It breaks down like this:

"For those about to rock" - nonsensical

Poignant questions:

  • What are people doing before they're about to rock?
  • Are they doing something salute worthy?
  • Is the act of about-to-rock more salute-worthy than the act of rock that is going to follow?


"We salute you" - cheesy (also nonsensical)

Poignant questions:

  • Why are we "saluting" those about to rock?
  • When you honor a rock musician, do you salute them?
  • Is this rock musician your WWII Veteran grandfather?

Summary: Expressing honor for rock musicians by saluting them doesn't make any sense. That'd be like honoring Mother Theresa by punching her in the face. 



May 10th, 2012 at 1:08 PM ^

Ok, I thought the piped in music was horrible until I saw your list.  Thank you for making me realize just how much worse it could be.

I don't hate all of your choices, but I think some of them are just bad for football.  For example, Midnight City is an awesome song, but at a football game?  Really?  



May 10th, 2012 at 1:09 PM ^

Since the arrival of rawk music at the Big House, I've thought that Kick out the Jams would be a perfect song between the third and fourth quarters.  Sort of like the Jump Around at Wisconsin and Seven Nation Army everywhere else.  Could be a cool tradition. 


May 10th, 2012 at 1:17 PM ^

Ace, I'm a huge fan of the piped in "hype" type music, as an alternative/addition to the band, and agree that the Sweet Caroline types are god awful, but this list is the farthest thing from "hype" music I've ever seen.  I would agree, there are tons of great Rap songs which would fit perfect, but outside of possibly that MnM song, I think those are horrible for "hype" or croud involvement.



no joke its hoke

May 10th, 2012 at 5:07 PM ^

I totally agree with you straight gangster.this list is awful lol. if we want some pump up music how about rob zombie dragular,or hypnotized by biggie or rage against the machine street fighter. i dont think most the songs need a michigan feel,just a good football feel.


if you do want a michigan feel,throw some red hot chilli peppers in there. they are from michigan and are huge michigan football fans too. 


May 10th, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

you lost me at intergalactic.

baba o'reilly - i'll admit, one of my favorite songs of all time and i use it to pump myself up.  but if originality is even 1% of your goal, you can't play it.


May 10th, 2012 at 2:06 PM ^

Intergallactic might be the worst B-boy song possible in terms of a pump up song.  Overall, the list isn't horrible - its a definite improvement.  The rap section is pretty week tho.  Can't agree with Outkast's Fresh/Clean either when ya got Bombs Over Baghdad sittin just a few tracks away.  Love the inclusion of any Rage song though - great for that perfect mix of funkiness and getting pumped up.  How could you not get pumped if Bombtrack comes at you?  

Ali G Bomaye

May 10th, 2012 at 1:45 PM ^

I agree with your point, but you can't completely tell people who only listen to classic rock or top 40 radio to piss off.  There are a lot of people like that.  I think it's important to mix in original songs with songs that everyone will recognize but haven't been beaten to death Happy Valley-style.


May 10th, 2012 at 3:22 PM ^

Agreed that there are superior Beastie songs, but when you envision "Space, bitches. Space." on the jumbotrons as it plays, this works.

Okay, so DB might take issue with throwing "bitches" on the board. Perhaps the image from the commercial with the capsule orbiting earth and the big block M would suffice.


May 10th, 2012 at 1:19 PM ^

Though I don't really have a problem with most anyone's. It's just music. You listen to what you like.

But for Stadium purposes....why do we play music? I think it's to get the crowd hyped. And not all, but a whole lot of those, aren't they kinda...slow?  I mean most of that rap strikes me more as the driving through the neighborhood slow with the speakers blaring, and the car bouncing if you're cool enough.  But not exciting be loud music. Sweet Caroline sucks, but they do it because people know the words and can sing along and interact. I think it's great you have a varied playlist, but if no one else knows it, you're going to look silly singing it alone by yourself.

(And let's be honest with ourselves...Shook and the Red are identical beat tracks. They're not even stealing old stuff anymore, just recycling each other's beats. And they're both kinda...mellow).

It picks up a little with the Rock and Soul.  James Brown is always good, and has a wide catalog, and isn't used by many. Maybe more in NBA areas.  And I honestly believe you can never go wrong with Queen.  And this selection, beyond the recent band video, would be amusing if you could get mom's at the Stadium to sing along with their little kids, as peppy, never really knowing/understanding what the lyrics are REALLY about.


May 10th, 2012 at 1:22 PM ^

"Icky Thump" could be really awesome. I also like "Til I Collapse." Always kind of pumped me up and I think fits the whole football theme.

Class of 1817

May 10th, 2012 at 1:43 PM ^

As in "most definitely" not Mos Def...

...whose music I enjoy. I'm just saying that I like these picks...mos def.

Also, I really don't see a problem with 7NA. Public perception can always change. I don't think Beaver Stadium because I've never been there and I don't watch PSU games on TV...

So when I hear that song, I really only think of Detroit and Michigan Stadium.


May 10th, 2012 at 1:28 PM ^

My ska phase took me indirectly from Ten Times Fast to the Michigan Marching Band (difference in venue of performance, approximately 109,851) so while I may question my taste of the HS ska phase, I never question its value. That being said, I think I'll have myself a beer!


May 10th, 2012 at 1:29 PM ^

That's because a lot of those songs were tired the first time around, back when those over-40s were your age.  

As a card-carrying member of the GTFOML association, I can emphatically state that I greatly prefer hearing music that appeals mostly to the football players and students -- Pop Evil being the notable and detestable exception.  I  think that most of my peers agree.  Play me some Wakka Flokka Flame and other cool shit I can't fully understand!  That will get a crowd moving.   


May 10th, 2012 at 1:29 PM ^

Some improvements. "Burning Down the House" would be a fantastic piped in tune, and "Kick Out the Jams" is great but might be a little two raw for a PA. I've never heard a clean version of the song and can you imagine the distortion and poor original recording technology through a stadium PA?

I certainly agree that there are a lot of possibilities. The key is to not simply go with what everyone else is doing (but when you're shit's run by a marketing guy, you're probably going to do what everyone else is doing). You're right that some segment will be pissy  - this will probably be correlated to age - but whatever, there are plenty of tunes that will span tastes from college kids to near 40 year olds.

Like me, weened on Boomer rock as a kid, developed my own taste that include metal and rap. Just don't bombard me with stupidity like Neil Diamond and i'll be happy.


May 10th, 2012 at 3:46 PM ^

I think a lot of fans are taking what "7 Nation Army" (a.k.a. 7NA) does for the Michigan Stadium atmosphere for granted. None of these above songs have a simple enough rhythm or melody for 115,000+ to chant along to like 7NA.


(By the way, complaining that "Penn State does 7NA" and "we need our own song" is likely only going to lead to more forced efforts like "In the Big House".)


May 10th, 2012 at 1:34 PM ^

The Eminem song above is good, but the intro where he's talking is GREAT.  Talking about being tired, exhausted, but digging deep and finding that inner strength.  Perfect maybe for right before the 4th quarter? 

Baba O'Riley is just an awesome song.  That could also be playing in between the 3rd and 4th quarters maybe.

Can I kick it? By Tribe is perfect for exactly what you mentioned, before field goals and punts, maybe even kickoffs but that might get overused then.  I could imagine walking around after the game with that song in my head.  So now I'm imagining imagining a song in my head.  Weird.

Tons of other good music out there. 

Also, I went through a serious ska phase in high school.  I used to check out Mustard Plug and some others in kzoo when they'd come around.  I use to "skank" at these concerts too.  I never got pierced or tattooed or anything though.  Those were great days, that music kicks ass and I still like listening to it sometimes.


May 10th, 2012 at 1:34 PM ^

If you're going to pick a Tribe song, you gotta go with Scenario from the Low End Theory album.  Its fairly hardcore, includes Busta Rhymes, and has the lyrics "rah, rah, like a dungeon dragon."  You can't beat that with a bat.