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.]
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.
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.
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].
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.