I remember the first time I saw it thinking "Ok, this is kinda funny for the pre-season, a good idea for the first few games to get the fans back into it."
I mean, here I was at the first home game of the Raptors' 2005-06 season, and on screen were the various players dancing to a looped rendition of Beyonce's "Crazy In Love!"
Admittedly, watching the likes of Matt Bonner, Hoffa and Loren Woods doing their best shuffles was amusing...the first time. Even the second and third times I still managed a wry grin.
However, my real expectation was for this joke to last no longer than the pre-season games...or maybe the first few home games...
...but once we got to game 20 and I was still being subjected to what was now akin to "Nature Trail From Hell in 3D..."
In anticipation of the November 3 home-opener vs. the Milwaukee Bucks, here at the HQ we've decided to postulate on a few reasonable options, and give a few main rules for the Raps in terms of choosing future theme songs.
1. No Pop Songs: Look...I know the cheerleaders love the Black Eyed Peas - but "Let's Get It Started" gets old really fast...No, choosing anything from the past three years that was a "pop hit" just isn't going to cut it. You think the players want to come out to "London Bridge?" At the same time, maybe they should stay away from too much classic Rock and songs from more than 20 years ago. Most of those classics (especially the metal ones like Paranoid etc) have been done to death and in terms of demographics - save'em the Leafs and Rock.
2. Build a Legacy: Sure, the Bulls warm-up song is a pretty spine-tingling choice of music to enter the game to...but that's why it's the Bulls' intro. The Raptors this year, in light of the rebirth of the franchise that Colangelo and co. are try to impress upon fans, should try to choose a track that will be unique to the Raptors and something that will remain the warmup music for years to come.
3. Song Dynamics: The next criteria we felt was important, were the characteristics of the song itself. The choice wouldn't have to be purely instrumental, but it should have a powerful instrumental beginning long enough for the player introductions. If need be, this instrumental could be looped continuously or let play in full. So while a song like Weezer's "Hash Pipe" or the Police's "Message in a Bottle" are both high energy songs, their intros just aren't long enough and didn't build the way you'd want a pre-game intro to build.
4. Pump it Up! Finally, above all else, the music's gotta have that certain allure that really sets the atmosphere and gets fans excited about the game to follow. That's what killed me about the "Crazy in Love" intro. How can fans (or players for that matter) get psyched for a game when the game intro amounts to a joke? And for the most part last season, that's the way I'm sure most of the league perceived the club.
So with these rules in place here are our top 10 or so songs we were considering in no particular order:
1. "Raise It Up" - Slum Village - This was the first song to meet all of our criteria. It's a bit underground, but a slamming hip-hop track with a hype beat that builds as the song progresses. It also could be easily looped at the intro with the "Raise it Up" chants fitting in perfectly with the inevitable Chris Bosh, Mo Pete chest bumps.
2. "Visions (skit)" - Afu-Ra/"Boom" - Royce The 5-9 - Both of these songs were included as one entry as both were produced by the one and only DJ Premier. In fact, you could slate a number of other tracks he's produced in here as entries as well because of their "loopability." But "Boom" would really be a fire-starter at the ACC. Besides the bomb sound-effect opening (after which Herbie could yell "Ladies and Gentlemen..." to kick things off) and high-energy feel, it's a track that wouldn't sound played out in a year...after all, it's already over four years old.
3. "Cannonball" - The Breeders - Here's an indie rock gem that also meets our demands. Great guitar-driven intro that builds to a frantic finale, "Cannonball" was used in a car commercial a few years back but is definitely no "pop classic." The only concern for us would be how to extend that intro as long as possible...
4. "Here I Come" - The Roots/ "E=MC2" - Common and JayDee - Here are two more we've lumped together. Neither has the same producer (although the artists do travel in the same circles) but both are quite new releases which will never see a Billboard chart. However that doesn't mean they wouldn't be perfect choices. From the "Get up, get up" chant of Common prior to an ovation enducing beat courtesy of Jay Dee (RIP) in "E=MC2," to the "this beat makes me want to bench press three plates" cadence of "Here I Come," both songs would definitely encourage body-numbing chest bumps from the players. Do they have "stayability?" Perhaps not...but they're certainly no "Crazy In Love."
5. Jay-Z - Various tracks - Here's an artist who we couldn't just pick one song from. From the fantastic looped horn arrangements on "U Don't Know" and "1-900 Hustler," to the simply neck snapping beats of "Change the Game," and "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" to the spine tingling intros to "Encore," HOVA had us rooting through his entire collection. In fact after the Beyonce fiasco last year, Howland and I were endorsing an immediate change to the Jay-Z/Linkin Park collabo version of Encore. It's got a great build even as just an instrumental, and has that opulent sound present in most other epic warm-up tracks.
But perhaps the one song that stood out from the rest of the Jay-Z options was a lessor known track called "Come and Get Me." This was one of the first collabos between Jay and Timbaland and a minute into the song, transforms into a ridiculous instrumental funk track - perfect for crowd hyping and dunk montage accompanyment.
5. "Like Eating Glass"/"Helicopter" - Bloc Party - Bloc Party's debut album is considered a modern classic and the first two tracks off of it could equally be effective as warm-up options. Take one listen to the frantic drums of "Like Eating Glass" and the searing guitars of "Helicopter" and even in pure instrumental form either would cause pure hysteria.
8. "Right Here, Right Now" - Fatboy Slim - This isn't my favourite song of all time nor is it completely original in use but it is perhaps the most "epic" sounding on our list. Great build, purely instrumental, envigorating and no looping required due to its intro length. I guess you could call this our "Safe Pick" of the list.
9. The Neptunes - Various tracks - My favourite producers of all time consistently create top hits for the highest bidder. But besides crafting club classics the duo also have a signature sound that lends itself to being used vocal-less. "Southern Hospitality," "Grindin," "Holla Back Youngin'," "What It Is Right Now" - all have great instrumentals which could easily be looped to create a bangin' intro for the Raps. Some of these may have been a bit too popular and recent to be used but what about using the Neptunes' first classic beat - "Superthug" for Noreaga? With its wicked guitar riff and pounding bass line this could be a Raptors' staple for seasons to come.
10. Lucky Pressure - Roni Size - Our lone drum and bass choice...but maybe my favourite track on our list. An epic intro starts the song off before building to a furious peak when the double-time drums crash in. It would need to be extended a bit to get full use of the symphonic beginning but overall I think this would be the spine-tingling game-starter this team needs.
So which of these would we pick in the end?
It's too close to call. In fact we also looked at tons of other choices that just barely missed our final 10 cut. Some examples are:
Fool's Gold (Grooverider Remix) - The Stone Roses
Hard to Explain - The Strokes
Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) - Digable Planets
Jacqueline - Franz Ferdinand
D&D Soundclash/ - Smiff'n Wessun
Numb - U2
Definition - Mos Def & Talib Kweli
Can I Kick It? - A Tribe Called Quest
Ballerz Remix - RAM Squad
Perhaps the best idea would be to start from scratch.
If the Raptors are really bent on creating a new identity perhaps they should get a local artist (the name Kardinal Offishal comes to mind) to create something exclusively for the team? Or a merging of various songs could work as well. Imagine the classic G Funk Intro "Like We Always Do About This Time....Yeeeeeeeeeeeah" followed by a looping of Edge's guitar from U2's "Mysterious Ways?"
Unfortunately I have little faith in the Raptors in-game staff putting together anything resembling our choices above. Instead, fans will probably be treated to an opening intro montage set to the likes of Jessica Simpson or Mr. Timberlake...
I just hope Andrea Bargnani is ready to "Bring Sexy Back..."