Warm It Up, Chris
Since I’ve completely abandoned the schedule that I had planned to stick to two weeks ago (not to worry, a UWM roster breakdown is still forthcoming), it seems only appropriate that I want to write about something completely odd today, and discuss warm-up music. In the numerous games that I’ve attended over the last several years, I’ve heard quite a bit of music played during warm-ups. At division one college games, this music typically comes from the band. However, at high school games bands are becoming less and less prevalent, and typically mainstream music is piped in over the gymnasium sound system. This is also occasionally true for some of the division three college games that I’ve attended.
Given the number of warm-ups that I’ve seen over the years, I think I’ve learned a thing or two about what works. With this knowledge in mind, I give you my five key rules for warm-up music at a high school, or low-level college basketball game:
1) If in doubt, choose a hip-hop song.
–After I get through with laying out my rules, I’m going to tell you what I consider to be the last five “warm-up songs of the year.” You’ll notice that all of them are by hip-hop artists. I’m not a big hip-hop guy in my normal life. Chances are that if you find me with my iPod on, I’m listening to The Killers, not 50 Cent. However I realize that what you listen to in daily life isn’t the best thing for every occasion, and hip-hop music is the music of basketball warm-ups. I’m probably one of the lamest white guys I know, but I can recognize that hip hop is great music to move to. And at it’s core, warm-ups are about getting up and moving around. And of course, the selection of hip-hop is also more likely to protect against the choice of music that has a woefully incorrect tone for warm-ups. As a man who helped put together a terrible volleyball warm-up mix in high school that included Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,”(yeah, a slow, grinding hard rock sound will be great to warm-up to...) take it from me–hip hop is the way to go.
2) If you’re still in doubt, choose something by Nelly.
–I’m not sure what it is about the guy, but his songs always seem as if they’re crafted to be athletic warm-up songs. Perhaps this is actually a well-calculated move to gain greater royalties from the playing of his songs at arenas (and judging by the themes of several of his songs, this isn’t that far off). Or maybe Nelly just likes sports. Either way, if Nelly has an album out, it’s a good bet that you’re going to hear his music at a basketball game.
3) If the song is over10 years old, keep it on the shelf.
–Last year I actually went to a game at Carroll College where the songs “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” by Billy Joel and “Beat It,” by Michael Jackson were used in warm-ups. Both are great songs (well, at least “Beat It” is a great song), but neither quite fits for warm-ups. If people are warming up, there should be a current vibe in the room. Stale songs don’t get you ready to play (or watch the game in a sedentary manner from the stands).
4) “Welcome To the Jungle” might still occasionally be a passable song, but for goodness sake, don’t use if your team’s record is 4-15.
–I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of hearing “Welcome To the Jungle” in warm-ups. I think it’s cliched and incredibly played out. That said, in rare circumstances, it can work. Of course, those rare circumstances do not include times when the home team has lost 7 straight games at home. There are few things in life more hilarious than a of 3-10 home team tripping over themselves in warm-ups and welcoming the opposing team to their allegedly impenetrable fortress with this song. It’s not a pit of intimidation if you’ve got a losing record, so don’t even try.
5) If you’re going to play a song, don’t cut it off early.
–Last year I attended one game where the warm-up music was good, but all of the songs were cut off at about 45 seconds. The second that you started enjoying one song, it ended, and another began. No continuity at all, and it was extremely frustrating and annoying to listen to.
Of course, regardless of rules, it seems to me as if every year one song rises to the top. I started noticing this phenomenon about five years ago, and all of the songs have stuck in my head. Thus, I would like to present my list, dating back to the 2000-1 season, of the unofficial high school warm-up song of the year:
2000-01: “E.I.” by Nelly
–To this day the memory of Devin Harris shooting lay-ups to E.I. in a certain local gym that tends not to play the “clean” versions of songs remains vivid in my head. Not the best of the top songs over the years, but in my mind, it’s where the trend of having one standout song started.
2001-02: “#1" by Nelly
–Nelly hit a home run again, actually performing a song that brashly claims that he is #1. If you team is bad, this song runs the risk of being ironically funny, much in the same manner as “Welcome To the Jungle,” but if used correctly, it’s a phenomenally appropriate warm-up song.
2002-03: “Air Force Ones” by Nelly
–Nelly just won’t quit, and again puts out a song that keeps kids warming up. Sure, the reference to a particular brand of basketball sneakers is shameless, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it just worked for the year that it was out. People had really caught on to the Nelly thing, too, so this one was almost totally guaranteed to be played wherever I was seeing a game.
2003-4: “Yeah!” by Usher
–Usher stole this one from Nelly, putting out the rare pop song that I’ve actually really enjoyed over the past few years. Of course, part of Usher’s win this year had to do with his song being played lots of places, but Nelly helped him out, sampling John Tesch’s old NBA theme for his attempt at yet another warm-up song, “Heart of a Champion.” Let this be a lesson, Nelly–if you sample John Tesch, you will lose.
2004-2005: “We Ready” by Archie Eversole, “Let’s Go” by Trick Daddy (tie)
–Last season yielded two standout songs. I heard both of these just about everywhere. Each has its strengths. “We Ready,” though in my mind an extremely sub-par song, has a 30-second intro that just gets you excited to watch hoops. “Let’s Go” is probably the stronger song overall, but part of me thinks that I may be giving it elevated status due to the brilliant use of it by UWM as the song played during player intros. And intros, while also a great time for good music, are not warm-ups per se. And because I can’t quite rectify this in my mind, I’m copping out and making last season a tie.
So where do we go this season? I couldn’t really tell you, as high school season has not kicked off. I’ve enjoyed Kanye West’s (shockingly, no relation to me) “Gold Digger” at the single UWM and Marquette game that I’ve attended so far, but it’s still early. And as usual, the high school kids making the warm-up mixes typically have a much better read on good, current warm up music than the people running the sound system at the Bradley Center. Here’s looking forward to what you have for me this year, kids. For now, I’m going to fire up my iPod and listen to some Herb Alpert. Good thing I’m not warming up for anything.