Home Music Music Lists

The 10 Best Jock Jams of the Moment

Our assessment of the Jock Jams currently rocking sports-arena sound systems – and some nominations for a new Jock Jam canon

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The Jock Jam has Seventies roots in grandma-oriented disco (the Village Peoples' "YMCA") and chant-along bubblegum rock (Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"). Some Jock Jams are rock jams but they usually thrive in the cheesy chewy space between the danciest dance-pop and poppiest pop-rap – they'll get it started in here, they'll pump up the jam, they'll let the dogs out, they're gonna make you sweat, they're weirdly appropriate to listen to while running a three-man weave.

The golden age of the form lasted from the late Eighties to the mid Nineties – from "It Takes Two" and "Whoomp (There It Is)" through "Hip-Hop Hooray" and EMF's "Unbelievable," and the Bucketheads' "The Bomb" and Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It" (all compiled on the classic five-volume series ESPN Presents Jock Jams). Sonic and lyrical innovations in hip-hop during the post-Timbaland/Jay-Z era have rendered the Jock Jam's simple volume-pumping, tootsie-rolling, EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!-ing pleasures somewhat déclassé these days. But the Jock Jam isn't going to end up in the locker room laundry bin of history anytime soon.

By Jon Dolan

Play video

Black Eyed Peas, ‘Boom Boom Pow’

Will.i.am. keeps the Jock Jam tradition alive the way Led Zeppelin kept the blues alive. "Boom Boom Pow" makes "Whoomp There It Is" seem like a wax-winged wisp of Dickinsonian miniaturism. The beat is so stupid it’s like a zombie standing around in a crowd of zombies thinking, "Man, these other zombies are really smart." The lyrics aren't just perfect for Jumbotrons – they could've been written on one. In other words, Jock Jam gold.

Play video

Wiz Khalifa, ‘Black and Yellow’

It's the Platonic Jock Jam. Inane place-holder lyrics? Check. Inescapably insistent chorus? Check. Danceable beat? Well, go get me another $14 Budweiser and I'll get back to you. It's even an ode to the colors of a sports team (his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers). But, of course, the Wiz's mega-hit's greatest Jock Jam strength is also its greatest flaw: a Jock Jam must be universal.  And unless you're a fan of one of the surprisingly small number of teams that fits the song's bi-color mandate – the Iowa Hawkeyes, for instance, or English football's Wolverhampton Wanderers – its resonance is blunted. Let's hope Lil Wayne's Packers-themed remix "Green and Yellow" spawns a rainbow of imitators. 

Play video

Kevin Rudolf feat. Lil Wayne, ‘Let It Rock’

Speaking of His Weezyness, it's no secret that the Greatest Rapper Alive is a massive sports fan. This 2009 collaboration with rock lug Kevin Rudolf has become a stadium staple over the last couple years. For athletics-specific rapping we prefer Wayne's own "Sportscenter." But as something for drunk investment brokers to sing from row 36L it’s tough to deny this track's fratty non-tendre – " [I'll] Make you come…Alive! "

Play video

Rihanna feat. Drake, ‘What’s My Name’

On the surface, one of 2010's greatest singles would seem too smutty for a family oriented event like a football or basketball game. But check it out:
 
Rihanna: "Na na na, what's my name?"
Crowd: "THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE BLUE HENS!"
 
Whoever's working the PA system just needs to keep his finger on the FADE OUT button during Drake's verses.

Play video

Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em, ‘Turn My Swag On’

With its lyrics about putting his favorite jersey on first thing in the morning, this triumphal slab of gym-ready bubblegum crunk has obvious merchandizing tie-in possibilities. PA announcer: "Hey, Blue Hens fans, if you’d like to do like Soulja Boy and TURN IT UP by putting YOUR team on, just go on over to bluehensapparrel.com for all your D.U. outfitting needs."

Play video

Jay-Z feat. Rihanna and Kanye West, ‘Run This Town’

As with "What's My Name," the song's high artistic merit cuts into its J.J. potential. But its utilitarian appeal definitely makes up for that – it's very useful if your team has a hated intra-city rival. And wears black. And your mascot is a bird: "All black everything / And our girls are blackbirds," Jay-Z raps. Was Jigga thinking of his Brooklyn homeys the Long Island University Blackbirds (making their first NCAA appearance in a 14 years after winning the Northeastern Conference tournament in an overtime thriller against Robert Morris)? No, probably not. But with the Jock Jam, as in all great forms of expression, symbolic serendipity is part of the fun.

Play video

Black Eyed Peas, ‘Let’s Get It Started’

They're back! Researchers at MIT's Manny Ramirez Institute For the Study of Mental Incompetency in Sports have arrived at a graduated scale for measuring the response of sports fans to the music of will.i.am. If you're someone who sits quietly throughout the game enjoying your 128-ounce Coke Zero, his songs will cause you to groove around in your seat a little and perhaps emit the occasional "Woot!" If you’re the kind of person who stands through the entire game and enjoys giving unsolicited advice to referees, it will cause you to get up and engage in Annoying White Man dance shenanigans (inane air-chopping gestures, funky robot moves, dances people don't do anymore such as the cabbage-patch, Roger Rabbit and lawn mower). If you’re the kind of person who yells "D-Fense" during every possession, high-fives strangers and gets in parking lot scuffles with anyone wearing the opposing teams colors (including women), you are likely to rip the cushion out of your seat and eat it while pounding your chest like a feral Yeti. "Lose your mind, this is the time," indeed.

Play video

Nickelback, ‘Burn It Down to the Ground’

Rock Jock Jams have been with us for decades – Queen's "We Will Rock You" remains the preeminent means of informing a visiting team that it is about to be rocked (by you), and every night tens of thousands of people all over the North American continent happily "HEY!" along to Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Pts 1 and 2." The hockey-puck-brained Canadians of Nickelback have somehow come up with a song that basically combines those two classics, a stunning achievement in the Rock Jock Jam field. "Burn It Down" has a swaggering-Godzilla beat (a la Gary G.), lyrics about all the kick-ass things "WE" are going to do "TONIGHT" (a la Queen), and a thunderous "Hey!"-yelling chant-along chorus. Also, somewhat terrifyingly, it’s about sport-drinking, "til the world stops turning while we burn it to the ground." Guaranteed to turn a Calgary Flames game into a night of broken teeth.

Play video

Ke$ha, ‘Tik Tok’

Predictably, the Jock Jam world tends to be male dominated. But leave it to a party crasher like Ke$ha to work her way into the Neo-Jock idiom. "Tik Tok" even has a cranked-up cheerleader vibe to it with its boom-boom beat and lines about how "we're gonna fight til we see the morning light."

Play video

Gwen Stefani feat. Akon, ‘The Sweet Escape’

And lastly, pour some out for the all the Jock Jams that never get heard in their entirety – that maligned sub-genre known as the "brief stoppage of play" Jam. These songs have a monster three or four second hook perfect to put on while a ref confers with the scorer's table or a player is slow to get up after a hard foul – in this case, that amazingly catchy "Woo-hoo! ee-hooo!" part. If you got your musical information solely by attending live sporting events you might not even know Gwen sings on this. Guess she'll have to console herself with the fact that Bush's "Machinehead" is very popular at soccer matches.

Show Comments