CAROLINE AIN’T SO SWEET: TIME FOR PITT TO DITCH SWEET CAROLINE (Part 2)
By David Haddad, Guest Contributor
Unique stadium anthems have become a valuable calling card in American athletics, galvanizing fanbases before the 4th quarter, leading up to do-or-die defensive stands and after wins. These ballads that have become synonymous with their program’s successes and have deeply embedded themselves in the culture and brand of their respective institutions. They enhance the game-day atmosphere and create a common cause between fans. Unless of course, you are a Pitt fan. In which case, the toothless, overdone pop song you have to sing every 4th quarter is just a reminder of the state of your program: irrelevant, past its prime and completely without an identity.
Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” has been the anthem of Pitt Football–played between the 3rd and 4th quarters at home football games–since 2008 when Pitt’s Director of Ticket Marketing, a former player, was tasked with improving the fan experience at Pitt games (might I suggest hiring a competent OC?). He chose the familiar soft-rock classic, and we’ve been stuck with it ever since. But as it turns the page to the 2021 season, has the time come for the University of Pittsburgh to ditch “Sweet Caroline?”
This is part two of our two-part countdown of 10 ideas for the replacing Sweet Caroline. You can find the first part here. That piece takes you through the why and numbers 10 through six on the countdown. Now we’re here to bring you home.
Here’s a reminder on the formula:
1. Sing-along-ability – This is the most important factor. Ideally, thousands will be singing along to whatever is piped over the PA. It would make sense that we make that as easy as possible, with memorable lyrics and choruses that you can’t listen to without screaming along.
2. Hype – It needs to be a song that gets the blood boiling in Heinz Field, for players and fans alike. This song can’t be something you lock arm-and-arm to and sway like you’re singing Kumbaya. It needs to get heads banging, adrenaline flowing, and mouths frothing.
3. Uniqueness – Pitt athletics is desperately trying to build a brand. The new uniforms and logos were a great start. The recent embrace of the Cathedral of Learning in our motifs is strong. Now we just need a jam that the average sports fan will associate with Pitt and Pitt alone. And also more wins. But that will come eventually.
4. Local Significance – While not a necessity, I think it would behoove Pitt to choose a theme song from a local artist. Pittsburghers are the kind of people that scoff at restaurants that serve Hunt’s. We drink Iron City, not because it tastes “good”, but because they put our skyline on the can and jobs in our region. The easiest way to get early buy-in is by giving our people something that tugs at their pride.
Bonus points will be given for a killer intro, steamy build-up, youth-friendliness, and a nature that is conducive to highlights of Paris Ford stealing souls.
Where We Are:
10. “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele
9. “It’s a Long Way to the Top” by AC/DC
8. “Bad Company” by Bad Company
7. “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance
6. “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness
And now we go.
5. The Song You Think It Should Be
You! Yes, you – the person reading this. The smartest, handsomest, most special Pitt fan in all the world. Number 5 is whatever song you were punching air about not yet seeing on this list. That’s right. Whatever bullshit, nobody-grunge crossover from 2002 that you were going to angrily flood our mentions with – that’s the one. The guitar riff. The drums. The vocals. It’s all too perfect. I’m just sorry we made you wait until Part 2 for it.
Just imagine how the crowd and players will react every Saturday. This is the song that will single-handedly fill Heinz Field, lift whatever curse has been plaguing the program since the late 90s, and put Pitt football – no… the whole city of Pittsburgh – back on the map.
You’re so smart. They should let you call the plays, too.
4. “Mother” by Danzig
When I asked Pitt Twitter for suggestions, a song about everyone’s favorite parent by a band I’d never heard of popped up in my mentions. A quick Spotify search and five seconds of runtime later, and was ready to run headfirst into the nearest wall. Honestly, I’m listening to it right now and it’s getting hard to type with my hands shaking and my drool slickening the keyboard.
Is it a little too heavy metal for today’s kids? Perhaps. Would a whole stadium of people moshing to this song teleport Heinz Field into another dimension and guarantee a Pitt win? Hell yeah.
3. “Party on 5th Ave” by Mac Miller
You had to have seen this coming.
I mean…it’s almost too perfect…
A party anthem named after a street that runs through the heart of campus, written by the most famous musician Pittsburgh has ever known – who died tragically before his prime and will be remembered forever? You simply couldn’t write a script like this. The fact that we haven’t added speakers to the Cathedral’s Victory Lights with the sole purpose of playing “Party on 5th Ave” until the sun comes up is a crime against logic.
With a familiar beat and memorable chorus, Mac Miller’s 2011 smash hit is everything you need in a post-victory singalong. The verses may not be great for singing along to due to their tempo and intricacy, but I think we can make an exception for a song with more local significance than a Warhol portrait painted with Heinz condiments.
In fact, I think the only thing keeping it from the #1 spot is that if we went straight chalk, you wouldn’t know how contrarian and smart we are.
2. “Burnin’ Up” by the Jonas Brothers
Don’t you roll your eyes at me. I get it. A girl you had a crush on in middle school was in love with the Jonas Brothers, so you spent your adolescence making fun of their skinny ties and purity rings. But fortunately for modern civilization, your asinine toxic masculinity didn’t stop Joe, Kevin, and Nick from making certified bangers for over a decade.
I want you to close your eyes. It’s the end of the 3rd Quarter in Heinz Field. Pitt’s up seven against an inferior opponent that they were beating by 21 at half. The boys need momentum and the crowd needs back into it. The Jumbotron goes black. A hush falls over the stadium. From the heavens fades in a muted guitar riff. A tea kettle whistle rises to a fever pitch, and in perfect unison, tens of thousands of Pitt fans chime in, “I’M HOT.” Chills.
I know it sounds like I’m kidding, but this song hits a lot of the pre-requisites: an intoxicatingly upbeat tempo, a chorus that begs to be shouted at the top of one’s lungs, and the ever-important nostalgia factor. The current crop of college students were 6-10 years old when Burnin’ Up dropped in 2008 (oh my God, I’m going to throw up), which is perfect because the Jonas Brothers’ target audience is right there. They would love this. And keep in mind, this is for them and not you.
Say whatever you want about the Jonas Brothers lacking the machismo for a true stadium ballad, but just keep in mind that this man wrote every great pump-up jam from 1975-1991.
Before we get to #1, we have to give a shout out to all the songs that we couldn’t fit into this list but still deserve your consideration. Namely, any song you can force a Pitt pun into. Here are just a few possibilities:
“Pittin’ On the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding
“Pitt Me Baby One More Time” by Brittney Spears
“Pittersweet Symphony” by The Verve
“Everyday We Pitt” by FYN Lucci
“’Duz Yourself” by Eminem
“Lyke a G6” by Far East Movement
The possibilities are literally endless.
1. “Elm Street” by Jimmy Wopo
If you haven’t heard of this one yet, you’re welcome.
Jimmy Wopo’s “Elm Street,” with its pounding piano riff, infectious energy, and memorable bars, is a genuine head-turner upon first listen; the type of song that has people at the party asking, “What is this??” when it comes over the speaker.
The song has Heinz Field exposure in some capacity, having been used sparingly during time outs and commercial breaks. But more importantly, it is already somewhat of a staple of the Pitt locker room after wins (starts at 0:43).
The reason, however, that this takes our top spot is that no other song captures as many valuable factors as “Elm Street.” What we also have here is a unique, not-yet-commercially popular bop that the American public would be able to easily associate with the Pitt brand. And we already covered the contagious beat and indelible, yellable lyrics – which I could hammer until I’m blue in the face.
But what can’t be oversold is the potential local significance of making this the new Pitt jam.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Jimmy Wopo (real name Travon Smart), was killed in a drive-by shooting in the Hill District on June 18, 2018 – mere days after signing with Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang Entertainment. He was a star-in-the-making who saw his light extinguished before his time. Wopo is remembered fondly by the youth and burgeoning rap scene of Pittsburgh, especially his good friends Damar Hamlin and Paris Ford.
What a way to enshrine the legacy of one of Pittsburgh’s greatest rappers.
From COMON Network Team:
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