The FIFA series is one of the longest-running annual franchises in all of gaming, and it’s always had a kickass soundtrack, but something funny happened as we moved into the twenty-teens: people really started listening to it.
The simple reason was the advent of FIFA Ultimate Team, the incredibly addictive online build-your-own-soccer-club mode where players would spend hours tinkering with formations and scouring the transfer market before ever diving into an actual match. As FUT grew in popularity and scope, more people spent more time in FIFA’s menus than ever, and what did they have to keep them company? All that cherry-picked music.
“There are an enormous number of artists and bands – both completely unknown and established stars – that want to be part of FIFA because a) they recognise the soundtrack’s global impact and b) they’re huge fans of the game,” EA Sports Senior Music Supervisor Cybele Pettus told Dream Team FC recently. “I believe that our soundtracks have established an identifiable brand all their own. It’s a sound that’s globally rhythmic, consistently surprising, and yes, always decidedly ahead of the curve.”
The early years
Even in the early days, bands queued up to get involved due to the huge reach of the series. Early examples included Blur’s “Song 2”, which was the standout track from FIFA 98 Road to FIFA World Cup, while anyone who ever played the free-scoring FIFA 2000 will remember Robbie Williams’ foot-tapping rock song “It’s Only Us” from the intro sequence.
EA Sports also managed to wrangle a bit of product placement in the band’s video. It’s a little blink-and-you’ll-miss it – fast forward to around 1:34 below – but the fact it’s there at all helps illustrate the allure of the game to bands, most of whom, of course, are soccer fans who play it in their downtime.
A prime example of that was The Enemy, a bunch of Coventry lads who were touring with Oasis around the time FIFA 10 came out and the series really hit its creative stride again. Their song “Be Somebody” became synonymous with soccer after British broadcaster ITV used it to front their FA Cup coverage, and it’s easy to imagine TV producers got the idea from EA’s game. The connection between FIFA and “Be Somebody” was so strong, in fact, that EA actually shot the official music video for it, albeit somewhat by accident.
By this stage Ultimate Team was well on its way to becoming the behemoth it is today, and all of a sudden those few dozen soundtrack songs were getting more exposure than ever. FIFA 13 is the year we remember clearest of all, as the likes of Bastille’s “Weight of Living, Part 2” and Wretch 32’s “Blur” became the go-to backdrop to our squad tinkering. “Do you liiiike the person you’ve becoooome?” we would wail, as we debated the relative merits of 3-5-2 and 4-1-2-1-2 formations, and our partners rolled their eyes to the ceiling.
FIFA’s ability to stay ahead of the music game owes a lot to the taste and instincts of EA’s Cybele Pettus and her colleagues, who all have strong music industry backgrounds. “We start the process almost a year before the game is released, so we have to be a combination of ultimate A&R (artists and repertoire) scout and music trend Nostradamus,” she told Dream Team FC. “We listen together as a team, bounce ideas off one another, and often hotly debate about artists and songs we love and feel strongly about.”
The FIFA 18 soundtrack already looks like another belter, with the likes of Lorde and The xx rubbing shoulders with Avelino, Stormzy and ODESZA. Take a listen to the FIFA 18 soundtrack on Spotify (with a gaming headset like the Stealth 600 for Xbox One of course!) – or wait until the game is released on September 29 to discover it all as you play – and see whether you agree.