“It’s like boom! I put it in the hoop like slam! I heard the crowd screaming out jam! I swear that I’m telling you the facts, ‘cuz that’s how I beat Shaq.”
-- Aaron Carter
From Aaron Carter to Jay-Z, Simon and Garfunkel to the 1985 Chicago Bears, music and sports have been inextricably linked for as long as I can remember. Many musicians can’t resist name-dropping the hottest athletes of the moment, and who could blame them? Professional sports and the music industry are surprisingly similar: both require a highly specialized set of skills, whether it be jamming out on a guitar or turning a successful double play. Both realms are nauseatingly public; intimate details of the lives of high-profile athletes are becoming as common as those of musicians on shows like TMZ and Entertainment Tonight. What’s more, each business recycles stars at lightning-fast speeds. Not playing well? On the bench. Not selling tickets? Dropped from the label. These industries, both worth billions of dollars, are cutthroat and harsh.
The growing trend in today’s sports culture is for athletes, whether bench players or aces, to try their hand in the music business. They turn to the one arena that they have yet to conquer: the recording studio. What is it that lures these incredible athletes to the musical realm? Why is it that they sometimes abandon what they are best at, much like Michael Jordan’s short stint with professional baseball, to dabble in an equally dangerous pursuit? Some may argue that these athletes have an inner musician just waiting to be released. I say that they are just drawn to the high-risk, high-reward aspect of the music business. Certainly, being a star already gives them an advantage in the entertainment business, but it does not take long for fans to determine the true crooners from the imposters.
A small sampling of lyrics released by well-known athletes:
“I beat the buzzer baby. My stroke is hole in one. You see the checkered flag? Finish line, here I come.”
“Wave your hands and pump your fist, when I’m on the court you know it’s strictly ‘Swish!’ Cause there’s some things that I gotta do: tape up the ankle, pump up my Shaq-shoe”
Now, lyrics referencing athletes from professional musicians:
“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson? Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away.”
“As fate would have it, Jay’s status appears to be at an all-time high. Perfect time to say goodbye. When I come back like Jordan, wearin’ the 4-5, it ain’t to play games with you.”
The first two lyrics, by Ron Artest and Shaquille O’Neal, respectively, are fixated around their status as an athlete. Even as musicians, they cannot move beyond their standing as professional athletes. This fact is all too common among athletes-turned-musicians. The latter two lyrics, by Simon and Garfunkel and Jay-Z, respectively, are the only references to sports within their respective songs, “Mrs. Robinson” and “Encore.” I enjoy hearing musicians sing about famous athletes in their music; it demonstrates a certain versatility and understanding of the world beyond their own sphere of music. On the other hand, I do not enjoy hearing athletes boast about themselves through the medium of music. It seems to be done out of vanity more than anything else.
Like I said, a little less brazen would be nice. And so, I entreat any professional athlete thinking of switching over to a career in music to reconsider, and leave the singing to those that know it best.