Like many of my other personal pieces begin, I have to inform my readers about something: I really, really do not like League of Legends. I have been a not-fan since I tried it back in 2011, at which point I unlocked one of the few heroes I own on my account, Tristanna. (Which is the only champion you can make me spam.) I overwhelmingly prefer Dota 2. And Riot’s recent issues over the least year or so have not contributed to my disdain.
However, I will openly and honestly admit this. Every year, when the Worlds Championship rolls around, I look forward to their obligatory “anthem.” Or “ballad,” or “theme,” but they use “theme” to mean the orchestral songs played during the event, so I’m sticking to “anthem.” It’s a tradition that started back in 2014 with Imagine Dragons, and they’ve continued it by rotating in artists, collaborating on a pop-adjacent empowerment track.
In fact, I actively seek the anthem out. I promise that checks out given the sheer level of production behind Riot’s promotional material for its game. I mean, maybe I’m envious because Dota 2 only does lore stuff like comics when a hero’s about to drop. But like, you need to be honest and recognize something good when it is, right?
That means for the past few years, I’ve sat around and joined the debate on Twitter about what makes a good anthem, and what the best ones are. So given I have a little more space here at Fanbyte, I’d like to present you with my ranking for Worlds Championships anthems. Hopefully, your local bitter esports writer can make your Worlds anthem perspective a little fresher for you.
I’m namely doing this off the songs alone, not the music videos, which honestly come down to stylistic preference. They’re all good. The songs, though? Wooph, there’s a lot to pick at.
As EDM-pop trash, I stan Zedd hard. Really hard. I’ve seen him three times on his tours. So it actually pains me to say that Zedd’s “Ignite” is probably one of his messiest tracks ever. And don’t get me wrong, the man is capable of selling out. “Find You” for Divergent was good as hell. He made “Adrenaline” for FIFA 2017, which was a bop. But I just have no clue what happened here. In fact, I avoided writing this section until the last possible second so I wouldn’t have to listen to it.
The lyrics just start out of nowhere, stumble through with some of the most forced lyrics I’ve ever heard, and then stop out of nowhere for one of Zedd’s infamous riffs. Which are, honestly, for their sheer power and loudness, way too short. And this keeps happening. And the lyrics keeps getting jumbled up. And you just keep praying for the inevitable snares that lead up to the obligatory EDM drop. The on-and-off structure makes the whole song an absolute struggle to sit through.
Thank god the chorus bops like any other Zedd song’s chorus would! But somehow the verse riffs are more energetic than the chorus? I don’t understand the decisions here.
At least the mix is clean? And thank goodness the music video looks so good. But you can tell they had some pretty similar issues following along the song. Big frowny face.
5. Worlds Collide
Every good critique of anything has to have its “good” and “bad.” So here’s what’s good: It’s somehow better than “Ignite.” It has an actual structure, you actually expect what’s coming. The voice of Nicki Taylor absolutely makes it a listenable bop. The chorus kinda bops. The mixing of the voices give me chills.
But otherwise, it’s just a tad bit of a mess. The lyrics and melody don’t really sync up with the background music; you can overlay pretty much any lyrics over the background music and it’d make equal sense as the lyrics. And they sorta stuff a lot of empowering lyrics in, jumping from one idea to another. That means it’s just a difficult song to follow along with at all.
I do love the orchestration and intent; the ambition to be a Worlds anthem is there. You know what they were going for, and it feels good in your soul. That makes it somewhat listenable, if you’re really into this song and it’s somehow become written into your soul. The execution itself, though, doesn’t feel as great.
Here’s where the list becomes, “Actually, this is on my playlist, I just gotta nitpick.” So nitpicking, here we go!
This year’s anthem, “Phoenix,” isn’t actually a bad song. The hook starts off strong, but then the lyrics come in. And lyrics are really important because these are, you know, anthems. You should be singing along! And in the case “Phoenix,” it’s kinda difficult to follow along.
Also, not to mention they got some of the lore of, you know, actual phoenixes wrong. I get the theme, but it’s deeply inaccurate to phoenixes to ask if someone’s going to “die today or make it out alive” if they’re just going to come back again. Because they’re a phoenix.
But honestly, the main thing I need to point out about “Phoenix” is that it lacks the necessary gripping “bite” that some of the other songs have. Or “punch,” but I like “bite” better, because it implies that it has a grip. In “Phoenix,” you’re very much just going along with the flow of the song. You’re there, it sounds pretty, and you’re like, sure, why not.
This is what I like to call a “middle of the album” song. It’s not bad, but it’s good enough to be included. It keeps you listening to the album. Or, if you’re picky, you can skip it. But chances are it’s gonna grow on you. Hence why it’s still in my shuffle. In the other three songs we’re about to talk about, both the lyrics and background hit you and keep you gripped right where they need you to be.
Only #3!? Okay, listen, LISTEN. I love the hell out of this song. I love Glitch Mob. That drop? Unf. This is exactly my type of song! I’m EDM-pop trash! But I told you I was going to get picky! So here we are!
The production quality is so good, because it’s Glitch Mob and The World Alive. As it would be from these two, the production is a lot. So, on one hand, it’s a fantastic metal-electronic song, which also makes it a fantastic general-appeal throw-between-commercials tune.
But as good as that makes it, that’s also why it’s difficult to say it’s the perfect “anthem.” The song kinda blasts through itself. It feels like it’s climbing a rock wall, with the wind and snow dropping around them, but they don’t know when they’ll hit the cliff. Sometimes it’s earlier than they think, sometimes later.
Similarly, if I had to perform it live, or sing it in a crowd, I would be extremely easily humiliated. It’s kind of difficult to follow along! And not just the lyrics themselves, but the melody. It’s sort of difficult under the definition of “anthem!” And the singers had a pretty difficult time too when it came to Worlds live. (Bobby from iKON saves it, though, and I love their outfits.)
So it’s kind of difficult to justify it at the top spot for a song that you’re supposed to follow along with every weekend when Worlds comes on. Especially not when there are two fantastic ballads coming up…
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2. Legends Never Die
[Note: I used the audio-only version because the music video cuts short, unfortunately.]
“Legends Never Die” absolutely deserves to be near the top. I was a bit cold to it at first, but I absolutely warmed up to it. The initial complaints here were similar to Rise and Phoenix, but I realized they didn’t really detract from the heart of the song. The lyric structure isn’t perfect; the parts between the hook and chorus (which are basically the same thing) start stumbling a little bit. I’d also argue that the introduction is kinda a mess, and a stronger melody line there would have helped. (Maybe the pad should have been strong to start instead of fading in?) But it’s a substantially cleaner track overall.
In fact, “Legends Never Die” is not just cleaner. It’s really, incredibly powerful. Like, you want an “anthem?” You want something you can yell with your friends, even as a meme as you’re inting mid? Here’s the rock jam you were looking for.
“Legends never die/When the world is calling you/Can you hear them screaming out your name?” That placement of “screaming” right as the main peak of the chorus is esports ballad writing at its best. Except maybe the next song’s chorus. Maybe.
Plus, I’m also a nerd for mixing and production quality. Can you tell from the past fifty times I’ve mentioned it this article? And “Legends Never Die” has a ridiculously good vibe to it. Like, that’s the only way I can put it — a vibe. (No, not a “vibe check,” you heathens.) It’s really easy to drown in the soundscape here. And that makes it a really addicting listen. Between the lyric-yelling and head-banging, it’s hard to not have this grow on you, too.
You absolutely cannot go wrong with something simple and universally powerful. That’s what makes “Warriors” so damn good.
“Haha, Imagine Dragons is ba—” Okay, hold on stop, I get it, you’re on the hate train about a band that does one thing really well, like everyone started for Nickelback ten years ago. I need you to stop, before I whip out the forbidden comic. Which I’m pretty sure is intended for this exact type of discussion, me having a preference for a thing that is not inherently problematic. Not for bashing Avengers critics who point out that Disney (and certain other supercorps, such as ones that I may or may not have to mention in a disclaimer at the end of this article) are extremely powerful. And neither Nickelback nor Imagine Dragons is actually bad. We good? Alright, back to it.
Let’s start with the fact that this was an extremely wholesome inclusion in the Riot Games lore, because Imagine Dragons (at least at the time) really enjoyed League. I mean, heck, they said that, at the time, League of Legends was their favorite game. They didn’t just tweet it, they had an interview with an esports org about how they actively played it together on tour. And they’re part of REKT Global, an esports-centric holding company that owns Rogue and some games media. So like, a bunch of nerds writing a song for their favorite game? Heck yeah. That’s a goal.
As for the song itself, “Warriors” is just perfectly simplistic. You can follow along the words easily. You can hum the melody. You recognize those first five piano notes anywhere. Heck, air-guitar along with the bridge, or bang your desk along with the drums. It’s an industrial rock song! You gotta do something.
And as Imagine Dragons songs go, the lyrics are approachable; they’re empowering; they tell a story. “Farewell, I’ve gone to take my throne above/But don’t weep for me, ’cause this will be the labor of my love.” How does that not hit a heartstring, unless you have none? And if it doesn’t hit a heartstring because you have none, it makes you wanna step on a man. Same mood, really. Hell, even if you don’t understand English, you just learn the phonemes and roll with it, because the melody works that well.
All that makes it a perfect stadium anthem. Can you not imagine a whole goddamn stadium of people singing it? (Or drunk friends, even if they’re entirely off-tune? You still know that’s “Warriors.”) I think a good song that can so easily bring people with passion together is worth the top spot.
Unless, of course, you think that somehow, “Phoenix” is the most uniting song of the year because Riot’s script never lies. Or you think that I’m not giving “Ignite” enough credit because the music video is rad. What’s your take?
[DISCLAIMER: Fanbyte Media is owned by Tencent, which also owns all of Riot Games, publisher of League of Legends. That’s not gonna stop me from dunking on League at every possible opportunity.]