Hello and welcome to the first in a new series of articles looking back at the use of licensed music in games. If you want a little more background, there’s a piece here explaining what it’s all about.

Today’s game is FIFA 2000, not a particularly standout entry in the series in terms of great computer footy, but notable for a few other things, not least the prominence of a major UK pop star, who not only provided some music but featured in the game’s intro and provided motion capture for goal celebrations. If you want to read more about the game, we reviewed it here.

Although I’m sure there are other examples, in my mind the combination of chart music and major gaming releases really crystallised with the use of Blur’s Song 2 in FIFA 98: Road To The World Cup. Not only did it feature in TV spots for the game (which were pretty cool in their own right) but also in the menus when you actually bought and played it yourself.

Whatever your opinions about Blur or Song 2, you have to admit that it was a long way removed from the usual musical fare (example: Actua Soccer‘s naff low-budget effort, including snippets of commentary from Barry Davies). The tradition continued in subsequent EA football games, with Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping being used in World Cup ’98, and The Rockafeller Skank by Fatboy Slim featuring in FIFA ’99. Clearly, licensed music and football games was going to be a thing.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a look through selected highlights of this particular soundtrack, song by song:

Robbie Williams – It’s Only Us
(Chrysalis Records, 1999)

For those in the UK, the ubiquity of Robbie Williams in the late 90s-early 00s verged on the unbearable. Though my own feelings of animosity towards him have long subsided, this particular period produced numerous lowlights: the try-hard Oasis impression of Old Before I Die; the insane success of Angels (and the subsequent drunken wedding/karaoke renditions it inspired); the very existence of Let Me Entertain You; the public challenge of Liam Gallagher to a fist fight; and, to top it all off, an album of Rat Pack covers. And, personally, the summer I spent working at an electrical retailer with the video for Rock DJ playing on 100 television sets roughly 50 times a day still lingers long in the memory.

These days, I’m happier to advocate for some of the lower-profile early releases such as Lazy Days, which still stands up pretty well, although I’d also convinced myself that third single from Life Thru A Lens, South of the Border, was an unfairly-forgotten gem, which proved not to be the case (chorus aside) although revisiting the music video did give me the opportunity to observe this completely mental bit of mime work from a member of the backing band:

Anyway: It’s Only Us came at a point where Williams had decided to sand away any indie-rock aspirations and focus on being a pop star. It was supposedly a track written exclusively for FIFA 2000, although it was also released as a double A-side with She’s The One and included in reissues of Robbie’s second album I’ve Been Expecting You. (As PC Zone reviewer Steve Hill said at the time: “So exclusive in fact that it’s just been on the radio.”)

Thanks to the PlayStation, gaming was starting to emerge into the mainstream, but having a high-profile star come out as a gamer and become so closely involved with development was a reasonably unusual development. The video for the song even features a gaming theme, with Williams piloting a rocket ship before ending up on the virtual football field, in both cases with the aid of some fairly terrible CG. The song itself ranks somewhere in the middle of my own personal Williamsometer: not particularly memorable, but a perfectly acceptable accompaniment to a football game, and nowhere near as annoying as the worst of his back-catalogue.


Gay Dad – Joy!
(London-Sire Records, 1999)

It wasn’t just Williams who cast aside his Britpop stylings in the late 90s; UK pop music in general was suffering from a post-Britpop hangover, with the major bands involved in that scene either on hiatus or actively distancing themselves from the era with their new material. The gap was filled by relentless chart-friendly dance hits, and guitar music found itself on the margins.

Gay Dad were briefly nominated as potential saviours, riding on a wave of hype arguably fuelled by the links of frontman Cliff Jones to the UK music press (he had recently been a music writer – featuring in publications such as Mojo and Melody Maker – himself). However, after debut single To Earth With Love hit the UK top ten, follow-ups – including Joy! – performed less well and the band disappeared from the public eye soon afterwards.

Joy! is arguably their strongest effort (your correspondent purchased the album – Leisure Noise – on CD after hearing the song on this soundtrack) and was still a moderate hit in the UK charts, but probably not as big as perhaps EA might have hoped or expected. Still, it works well enough here, although I’d possibly say it might be a little too cool to really nail the bloke-rock aesthetic of a football game.

Did I just say Gay Dad were cool? Anyway, enjoy this live version with bonus footage of Jools Holland making a prat of himself (as usual) in the buildup:


Apollo 440 – Stop The Rock
(Stealth-Sonic/Epic Records, 1999)

Electronica made a reasonable impact on the late-nineties UK pop charts, and Apollo 440 had a couple of top ten hits in 1996 with Krupa and in 1997 with the Van-Halen-sampling Ain’t Talkin ’bout Dub. For impressionable teenagers of the time, part of the appeal was that, in contrast to your typical pop or indie bands, those involved in electronic music cultivated their image through relative anonymity, which sort of made them seem cooler. (Seeing what The Chemical Brothers looked like in real life was, I’m sorry to say, a crushing disappointment).

The veneer of cool started to peel away from Apollo 440 with the release of slightly naff single Raw Power, which for some reason didn’t initially appear on their second album, Electro Glide in Blue – although, coincidentally, the album did feature a similarly-themed song called Carrera Rapida which appeared on the soundtrack of a Playstation speedboat game called Rapid Racer (of which I’d never heard before).

Anyway, Stop The Rock appeared in the wake of the huge chart success of Fatboy Slim, and appeared to be targeted at exactly the same market. In fact, it almost seems designed to have been used on the menu screen of a multi-million selling football game. And without being the kind of person who usually says such things, well, I kind of preferred their earlier stuff.


Reel Big Fish – Sell Out
(Mojo Records, 1996)

And that brings us, neatly enough, to a song called Sell Out. Ska punk wasn’t really a big thing over here, and while Sell Out may have been a big hit for Reel Big Fish, I don’t think it was even released in the UK. This was the kind of era when you might find out about new American bands that hadn’t made it over here by watching MTV, and sometimes just the very fact you hadn’t heard of them made them seem kind of cool in a way that might override any independent quality control while listening. But I’m still not sure I’d ever heard this song until it appeared in FIFA.

Anyway, at the risk of gross generalisation, Sell Out seems like the kind of song that you’d hear in one of the American Pie movies, or on the soundtrack to a Tony Hawk game. While undoubtedly a catchy effort, at various points I started mentally seguing into The Impression That I Get by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and/or Superman by Goldfinger (which was actually on the soundtrack for the first Tony Hawk game).

Sell Out never made it into the Tony Hawk series, although in addition to FIFA 2000 it did also appear on the soundtrack to a game called Aggressive Inline, a moderately well-received roller blading game from the early 00s. And, although it probably did serve a purpose in providing more familiar musical material for the ears of US-based FIFA fans, street sports seems a more suitable home for this track.


So, all-in-all, there are few surprises here: blokey pop, indie rock, blokey dance and, er, some ska punk. Ok, maybe one surprise, then. But otherwise it’s exactly the kind of stuff you’d expect to be used in a football game, and neatly represents a cross-section of mainstream music of the era.

There are other songs on the soundtrack that we haven’t talked about, but as a general rule in the series we won’t be exhaustively going through every song, particularly if we don’t have anything interesting to say about one or more of them. (Yes, I know, that doesn’t usually stop us).

See you next time!