Soundtracking the Olympics Opening Ceremony: Big Sales, McCartney & More
Like Great Britain itself, the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics this past weekend (July 27) was full of musical variety.
For the first time ever, the ceremony’s soundtrack was available for purchase just minutes after it aired – a decision that proved a smart one, as the 37-song compilation topped the iTunes chart internationally (in Britain, France, Belgium and Spain, specifically) following broadcast. The soundtrack, titled Isles of Wonder, is down to No. 12 on the US iTunes album chart at time of press, but it peaked at No. 5 stateside over the weekend – a feat considering no American artists are included. Additionally, Isles of Wonder debuted at No. 5 on the U.K. charts this week, after just one day on sale.
So what’s all the fuss about? Friday’s Opening Ceremony, which aired stateside on NBC, was helmed by British director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) with musical direction from electronic group Underworld. With UK icons like Queen Elizabeth and David Beckham participating, the elaborate spectacle was a celebration of all things British – and its musical direction was no different. Athletes from around the globe entered Olympic Stadium to an eclectic soundtrack, ranging from classic rockers like The Who, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Queen to modern stars like Adele, Amy Winehouse, Coldplay and Muse, a handful of obscure picks in between. Team Great Britain, who entered the stadium last, received particularly epic walk-on music in the form of David Bowie’s anthem “Heroes,” which has been used for a number of placements previously but never so perfectly.
And what celebration of British music would be complete without The Beatles? Sir Paul McCartney closed out the Opening Ceremony with performances of “Hey Jude” and “The End,” while UK rockers Arctic Monkeys fittingly covered the Fab Four’s “Come Together.” Even Ringo Starr was a fan of the Monkeys’ performance, tweeting:
Well done Danny Boyle Great show all artic monkeys come together send me a copy and well done Paul great show all around R in L A ***—
Ringo Starr (@ringostarrmusic) July 28, 2012
Other performers included tongue-twisted rapper Dizzee Rascal and soulful singer Emeli Sandé, whose touching tribute to victims of UK terrorist attacks was cut from NBC’s US broadcast.
Including every song used to soundtrack the lengthy ceremony – hundreds of tracks – would be near impossible, so Isles of Wonder includes only 37 tracks from the Opening Ceremony. The audio from Sande and Arctic Monkeys’ performances are included, as are multiple tracks from Underworld and “Heroes.” Also making the cut are hits like Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls” and U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name,” a curious choice given the band is Ireland’s flagship act.
For a full list of tracks included in the Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony, click here.
The Olympics’ Closing Ceremony is expected to be even more star-studded than its Opening Ceremony, though its confirmed performance list has been kept under wraps. Those confirmed by the Olympic Committee include George Michael, The Who, Britpoppers Blur, pop stars Jessie J and Taio Cruz, boybands Take That and One Direction. Those rumored include Queen, the Spice Girls, New Order, and Eurythmics’ frontwoman Annie Lennox. The Closing Ceremony is being touted as a celebration of British music throughout the last 50 years, a soundtrack of which will be available digitally shortly after its broadcast on August 12th.
- Jillian Mapes, CBS Local