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College football’s annual Stockholm syndrome pop songs

In August, you hated all of these. By December, you sang along in delirium.

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Turner. Banner Society illustration.

One of the weird college football sub-traditions is a TV entity jamming some stadium rock song down our ear canals for an entire season. Whether it’s heading to a commercial break in a game or to promo the upcoming week’s Saturday Night Football game, it is now a regular occurrence.

First, a refrain (music term) for the song that was actually good.

“Back in the Mud” by Bubba Sparxxx was the College GameDay theme before Big and Rich came along. The song talked shit about other shows (“our show is so superior to your show”) ...

... and the BCS: “BCS controversy, will they finally settle it? / Put the two best teams on the field, forget the rhetoric.”

There’s something about the seamless transition into the collegiate regular College GameDay intro at the time that worked.

Bubba gave way to “comin’ to yo citayyyyyyyyy,” an obnoxious song that we’ve all long since come to love anyway.

If you want a little zing in your zang zang, then you’ve come to the right place every Saturday morning.

I find myself whistling this during the offseason randomly. That’s how annoyingly catchy this one is. It’s just synonymous with the road show ritual for so many people.

ESPN now rolls out a rock anthem every season.

You could tell me these were all by the same band, and I’d believe you. Some of these have been used by ESPN for college football promos, and some haven’t, but all were played so endlessly during college football broadcasts that they placed permanent imprints in the brains of CFB fans. So it doesn’t matter whether they were originally meant to be college football songs or not.

In 2019, ESPN walked basically the same path as always and went with “Can’t Stop Me Now” by The Score:

In a brief digression, Disney* broke up the electric guitar with some Kendrick Lamar during halftime of the 2017 season’s Alabama-Georgia title game.

* ESPN’s owner, but also the owner of Marvel, whose then-upcoming Black Panther featured Lamar.

Kendrick, who’s also had “DNA” and “Humble” air during games, and Eminem have undoubtedly been the two rappers you’re most likely to hear on college football broadcasts. This happened, after all, and we were all making the same face after hearing Eminem’s “Berzerk” 1,000 times that football season.

That’s nothing. Rock and rap make for common stadium music. ESPN can even make straight-up pop music feel like college football’s unavoidable soundtrack.

The poppy songs like Swift’s and another by Fergie, which ESPN used, are made to be ear-wormy.

Then, they just get repeated so often during commercial breaks that you have no choice but to identify with them. They’re also attached to something we’re all inherently interested in: football highlights. You’re already paying attention to what’s on the screen, and that’s how the music finds its way into your cranium and lodges itself there until January. It’s not just background music; it’s the soundtrack to something your brain is already invested in.

CBS, home of the SEC’s biggest games, goes heavy with the country, for obvious reasons.

We get it — you’re Southern.

The full version of this Brad Paisley song gave us a BIG RED CAMEO, at least, which at least meant shoving something delightful into our brains along the way.

Hoo boy, was this Garth Brooks lip sync terrible during the 2016 version.

This last one is actually the ACC Network’s syndicated intro that’s a remix of an actually good Jason Aldean song.

And the SEC Network opted for more of a Southern rock theme.

And let us not forget the commercials.

While many of these songs lead us into the break, what happens during the break can also be repetitive to the point of submission.

The first one I remember is WHALE JAMZ. But this one was never annoying. It always slapped (whale term).

There was DALE as well. If you ever hated this song, I feel bad for you.

There were others, but I cannot mention the good without mentioning the worst. For those that believe in the slippery slope theory, you can draw a direct line from those to the marketing equivalent of Satan’s spawn, aka this:

I will never come to terms with this song, which debuted Week 0 of the 2019 season. It will never be good. May God have mercy on the soul of whoever came up with is.

We all need to be honest with ourselves.

By November, a Stockholm Syndrome effect happens for everything that is NOT summertime lovin’ (I will not be broken). We’ve heard these songs so much that we almost start to enjoy them.

Just wait. During this season’s Rivalry Weekend, you’ll be humming along to the latest song by the one rock band that made all these songs.