Interviews, Music, News
Jun 16, 2014


In case you weren’t aware, the 2014 World Cup has finally kicked off. I personally would have had no idea it was happening, if I somehow managed to avoid all of my social media this week. However, being an adult in the information age doesn’t really allow me this sort of luxury.

Everyone complains about our friends who have decided to live off the grid, yeah everyone has ‘those friends’ that make us go out of our way to actually individually tell them about gatherings. What is this, 1992? Actually, it kind of is right now with the reemergence of denim overalls and crop tops….but that’s neither here nor there.

We are here to talk about The World Cup. Sort of. You see, the real topic today is the fact that there is an official anthem each year for the World Cup. No, I’m not making this up, and such names as New Order, Shakira, Ricky Martin, Del Amitri, & Monty Python have earned this honor.

This year, we can thank Pit Bull & J.Lo for their contribution called “We Are One (Ole Ola)” which is a formulaic pop tune that just screams from Hollywood “What do you want from us? We got two famous American Latin Artists together and threw some vaguely Latin beats in the background. We’re too busy trying to figure out what new nostalgic item to exploit since we’re out of ideas.” Ok, that may have been a bit harsh, and the video does have over 93 Million views as of the moment I am writing this!

To be honest, I’ve heard worse songs in the past week, but after trying to like the song I just couldn’t get into it personally. It has its positive notes, is upbeat, flashy…but to me boring. I kept waiting for Busta Rhymes to pop in out of nowhere and save the song like he does for other pop stars. Alas, there were no signs of him popping out from behind Mr. Worldwide or the billions of feathers around J.Lo.

If I were going to create an anthem for a yearly world event I would have at a minimum, Weird Al on lyrics, Timberland on beats, and Busta coming in at some point to take everything home. Can’t you see the awesomeness? I am but a humble entertainment writer so I have no power to make this happen, though.

If you’re going to get me excited to watch a sport I don’t follow, I want the anthem to have some oomph behind it. Get me excited, or at the very least be something I personally would listen to before getting my ass on a sports field. This sentiment, is what may have caused Dr. Dre to pick “Jungle” by X Ambassadors & Jamie N Commons for his very stunning cinematic Beats by Dre commercial titled “The Game Before The Game”.

Staring Brazilian football (soccer for us Americans) star Neymar, Jr. it starts off with a pep talk for Neymar from his father, which is an actual pep talk his father gives him before games. The rest of the video is all real pre-game rituals by athletes, musicians and various other people getting ready for The 2014 World Cup. Such stars as Niki Minaj, LeBron James, Serena Williams & Lil Wayne flash on screen during a relatively lengthy video that had me constantly saying things like “Did I just see Lil Wayne sporting a soccer themed platinum chain?!”

The video is set to this foot stomping beat created by the X Ambassadors & Jamie N Commons. Not only is the hook so catchy that it has been stuck in my head for days already, the vocals are just the right level of gritty to really catch your attention. Paired with the beautiful scenery and interesting content, it really is a captivating commercial. My only suggestion would have been to synch every time the song had a “Yeah” lyric to cut to Lil Wayne, but that’s a personal amusement sort of thing and would not have fit with the overall video at all! But the song was everything I was looking for and more for an anthem.

“Jungle” is also being featured in the popular Netflix series Orange Is The New Black and is on the soundtrack for the movie Project Almanac. I actually got to have a chat with Sam Harris, lead singer and guitarist for X Ambassadors to talk a bit about the World Cup, their new album and of course where you can catch this song live in the next few months.XAmbassadors

PPLA: Obviously you are rooting for USA in The World Cup, despite being in the “Group of Death”, but did you follow soccer before this?

SH: I actually already follow The World Cup. The other guys in the band are much more into it than me, though! I tried really hard to find the sport I was good at in High School. Soccer, Lacrosse, Baseball, I tried them all, but I never really found my place. I gave up and just stuck with my music. I am more of a basketball guy myself.

PPLA:  “Jungle” is a collaboration with Jamie N Commons who is a British Blues Rock and Folk musician, how did that come about?

SH: When we first signed with Alex Da Kid, he played some of Jamie’s music for us and I was blown away. I told Alex that we would love to work with him, but Alex wasn’t sure that it would really mesh that well since our styles are so different. Eventually I wrote the hook that we used in “Jungle,” which Alex showed Jamie and he loved it. It was really cool how it all fell together. We actually didn’t even get to meet Jamie until we performed together much later in Los Angeles, so it was all done remotely which is think is amazing. I actually recorded the vocals for this track in my girlfriend’s kitchen, and last year I recorded the vocals for the collaboration with Eminem in a van.

PPLA: This year and last, you’ve toured with some major acts such as Imagine Dragons, Panic! At The Disco among others. Just a few months ago you were playing one of the smaller venues in Columbus, Ohio and now you’re opening on the main stage at Bunbury Music Festival in July. How have things changed in the past year? Are you more in awe of everything finally coming together, or are you just pumped?

SH: If I had to pick between the two, I would say I’m more pumped and excited for things that are happening. We’ve been working toward all of this for so long, and we’re ready for it all to finally come together. We are always excited and grateful for everything, and all the opportunities. Of course, there’s always more work to be done, so we’re also looking forward to that. We’ve been writing and working on our full length album, including what’s available on our new EP The Reason, and have about 20 new songs recorded. There are still about 10 more that we haven’t recorded yet, and we’re going out to L.A. to work on it soon.

PPLA: Your new album is very clearly influenced by your time on the road, the whole thing seems to be a progressive journey. Did you title it The Reason to remind yourself why you’re chasing your dream or more to be left open for people to interpret for themselves with their own personal experiences?

SH: It was for everyone else to interpret. Personally, I knew that I was reflecting on my experiences with self-discovery and having nothing other than music to really fall back on. I don’t have any skills to fall back on. I also noticed that other people I know had went through things like injuries as a dancer or circumstances making them give up on chasing their dreams. It’s a scary thing to have to reflect and change everything to switch paths. Watching others have to do it made me really question what I would do to move on. Also, it made me think about everyone who never got a chance to chase the dream or would never get a chance to do it. My Mother wanted to be a professional singer, but ended up having a family so she had to redirect her life. It was a small part of me noticing these things around me, but I’ve always known what I wanted and I decided to go after it.

I for one am glad that he did decide to chase the dream. I’m personally am (Un)Officially changing the 2014 World Cup Anthem to “Jungle” and am loading it onto my pre-game playlist for softball tomorrow.

Check out the video on their website and decide for yourself if you want to join me in my movement. You can also check out X Ambassadors at Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio, Musica in Akron, 96XFest in Virginia, touring with Firefly and other stops. Check out their full concert schedule here along with details about their album and other items.