The 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships kicked off at Vail and Beaver Creek last week, and along with the marquee talent on the mountain, there’s a pretty impressive musical line-up, with acts like Michael Franti, Mix Master Mike, and CeeLo Green all putting on free concerts following the nightly medals ceremonies. With all that good music floating around, the one song you’re pretty much guaranteed not to hear anyone humming around the lodge is “Fly” by Steve Azar, the “official song” of FIS 2015.
Thanks in large part to the World Cup and the Olympics, the bar for “official songs” at major sporting events is set pretty low. Consider Toni Braxton’s collaboration with the European “popera” quartet Il Divo for the 2006 World Cup, which sounds like Puccini drank a bottle of Boone’s Farm and then scored the end credits to a Lifetime movie. Or the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, where the unholy Canadian alliance of Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado gave us memorable lyrics like, “From the east, from the west / each of us trying our best!” And who could forget the surreal, synth-heavy duet between Freddie Mercury and Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé at the 1992 summer games in Barcelona? (Shakira, who has cut three pretty decent tracks for three separate “official World Cup albums,” is the exception that proves the rule.)
“Fly” isn’t quite as absurd or aurally offensive as some of these golden oldies, but it isn’t very good, either. For starters, you have to wonder about the marketing team that took a long, hard look at mountain culture and ski demographics, then decided the best way to evoke the spirit of ski racing was with a lukewarm Nashville country-pop anthem.
“Fly” is what it might sound like if Keith Urban and Hootie got together to form a Goo Goo Dolls tribute band. Its verses and chorus sound like someone cobbled them together out of two completely different songs, and instrumentally, “Fly” takes kind of a kitchen sink approach, alternately incorporating a dobro breakdown, the string section of the Nashville symphony orchestra, and a Guns N' Roses–style guitar solo.
Azar said in a Vail Valley Foundation press release that the song took “only a few hours to write,” which will surprise exactly no one who makes it past the cringe-worthy first line: “Hello world, here I am, standing over this little old town…” —pregnant pause— “…called America.” The song is written from the perspective of a racer at the start gate, one who’s going through a set of vaguely Kerouacian affirmations: “I’m a vengeance, I am not afraid, filled with fire and spilling grace!” By the time “Fly” reaches its dramatic crescendo—the orchestra team sawing away on their violins—the skier has launched his- or herself into the “rocky blue and risen sky," declaring, “All you need is gravity!”
You need powder too, of course. And heroes like Lindsey Vonn. And, I suppose, sponsors. But can’t skiing do without cheeseball marketing gimmicks like “official songs?” Or at least next time get Shakira.