World Cup fever is here. Today, all eyes are on the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro for the finale of the football (that’s soccer for the Americans) World Championship between Germany and Argentina. The location might ring a bell for Tina fans. It was at this very venue that Tina Turner performed a sold-out concert 26 years ago as part of her Break Every Rule tour. She performed in front of an audience over 180,000+ fans, at that time making it the largest crowd ever gathered for a rock concert by a single performer. It was also during her Break Every Rule tour that Tina made the transition from sports arenas and auditoriums to the world biggest stadiums and outdoor locations. And it was in 1989 that Tina recorded her own stadium anthem: ‘The Best’.
Every rock star who wants to make a successful transition from indoor venues to stadiums with a 50,000+ capacity, needs at least one of those; a stadium anthem. What’s a stadium anthem? It is a song with the potential to reach every last person in a football stadium, to make even the fans in the last row of the upper tier stand up and sing-along. But more importantly, it is a song that goes beyond the artist itself. It’s a song with a life of its own. It’s a song that will be played at sports matches. It’s a song that gives you a sense of victory, joy and pride. The absolute kings of the stadium anthem are without a doubt Queen; ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are The Champions’ crowned them rulers of every stadium around the world. Not only did those songs help Freddie Mercury gain the status of ‘best front man of all time’; they made sure that Queen is and will always be remembered long after Mercury’s death. Other honorable mentions for the ‘greatest stadium anthem of all time’-title: ‘Seven Nation Army’ (White Stripes), ‘Start Me Up’ (The Rolling Stones), ‘Born In The USA’ (Bruce Springsteen) and ‘It’s My Life’ (Bon Jovi).
So after Tina becoming the queen of stadiums around the world in 1987/1988; she was in need of her own rock anthem. At first, her choice might seem a little unusual; a cover of a Bonnie Tyler song ‘The Best’. And yes, the country-rock arrangement of the original doesn’t immediately scream ‘anthem’. But on closer inspection, you will find that it has all the right elements; uplifting, easy-to-sing-along lyrics (“you’re the best!”), a 4/4 beat perfect for clapping along or pumping your fist in the air and an overall sense of liberty and victory that breathes through the song. All it needed was a more modern production and a voice that can speak to the millions. Enter Turner.
The song was recorded and released in 1989 on Tina’s ‘Foreign Affair’ album. It was the lead-single of that album. The song did extremely well in Europe, reaching the top 10 in over 10 countries. It was however a minor hit in the United States where the song reached ‘only’ number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. However, the real test of a stadium anthem lies in the song’s capacity to remain a true hit even after its initial chart success. ‘The Best’ without a doubt withstood this test of time. Already in 1990, it become the theme song of the Australian Rugby league. In 1993, Tina returned to Australia to perform the song at the finale of the Australian Rugby league. Moreover, it has become the signature song for many sports teams and stars. Most notably, in Scotland it became the fan anthem for football team The Glasgow Rangers. It was a campaign launched by the supporters of this club that led to the re-entry of ‘The Best’ in the Scottish single charts in 2010 in the number one position. But in the end, it was the song that helped Tina solidify her position as Queen of Rock. And we can be sure that, no matter which team wins at the Maracanã stadium tonight, ‘The Best’ will be played at victory celebrations around the world in the days to come.