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The real meaning behind Muse’s Olympic Song

Posted at 3:00 pm, June 28, 2012 in Music & Nightlife, Olympics & Paralympics

This summer mutant superhumans will compete against each other in various fiercesome displays of throwing things around, jumping over high things and running really, really fast. It is a BIG DEAL. And as such requires a BIG DEAL band to soundtrack its various feats of endurance, strength and batting away ping-pong balls.

Enter Muse (the band that Radiohead could have been had they spent more time as teenagers painting Warhammer models rather than reading literary criticism) who have produced the official Olympics song. It is, of course, a pompous epic. Which is as things should be. We are, after all, a nation still clinging to a pompous sense of our own long-gone epicness, propping up an unelected head of state, and inexplicably proud of a long history of imperial exploitation. Rule Britannia!

Thankfully, oh so thankfully, ‘Survival’ contains no dubstep breakdown. What it does offer instead is a peak into the hidden subtext of the Olympics. Note the lack of any lyrics about inclusiveness; fair play; linking hands around the world… that sort of thing. In fact the main thrust of the song’s narrative is about not dying. It’s a message we can all relate to, sure. But is there anything else we should be reading into Matt Bellamy’s songwriting?

‘I’m going to win.

Yes I’m going to win’

This, of course, refers to that inexhaustible well of self-belief that us Britons have been tapping for years. Whereas other countries invest in facilities and training, we’ve wisely stockpiled self-belief, ready to unleash our powerful sense of entitlement on the world. Take that China!

‘I’ll light the fuse,

And I’ll never lose.

And I choose to survive.’

The fuse here is metaphorical. We would like to point out that there are no reports of anyone from Muse, or any other band of the British rock establishment, planning to detonate an incendiary device around Stratford.

‘Whatever it takes,

You won’t pull ahead,

Because I’ll keep up the pace,

I’ll reveal my strength,

To the whole human race.

Yes I’m prepared,

To stay alive.’

It’s at this point it becomes clear that ‘Survival’ is in fact a song written for the movie of ‘The Hunger Games’, but rejected by its producers who made the wise decision to use Arcade Fire instead. Either that or Matt Bellamy’s vision of the Olympics involves fiery gods of war launching thunderbolts from chariots pulled by two-headed unicorns, reaping death and destruction on the puny mortals of Earth like the Decepticons from Transformers. Let us again remind ourselves that this is not the case, and the heroes we’re talking about include badminton players and synchronised swimmers.

‘I won’t forgive,

Vengeance is mine.’

Vengeance is a little discussed topic at the Olympics, but of course it plays a part. Britain will, of course, want vengeance on Germany. Who do they think they are, propping up the eurozone like that…

‘And I won’t give in,

Because I choose to thrive,

Yeah, weruhuheurgh…’

At this point the lyrics descend into a high-pitched wail undercut by an operatic chorusline. Interesting that the tone here is equal parts Wagner and Rammstein. Can we stop drawing attention to the power and success of German industry thank you very much. How about a song about Britain’s place as world leader in offshore wind power? Well done us!

‘It’s a race,

Yes it’s a race,

And I’m going to win,

Yes, I’m going to win,

Yes, I’m going to wiiiiiiiiin!’

So ends a call to arms that, is meant to appeal to every athlete, no matter what country they represent or which discipline they compete in. The mathematical fact is however, that most people will lose. For those who have accepted this, try listening to Hank Williams’s ‘You Win Again’ before the Games – you won’t be disappointed. Jonny Ensall

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