A good Olympic anthem for the United States needs to do one major thing: inspire. It needs to inspire athletes to win. It also needs to inspire viewers to shed a few tears of joy and pride for their native land. It's a lot of things for one song to do, but Katy Perry's new single "Rise" will try and do just that this year. NBC announced Perry's track will be the official song of the 2016 Rio Olympics, so get ready to hear this song over and over for 16 days straight. But is Perry's song good enough to go for the gold? Can it really inspire a whole country to win? To figure out the answer to these questions, it's best to look at Olympic anthems of years past to see how Perry's latest single stacks up to the greatest songs of previous Games.
What better place to start then with Whitney Houston's "One Moment In Time"? The song, which was written for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, is probably one of the most well-known anthems to come out of the Games. It's often replicated — specifically, when it comes to big event stealing anthems — but never duplicated. But while Perry's "Rise" is quite different than Houston's big-deal Olympic song, its sentiment seems to be the same, and it's similar to what Eminem once said in "Lose Yourself": you only get one shot to prove yourself.
Houston sings about just having that one moment, that one opportunity, to win it all. "Each day I live/ I want to be/ A day to give/The best of me," she says to open the song. Perry focuses more on the long road to the Olympics, beginning with a message of endurance. "I won't just survive," she sings in the first lines of the song. "Oh, you will see me thrive." The power of Perry's rhyme cannot be underestimated here. It sounds like a mantra, something one could hear an athlete saying before they take the national stage. It's a smart move, grabbing her audience from the very first line, and one that she may pull off better than Houston. Yes, I did just say that.
The footage of Olympic athletes training and competing that fills Perry's video is also a good move, something Houston was also smart enough to do in the video that accompanies her song. While Perry seems to be doing all she can to rally the troops for the games, she does lose points for not cribbing Houston's key change. Everyone knows a good key change halfway through a triumphant rabble rousing ballad is always the way to go.
It's now time to look at Celine Dion "Power Of A Dream" from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, which takes a lot of influence from Whitney's "One Moment In Time." Not that anyone could blame Dion; Houston's track is the epitome of Olympic songs. But Dion's song talks about her dreams of unity. One nation, under God, should come together in the name of the summer Olympics. "The strength of just 'I can'/ Has brought together people of all nations," she sings, sounding very diplomatic.
Perry seems to share this belief that the Olympics is like a big block party that brings our nation together. "I know that together we can rise above the fear — in our country, and around the world," Perry said on Instagram about "Rise." "I can't think of a better example than the Olympic athletes, as they gather together in Rio with their strength and fearlessness, to remind us how we ALL can come together, with the resolve to be the best we can be." That's a pretty powerful message, one that can be heard in her song with lines like, "I won't just conform/ No matter how you shake my core/ 'Cause my roots they run deep."
Perry's anthem certainly isn't as weird as Björk's for the 2004 Athens Games. The Icelandic star's song, "Oceania," was entirely composed of human voices, for one. But, like Björk, Perry's new song does benefit from being different then most other Olympic songs. First of all, her song is nowhere as big as Dion's or Houston's, or as classic.
Let's be honest, their songs sound like Olympic songs, as if they were generated by some song-making machine. And to a point, they were, since Houston's and Dion's songs were written by career songwriters. Perry, like Björk, benefits from taking a risk and trying something new. Perry's "Rise" is far more electronic than any previous Olympic song and because of that sounds like a song from 2016.
The song also sounds like her own, which is a good thing. Perry's no stranger to empowerment anthems — hello, "Fireworks" and "Roar" — and this one incorporates the triumphant elements that both those tracks have by making it clear that underestimating anyone's power is a big mistake. "Victory is in my veins," Perry sings triumphantly. If that's not stamped on T-shirts, hats and buttons being sold at the Olympics this summer, then the head of the U.S.A. team's merchandising should be fired.
When it comes right down to it though, Perry's Olympic song stands out alongside some of the most memorable ones because, like the Olympians themselves, she's been working on it, toying with it to make it perfect, making it feel genuine. Perry believes what she's saying. Her message is as sincere as any one of the athletes' quest for gold.
"This is a song that's been brewing inside me for years, that has finally come to the surface," Perry said on Instagram. "I was inspired to finish it now, rather than save it for my next album, because now more than ever, there is a need for our world to unite." She may not be able to unite the entire world with this anthem, but, for two weeks, it will likely unite a country looking for gold. In the end, that's all anyone can ask of this song.