Those who have lived through NBA postseasons of the recent past will never be able to hear Jamie Foxx’s “Winner” or Linkin Park’s “Burn It Down” without reflexively shuddering and probably twitching a little bit, the songs having been overplayed through endless NBA on TNT commercials to a point that even the Black Eyed Peas could never dream of. It’s not the songs’ fault — though TNT brass never seems to choose songs that are all that good, perhaps realizing getting an actual quality song for their purposes would ultimately be pointless — but some time between the first and second round of the playoffs, they start to trigger reactions of nausea and/or deep depression, until you start watching in fear of the song popping up next.
With the playoffs just around the corner, it’s probably time to acquaint ourselves with the songs most likely to be chosen for such honors this year, if for no other reason than to steel ourselves to their melodic strains, in the hopes of building up an immunity of some sort by the time that TNT attempts to endlessly poison us with one of them. Here are some of the songs I believe to be the most likely candidates, trying not to overlap too much with my alternate All-Star Weekend anthem suggestions, and no, none of them are Ace Hood’s “Bugatti,” as preferable a choice as that would undoubtedly be.
Fall Out Boy, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up)”
TNT is already using this song in previews for the new The Rock-starring reality competition series “The Hero,” though I’m not sure if that makes it more or less likely they’ll use it again for the playoffs. Anyway, “My Songs” has the same kind of anthemic, fist-pumping chorus and big, arena-ready production as Linkin Park’s unavoidable theme for last year’s playoffs, and even shares the same incendiary lyrical themes. “Light ‘em up, up, up” even sounds like it could be written as a theme song for Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant. TNT has even given the song a vote of confidence before as a qualified NBA soundtracker, when Fall Out Boy performed the song at All-Star Saturday Night a few months back.
Zedd feat. Foxes, “Clarity”
Will the crowd-pleasing music directors at TNT programming embrace EDM? (Usher’s “More,” used recklessly and relentlessly to promote the 2010 All-Star Game, only half counts.) If so, they could do a lot worse than with Russian-German DJ Zedd’s soon-to-crossover house anthem “Clarity,” a fairly righteous floor-filler that the Knicks have used to pretty good effect in promotion of their own broadcasts over at MSG Network. Krewella’s similar “Alive” could also potentially work here, though that song kinda sucks — which arguably makes it a more likely candidate than “Clarity,” unfortunately.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton, “Can’t Hold Us”
Were I a betting man, “Can’t Hold Us” would probably be the jam I would put money (or at least lay the best odds) on TNT using. It’s got it all: an uptempo beat, an excited vibe, chorus lyrics that are blandly inspirational without actually referencing anything specific, and momentum on the pop charts that’s only now really starting to crest. It’s even vaguely reminiscent of such classic Turner broadcast promo tunes as Kanye West’s “Amazing” and Fort Minor’s “Remember the Name,” thus making it about as an obvious a choice for this year’s playoffs theme as you’re likely to find. Of course, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis already partnered with TNT (somewhat controversially) for their All-Star Game anthem earlier this year. With a much less contentious choice of song, can Ben and Ryan make it two-for-two with the NBA televised overexposure this year?
Justin Timberlake, “Let the Groove Get In”
You can’t count Justin Timberlake out of any potential music-involved promotional opportunity this year — he didn’t sell 968,000 copies of his album in its first week by accident, you know. And while lead single “Suit & Tie” probably isn’t quite populist enough for an NBA playoff anthem, and second single “Mirrors” is undoubtedly far too personal, “20/20 Experience” second-side groover “Let the Groove Get In” has more of a shot at it as an aggressive, hypnotic, salsafied funk jam, one which would sound pretty logical underneath a package of high-octane NBA highlights. Timberlake and the NBA have the past history too, though his new status as a minority owner may make this considerable as preferential treatment, and he might still be loyal to ABC’s hoops coverage anyway.
Bon Jovi, “Because We Can”
You’d hope the NBA would have the sense to go with something not so completely irrelevant, but considering they used a Lenny Kravitz song for their playoff anthem in 2011 — as in, like, two years ago — clearly we shouldn’t give them too much credit in this regard. Bon Jovi do have a new album out, and they are still the 21st century kings of flatly pandering anthems of revolt and individualism, thus making them a safe, comfortable choice for sports montage music — moreso for baseball, natch, but the MLB playoffs are still nearly half a year away, and the band’s accountants might not feel like waiting that long.
If the NBA absolutely insisted in using new old-fart rock for their NBA playoff anthem, I’d urge them to at least consider David Bowie’s excellent “The Stars Are Out Tonight” instead. Perhaps too understated a groover for such bombastic visuals, but the song remains quite cinematic, and obviously the titular sentiment is right on time. Bowie was probably a big Lakers fan in the ’70s. Before it was cool to be a Lakers fan, natch.
Imagine Dragons, “Radioactive”
Already mentioned this song as an All-Star alternate, but considering I ended that one with the caveat “Wait till this year’s playoffs start, guaranteed you’ll despise this song by June,” the article would be incomplete without at least a passing mention here. fun.’s “Carry On” is also a minor possibility here, but that group essentially passed the torch to Imagine Dragons a couple months ago as the All Soundtrack Everything band for the moment, so get excited to hate “Radioactive.”