American sports were made for American television. Having spent too many of the last hundred hours immersed in the worlds of hockey and basketball, I have also exposed myself to the broadcasting reality of this sports-hungry nation: advertising and the attendant commercial breaks. What? There’s 20 seconds left in the last game of seven in the finals series and one of the teams has taken a timeout to discuss strategy you so desperately want to hear? Too bad, ad break coming your way. Constantly frustrated in my attempts to watch a game uninterrupted in this way, I have given over to the military-industrial complex that seemingly runs professional sports in the States and embraced the recaps and rehashes, the mistimed diversions from action and the songs and graphics that inevitably go with these cutaways. And in the realm of promotional sports material, there is no bigger song right now than Fall Out Boy’s ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)’.
If you’ve heard this track (and if you have been in even the vague proximity of a TV set in the US over the last couple of months, I dare you not to have), you might be surprised to learn that it has a longer title than the plain and simple, ‘Light Em Up’. That’s because, in the world of soundbytes and video replays, of throwing to commercials and coming back from them, the TV people prefer instantly memorable, inescapable, easy to replicate and loop earworms to anything of real substance. As such, this three minute track has been reduced to the three sports-ready inspirational words at its core, doing away with the unnecessary wordiness typical to pop punk (‘This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race’) to drill down on the best catchphrase to latch onto – incendiary, aggressive and aspirational at the same time. Never mind the slightly incomprehensible, stubbornly emo lyricism that accompanies it, ‘Light Em Up’ is the kind of universal message that screams Gatorade! Under Armour! NBC! Victory! and, more improbably than all else for the Wilmette, Illinois band that made a name for itself being punk-camp, Sport!
The song comes from ‘Save Rock and Roll’, the group’s fifth studio album released last month, featuring Foxes (Brit songstress from that Zedd song), Big Sean and Courtney Love among others. Fall Out Boy’s vision of rock and roll, then, patently differs from what some others might think. More significant still than the provocative title is the video for this track in which 2Chainz (?) and a couple of leathery vixens set fire to the band’s gear and much of their back catalogue before threatening Stump, Wentz et al with flames themselves. Are FOB trying to tell us that this album represents the destruction of everything that came before it? That this is a Fall Out Boy that now champions ACDC-style pomp and yelped choruses, haphazard collaborations and firestarters like this one? That the old quirkdogs of pop-punk can no longer be depended upon to write zany tunes now that they’ve graduated to fully-fledged rock anthems? At the end of the day, the answers to these questions and more are irrelevant. With ‘Light Em Up’ – and the rest of its words – the quartet have confirmed their place in the pantheon of great broadcast sports songs, ushering in their return to the big leagues after a five year hiatus in rip-roaring, life-affirming, explosive style.
Fall Out Boy – My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)