In celebration of the hockey season kicking off tomorrow, we offer a breakdown of the Ottawa Senators theme song.
[EDIT: user does not allow embedded video, because why would you do that if you're a person uploading the Ottawa Senators theme song to Youtube? Never compromise your vision.]
0:01 – Let’s start with the obvious: if you’re going to use a horn for fanfare (as opposed to for improvisational jazz lines), then your clear choice is to use the keyboard’s “trumpet” setting instead of a real trumpet. Why? The trumpet is a subtle and nuanced instrument. Keyboard trumpets, much like pro sports, are neither subtle nor nuanced. Keyboard trumpets are unrelenting. Listening to the initial swell of faux-trumpets that kicks off this song is like French kissing a vacuum cleaner – it goes from a fun idea to intense very quickly. Also, people who can actually play the trumpet are expensive and do not enjoy playing your stupid fanfare.
0:06 – We come quickly to the absolute best part about the Ottawa Senators theme song, which is the bass playing. Can we all stand up for a second? Are you standing? Place your hand over your heart and just listen to that bass playing. That bass playing is tremendous. First of all: it’s clearly a real bass. Second, its tone is DIRTY. Not Fieldy from Korn dirty (which is to say, disgusting). But it’s got some attitude, some grit. This bass player has seen some shit. Here, he or she takes you for a walk. The bass is the backbone of this whole song, its soul. This bass line reaffirms our faith in the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the human spirit.
0:18 – Nice key change. Whoever wrote this has written some songs. This isn’t the CD Warehouse theme song. It also more than makes up for the fact that the drums are keyboard drums, which is sort of lazy. Unlike trumpet players, drummers are plentiful and cheap. You can literally find them playing upside-down plastic buckets in the Byward Market.
0:26 – Oh shit…it’s not just trumpet. There’s a whole brass section there with little percussive accents. They’re warm as a bubble bath. I take back the snarky “trumpet is expensive” thing – if this songwriter had real instruments throughout, it would have cost a half-billion dollars to achieve this vision. It’s difficult being ahead of your time.
0:39 – Okay, that was a nice little drum fill. Is it possible that’s a real drummer? If it isn’t, was that fill just played with two fingers on a keyboard? There’s only winning situations here.
0:40 – This is where things get saucy. The rhythm starts a back-and-forth sway and the drummer / keyboard drum setting (hereafter referred to as Roland) introduces some cheeky hi-hat. The horns start a background loop, the kind of thing a Motown backing band plays while the bandleader is introducing Sharon Jones or Charles Bradley.
Not only is this perfect for a song meant to be used as players come out on the ice – and thus establishes whoever wrote this song as someone who can not only play music but also understands music history – but is also known in the music business as “the best thing in the world.” It’s just fun to listen to. Music doesn’t get better than the introduction-sway.
0:45 – DANGER FLUTES
0:50 – This guitar solo is the most Ottawa thing ever. For those of you who haven’t grown up in Ottawa, let me set the scene: for the last three decades, only one radio station has been able to buy itself lunch in this city, and that’s the classic rock station. Everyone else goes in and out of business, re-brands, and picks up the scraps if they’re lucky. The classic rock station guy, on the other hand, wakes up, leans over, hits play on the same CD-R playlist of Zeppelin and AC/DC songs and goes back to sleep.
This one time I heard “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on the radio and I remember thinking to myself, “Is there anyone in the city who actually needs to hear this song again?” and then I walked outside and could hear a band rehearsing and they were playing “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” It was then that I knew I would never be mayor of Ottawa.
Anyway, the guitar lick here is searing, in the way that your dad BBQing on a hot day or a movie on VHS about jet fighters is searing.
1:00 – You know what? That last paragraph seemed a little dismissive, but the guitar playing leads us to a surprisingly dark place. Not only does it become rhythmically complex, but it breaks down the mood, takes us on an excursion, provides variation on a theme.
Let’s be clear: this is a pro-sports team’s theme song we’re talking about. It has no obligation to vary. They could have provided some hand-claps and it would have been fine. But they go the extra mile here. That it’s only for a few seconds only reinforces the notion: “I write one bar for the fans, and one bar for me,” the guitar player, possibly Joe Satriani, says to precisely no one.
1:15 – Danger flutes return, though they kind of stab randomly at the air before offering a little trill that takes us back to the refrain.
1:25 – This might be the best part of the whole damn song: the guitar and horns-by-Roland do a three second call-and-response during the rhythmic transition. The guitarist even lays on the whammy bar a bit, and the horns come right back, like a robot returning a high-five. Again, it’s only for a second. You might even miss it if someone wasn’t writing 1000 words about the Ottawa Senators theme song on a Wednesday morning.
1:28 – Here I’m conflicted. The sway returns, which we’ve established is the best thing in the world, and there’s something interesting happening with the percussion—a swishy sound effect which comes totally out of left-field [EDIT: Twitter notifies me these are skate sounds. There's also a puck hitting the goalpost in there, which introduces a found-sound element that would have made Pierre Schaeffer proud]—but all of this occurs under a crunchy, palm-muted guitar thing and men chanting “Go Sens Go” testosteronically. It’s a bit on the nose.
But that it took the song a minute-and-a-half to get here is a pleasant surprise. I feel like most sports team theme songs usually start with “Go [Team] Go.” I know it’s a low bar, but it’s one we’ve had no trouble clearing to this point. The guys only stick around for two chants worth of chant, which is roughly how long chants last at the Canadian Tire Center.
I’m going to give Roland and Co. a pass here…BARELY.
1:59 – Again, the team goes above and beyond, takes the epic refrain and re-frames it in the form of a rhythmic breakdown that is totally respectable.
2:05 – Timpani. I’ll say it again…
When considering a rating for the Ottawa Senators theme song, one must also consider this horseshit:
Did you make it all the way through that? Excruciating. I feel like maybe, charitably, I can concede that I get what they were going for. And the opening few seconds makes you think the song is going to be as cerebral and experimental as the Wild logo. But all hope is dashed by one long string of cliches in what is essentially a beer commercial that goes on forever.
In conclusion: OTTAWA SENATORS THEME SONG OVERALL RATING A++
OTHER OPTION: did you know that the theme song for the original franchise drive was Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Small suggestion: we should use that?