Football Music: Looking Back on NFL Jams
Super Bowl XLVIII is this weekend and though it's probably still stinging for many Texans fans that their Super Bowl dreams went up in smoke sometime around week three of the regular season, most of them will still be tuning in to see the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks go head to head.
In the meantime, Rocks Off is getting ready by indulging in all things football. I myself am a Broncos fan, so Super Bowl fever is in full effect. Given my passion for music, I'm of course looking forward to seeing Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform at halftime, even though there's no chance of it topping Prince's best halftime show ever performance in 2007.
I'm also jamming a little something called NFL Jams. Never heard of it? It's a largely forgotten CD series released in the '90s featuring musicians collaborating with then-current NFL stars. It's a bit of a bizarre footnote in music and football history, but I decided to give them a spin again to get ready for the big day.
The first edition of it, oddly enough, was called NFL Country and was released in 1996. In terms of creative titles, it's a bit lacking, but it's exactly what it claims to be. Ever wanted to hear Troy Aikman duet with Waylon Jennings? NFL Country was your chance. How about Brett Favre dueting with Steve Azar? It had that too, as well as Glen Campbell/Terry Bradshaw and Asleep at the Wheel/Jason Sehorn.
This thing was packed. Okay, so maybe nobody ever asked to hear Terry Bradshaw or Brett Favre sing, but the NFL was determined to make this thing happen. In fact, they were so determined that they also released one for hip-hop fans on exactly the same day.
You know, this is perhaps where one would stop and ask themselves if maybe they were flooding the market with football players singing, but this is capitalism at work, damn it!
This CD, NFL Jams, featured an additional gimmick. See, it wasn't just players singing or rapping along with hip-hop and R&B stars. Each song was also dedicated to an NFL team. So you got Esera Tuaolo serenading the Minnesota Vikings along with Richie Rich in "Stay With Me." You got Ghostface Killah going all in with Andrew Rison to salute the Jaguars, even though Rison was pretty much on his way out of Jacksonville by the time the song was even released. Not to mention Method Man's "It's in the Game" featuring Ricky Watters, dedicated to the Eagles.
Unfortunately, at the time, there was no Houston team to give a shout out to.
Okay, the weirdest thing about all this? NFL Jams is actually a pretty good mid-'90s hip-hop CD. NFL Country is pretty much just bland, overpolished '90s country, but NFL Jams was where it was at! This thing had members of Wu-Tang at the top of their game, Pharcyde, and even AZ getting in on it.
For a hip-hop fan in that era, this thing was hot and even the NFL players rapping were pretty good. It at least beat the hell out of Shaq's rap album.
After proving the idea was solid with NFL Jams at least, the powers that be decided to make another cash grab with a second NFL Jams title two years later. That's right. They didn't even stick a "2" in there. It's just another CD called NFL Jams.
The second NFL Jams was much bigger though. I guess they realized this might be something worth putting some real money into now, so they brought out the big guns. This second volume featured Boyz II Men, GZA of Wu-Tang Clan, Destiny's Child (unfortunately shilling for the Carolina Panthers), Foxy Brown, 98 Degrees, Isaac Hayes, Brian McKnight, and even Michael fucking Jackson. Granted this wasn't the King of Pop's finest hour, but still. They got Michael Jackson to sing on something called NFL Jams. That's impressive.
This CD was pretty good too, and that Next track with the Michael Jackson feature (which also had a guest appearance by Curtis Conway to give props to the Chicago Bears) is awesome. Unfortunately, that was the end of the strange experiment called NFL Jams. Maybe it cost too much and didn't quite return the NFL's investment on it. I mean, can you imagine how much MJ must have cost to get on there?
So that was the end of the NFL's involvement with contemporary music, outside of halftime shows and Carrie Underwood's dreadful Sunday Night Football theme. There's a part of me that wishes they'd indulge in another desperately pandering CD, just because the results were so good, all things considered. For now though, NFL Jams is just one of those mysterious, forgotten things you can probably find at Half Price Books in the clearance section. Give it a play at your Super Bowl party though, it's worth it.
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