Earlier today, ceo (Eric Berglund of Swedish duo the Tough Alliance) released his ode to tennis player Maria Sharapova in the form of a track sampling Blondie’s “Marie” and last week with a video where the camera stalks the tennis beauty between the lines and under the lights of the court. The new song surfaced just in time for the U.S. Open men’s final tonight, and in celebration of my favorite sport I am highlighting the great relationship between tennis and music—yes, it does exist.
From singer/songwriter Dan Bern’s tribute to former world No. 1 player Monica Seles to Anna Kournikova’s appearance in Enrique Inglesias’s video to tennis partners the Bryan Brothers’ “Autograph” anthem featuring raps by U.S. Open champ Novak Djokovic and No. 4 seed Andy Murray, the tennis world and music world often intersect (though that could be said for almost anything—music is ubiquitous, but this article is about tennis). Elton John wrote “Philadelphia Freedom” at the request of Billie Jean King, who won 39 Grand Slam titles and co-founded World Team Tennis.
The overlap even traces its roots to classical music. Composer Arnold Schoenberg, a tennis-enthusiast who played with George Gerswhin, used the events of a tennis match to create a system of music notation, according to Maria Popova, who created BrainPickings.org and writes for publications including The Atlantic. (And what kid didn’t use a tennis racket as a makeshift guitar? I even went so far as to attach a belt for a guitar strap).
Perhaps the best testament to the music/tennis connection transpires in music videos. Tonight’s finals pitted funnyman Djokovic (aka the Joker) against Spaniard Rafael Nadal. Djokovic, who has had an amazing season, won, but last year Rafa won the role of shirtless costar in Shakira’s “Gypsy” video. Not to be outdone, Djokovic made a cameo in the video for the catchy-hit-turned-annoying commercial-jingle “Hello” by French electronic music DJ and producer Martin Solveig featuring Dragonette.
In the video, which was recorded at Roland Garros, Martin Solveig transforms into a tennis player in the midst of a rivalry with fellow DJ Bob Sinclar. Djokovic appears on court to help Solveig’s cause in a fight with the referee. Of course, there is a love interest and another cameo by tennis player Gael Monfils.
Another favorite tennis-related video pays respect to the game. The guys from Vampire Weekend enlisted the help of some famous non-tennis stars for “Giving Up the Gun,” the second single off their sophomore album Contra.
Joe Jonas, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, Lil Jon and Jake Gyllenhaal grace the pristine indoor court featured in the video. Despite Gyllenhaal’s fantastic wardrobe—70s-style short shorts, blue-striped headband—and his spot-on portrayal of an egotistical tennis star complete with furrowed eyebrow, death threat glances to his opponent, this video comes second in most hilarious tennis music video.
The best tennis-related music video pays tribute to the sport both in images and lyrics (although the song most likely is not actually about tennis). In a rare television appearance, Cream performed their song “Anyone For Tennis.” Just watch it.
This is fantastic! Great job, Sarah. I never thought about these connections before. Go Novak!!
Very interesting! I didn’t think tennis and music can intersect.
Fresh perspective, my friend. Good work. Although I have to say the music videos make tennis look a lot more boring than watching a live game—maybe it’s the sedative quality of the music? Who knows. This is why I stick to theater, haha.