March Madness: 16 Songs For The Sweet 16


The first four, second round, and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament are over my friends, and after numerous upsets and the birth of those Cinderella teams looking for another shot to slay the giant, the tournament marches on with the upcoming Sweet 16 and Elite 8.  What better way to celebrate and prepare for these deep tournament runs with a playlist of 16 songs fit for the Sweet 16? Let’s go #TEAM! 



“We Will Rock You” 

Most spirited lyrics:

Buddy you’re a young man hard man / shouting in the street gonna take on the world some day / you got blood on your face, you big disgrace / waving your banner all over the place” (verse one)

“We will, we will rock you!” (Chorus)

Swag, swag, swag! The big boys are going to take down the little boys – the fakes are out!  “We Will Rock You” isn’t ultimately about basketball, but the ‘fight’ within the lyrics of the song sounds much like the moxie and the mind-set required on the court.  “We Will Rock You” is confident, much like a veteran, and experienced team that understands their roles should be.  Nope, it’s not basketball specific, but there are more than enough parallels.   


Aloe Blacc

“The Man”

(From Lift Your Spirit) 

Aloe Blacc-LMK-060235Most spirited lyrics:

“Well you can tell everybody / yeah you can tell everybody / go ahead and tell everybody / I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man”

Athletes and musicians have something in common, even if they come from completely different worlds – they have a swagger, a confidence, sometimes an arrogance.  A lead singer, guitarist, or lead trumpeter can be likened to the star player on a basketball team (regardless of the position he plays be it guard, forward, or center) in the sense there is that fearlessness and confidence.  On “The Man”, Blacc wants everybody to know that he’s “the man”.


Jeezy featuring Kanye West

“Put On

(From The Recession) 

Most spirited lyrics:

“I put on for my city, on, on for my city…put on (east side)…put on (south side)…put on (west side) / put on”

Sure, Jeezy didn’t even mention basketball or championships in his song about representing his city, but the sentiment can be transferred into college basketball.  After all, don’t all college basketball players want to represent both college and hometown? Winning the national championship would definitely be away to do so! 


Wale featuring Meek Mill & Rick Ross


(From Ambition) 

Wale-20130912-19Most Spirited lyrics:

“For my ambition / easy to dream a dream, though it’s harder to lie it / They gon’ love me for my ambition…Beautiful music, painting pictures that be my vision.” 

There’s a number of ways one could interpret the “ambition” of which Wale speaks.  One such way is just having dreams in general, taken contextually within the tournament, means winning the national championship.  A more liberal interpretation is that Wale is referencing the Cinderella teams, which aren’t favored to win, but ultimately ‘shock the world’.  Yes, the Dayton Flyers (defeated Ohio State 60-59 and Syracuse 55-53) and Mercer (defeated Duke 78-71) among others.  Sigh… if the slipper fits!



“Balla Baby”

(From Powerballin’) 

Most spirited lyrics

“I’m a balla (say what) high, roller baby (baby, baby) / shot caller (that’s right) aint nobody this crazy (like me) / you a hater (you a hater) why you tryin’ to play me (I don’t think he know) / Fake player (fake player) ain’t nobody killin’ (hey, I’m a balla for real)”

There’s really not a lot that needs to be explained here… Chingy is the point guard (“Shot caller”).  We all know that besides the coach that the point guard is like the coach on court.  And if the point guard doesn’t have a clue, the team is toast.  Horrendous guard play definitely kills the vibe.  Word.   


Christina Aguilera


(From Stripped) 

Christina Aguilera-AES-115812Most spirited lyrics:

“I am a fighter and I / I ain’t gonna stop / There is no turning back / I’ve had enough”

I know what you’re thinking – why the hell is a Christina Aguilera song about a broken relationship on a March Madness-related playlist? Well it’s the ‘sentiment’ of ‘fighting’ more so than the lyrical content.  Aguilera is a “fighter” because she decided not to play the ‘victim’ card and has shown strength from a bad situation.  College basketball players and teams face a different sort of fight – the fight to advance further in the tournament and to live up/meet expectations whether they are realistic or unrealistic.  Blue blood schools in particular are expected to be competing for championships, not merely a sweet sixteen.  That “fighter” mentality that Aguilera refers to apply to collegiate basketball after broken plays whether it’s poor transition defense, a bad foul, a missed shot, etc.  “Fighter” mentality!


Drake featuring Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem


Drake-AES-089760Most spirited lyrics:

“…I’m shutting down sh*t in the mall…I want this sh*t forever, man” (Hook)

“Forever” is the ultimate baller’s anthem.  Sure, the song really has nothing to do with being on the court, but like many of the cuts on this playlist, there are parallels to having ‘swagger’ on the court.  Drake’s opening rhymes from his verse exhibit the grit and confidence players must show: “Last name Ever, first name Greatest / Like a sprained ankle, boy I ain’t nothing to play with.”  Kanye West’s swagger is even more pronounced on the second verse, in which he claims “I stuck my d**k inside this life until that b**ch came / and went hard, all fall like the ball teams.” Ignore the overt sexual references, and West is the MVP…he’s already claimed victory.  For good measure, Lil Wayne references Space Jam while Eminem just goes H.A.M.  


DJ Khaled featuring Ludacris, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg & T-Pain

“All I Do Is Win”

Most spirited lyrics:

“All I do is win, win, win no matter what / Got money on my mind, I can never get enough / and every time I step up in the building / everybody hands go up / and they stay there, and they stay there…” (T-Pain, on the hook)

Confidence is essential to playing sound basketball – it’s part of the whole teamwork aspect.  The best teams have the confidence knowing they will be playing deep into March.  Teams that lack the resolve and the “winning” spirit exemplified by “All I Do Is Win” go home with their heads hung down.  T-Pain sings it best on the hook – ‘nuff said.


The Gap Band

“You Dropped a Bomb On Me” 

Charlie Wilson-AES-124409Most spirited lyrics:

“You dropped a bomb on me, baby / you dropped a bomb on me (but you turned me out, baby) / you dropped a bomb on me, baby / you dropped a bomb on me”

Sure the lyrical content of “You Dropped a Bomb On Me” is more sensual than competitively spirited like basketball, but there are parallel.  No, it doesn’t involve anything behind closed doors (specifically the bedroom door), but what about 3 point shots being the “bomb”? A buzzer-beater? A game changing play or call?  In March Madness, ‘bombs’ drop all the time and certainly play into the outcome of the games.  


Ruben Studdard

Take The Shot

(From Soulful)

Ruben Studdard-ZNV-002088Most spirited lyrics:

“What you gone do girl? / You got the ball, make a move girl / You got my heart, take the shot c’mon take the shot / Take the shot c’mon // And win the game girl  (you got the ball) / Cause its your world, take the shot c’mon / Take the shot, take the shot c’mon”

Another cut that has the bedroom in mind as opposed to merely the game it self, at least the former American Idol winner makes references to basketball.  Like “You Dropped a Bomb on Me”, there are plenty of parallels to the game.  Personally, I get frustrated when my team waste times on a possession and should just “take the shot” – preferentially a good shot!  After all, offense ultimately wins games – even with locked in defense, you’ve got to make shots.  




Most spirited lyrics:

“I get knocked down / but I get up again / you’re never gonna keep me down / I get knocked down / but I get up again / you’re never gonna keep me down”

“Tubthumping” was one of my favorites to play in basketball band in high school.  Years later as a twenty something, I still find myself in awe of Chumbawamba’s one hit wonder.  The lyrics from the chorus show the pertinence to college basketball/March madness – how many times does a toughly-contested game get truly physical where diving for loose balls, hard fouls, and creating jump-balls is part of the formula for the “W”? Truly the players do “…get knocked down” but “get up again” and if they want to win, then you can’t keep ‘em down.



“All Star”

(From Astro Lounge) 

Most spirited lyrics

“Hey now you’re an All Star get your game on, go play/ Hey now you’re a Rock Star get the show on get paid /And all that glitters is gold / Only shooting stars break the mold”

March [Madness] is all about ballin’ hard, and that’s the swagger that “All Star” possesses.  Whether or not college basketball players are literal “rock stars” or not is beside the point.  They are definitely the ‘rock stars’ and celebrities on campus and on the big stage – basketball courts/domes, etc. – they are expected to perform and live up to the status.  Particularly big-time players from Blue bloods like Kentucky, North Carolina, or Kansas are scrutinized if they don’t bring their “A-game” each and every game.


The Steve Miller Band

“Fly Like An Eagle”

(From Greatest Hits: 1974-1978) 

PRZ-005644Most spirited lyrics:

“I want to fly like an eagle / to the sea / fly like an eagle / let my spirit carry me / I want to fly like an eagle / Till I’m free / fly through the revolution”

Depending on the player, many have a number of aspirations – some more present-minded while others are aimed towards the future.  “Flying Like an Eagle” could be interpreted in March it self as ‘soaring’ through/past the various rounds of the NCAA tournament and ultimately coming out victorious in the championship game.  “Flying Like an Eagle” beyond March means aspirations to play professionally, winning championships in the future, etc.  While this is a Steve Miller Band classic, Seal’s cover of the song is a treat as well – Space Jam y’all! 



“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” 

Most spirited lyrics:

“Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye!”

Self-evident, when you’ve defeated an archrival, a tough opponent, or the game-clock is about to go to 0:00 and you’re about to be victorious, you are more than happy to say “goodbye” to the competition.  Another scenario is for saying “goodbye” is when a team you hate, regardless if your club defeated them or not, is knocked off… umm Duke… cough, cough (lost to Mercer 78-71).  Ignore the ‘love’ aspect of the song btw…we would never kiss the enemies.  


Kool & The Gang


Most spirited lyrics

“Celebrate good times, come on!”

When your team is winning or about to advance to another round – one step closer to the title game – “it’s all good.”  Why wouldn’t you “Celebrate good times” when things are going sensationally?  



“We Are The Champions” 

Most spirited lyrics:

“We are the champions, my friends / and we’ll keep on fighting, ‘til the end / we are the champions, we are the champions /no time for losers, cause we are the champions…of the world”

“We Are The Champions” has numerous meanings and interpretations, but every college basketball player and team have to possess the mindset to realize their championship aspirations.  The only way to move forward in the NCAA tournament is to win – avoiding elimination.  The belief in being champions and executing the means to reach the ends is the takeaway from this classic Queen anthem.


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