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How 'Gloria' Accidentally Embodied the Spirit of St. Louis

May 21, 2019

 

It should come as no surprise that a hockey team called the St. Louis Blues produces a fan experience in which music is an integral part. For every home game during their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs run, in which the Blues have won more games than in any other season in franchise history, the team takes the ice to “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. Not long after, the incomparable Charles Glenn belts out his rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (and, when applicable, “O Canada”). For the next 2 1/2 hours or so, fans are treated to a collection of high-energy hard rock songs by staples such as Ozzy Osbourne or Rage Against the Machine. And on days in which the Blues win, the arena plays “Gloria,” a number-two hit by Laura Branigan from 1982, which was released a year-and-a-half before the oldest member of the team was born. 

 

The synth-driven cover of a 1979 Italian hit from Umberto Tozzi stands out at an arena, and it stood out for the Blues players who heard the song being constantly requested in a south Philadelphia bar in Jan., not long before the then-last place Blues went on a hot streak, which propelled them into the postseason. The players – most famously defenseman Joel Edmundson, who is 11 years younger than “Gloria” – seemingly half-ironically and half-affectionately, adopted “Gloria” as a postgame tune for the locker room. Once the legend spread, “Gloria” became the team’s Enterprise Center victory nightcap.

 

Branigan, who passed away in 2004, was not from St. Louis, nor even from the Midwest. As far as is known, she did not have an opinion on the Blues. “Gloria” was no more popular in St. Louis during its heyday than it was anywhere else in the United States. It isn’t as though the Blues are playing “Country Grammar” or “Johnny B. Goode” – their song selection is, on the surface, about as random of a choice as could be picked. And in that way, it is the perfect song choice. 

 

One huge advantage “Gloria” has over previously used victory songs like “Song 2” is that, before this recent Blues run, “Gloria” didn’t belong to anyone, per se. “Song 2” is a visceral burst of lo-fi hard rock energy, but it has also been featured in hundreds of advertisements and arenas since its 1997 release. Even those unaware of who Blur is surely know the "Woo hoo!" song from sporting events. This doesn’t make the song any less great – it was chosen so often for a reason, after all. But it was never going to be the Blues’ song. “Gloria," a delightfully dated, deliciously cheesy bit of extremely-'80s nostalgia, had largely disappeared from pop culture other than to establish that a scene in a TV show was happening in the 1980s. It was there for the taking.

 

Unlike St. Louis Cardinals victory anthems such as Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” for 1982, Glenn Frey’s “The Heat is On” for 1985 or fun.’s “Some Nights” in 2011, the Blues didn’t choose a contemporary hit. It makes sense for a sports team to adopt a current song, but at the same time, if that team becomes a legendary unit, one remembered decades later as uniquely special, era doesn’t matter, because the team itself transcends time.

 

From a music consumption perspective, it makes more sense than ever to pick an older song, because the concept of musical era has rapidly eroded. Whether it is because of the ubiquity of classic rock and oldies radio, or perhaps the ease of access to any music ever recorded thanks to the internet, young fans are as willing to embrace older music. Blues fans have embraced “Gloria” to such an extent that on May 8, following a series win over the Dallas Stars, the song charted at number 37 on iTunes. This was the same day that St. Louis’s Y98, a modern pop radio station, played “Gloria” for 24 consecutive hours.

 

“Gloria” isn’t the first song from a generation prior to be tied to a sports team. The 2005 Chicago White Sox, a team which like the Blues had a history of postseason disappointment, adopted the then-24-year-old “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey as their anthem. It was only as old in 2005 as, say, Oasis’s “Wonderwall” is now. And that song has been adopted as a victory song by MLS’s Minnesota United. But St. Louis has dug deeper for its song.

 

“Gloria” isn’t the best song from the 1980s. Thanks to U2, it might not even be the best song called “Gloria” from the 1980s. But the absurdity of it as a sports anthem has united St. Louis.

It’s the embodiment of the spirit of St. Louis sports fans, a group unified at least as much by the pain of Blues losses and the relocation of the Rams as by the successes of the Cardinals.

The Blues openly courted ex-Rams fans in the immediate aftermath of the team’s relocation to Los Angeles, creating a passionate if mismatched fan base just in time for the team’s deepest playoff run in three decades in 2016. Similarly, “Gloria” has united St. Louis, because it cuts to the core of why this Blues team has served as such inspiration to the area. More than our love of hockey, we are united by our love of a good party and our love of a sense of unity. And 18,400 fans uniting to sing a long-unfashionable synthpop hit is a great way to demonstrate unity.

 

Editor's note: For more from John (and our other hosts), check out our podcast. And as an update, we would like to congratulate the Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues on a historic run that concluded with a Game 7 victory over the Boston Bruins on June 12. 

 

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