It’s the official England Euro 2020 anthem that, in truth, nobody seems to be singing.
A rap song called Ole (We Are England) has, it is fair to say, failed to capture the imagination of England’s mainstream support.
The song did not enter the top 100 charts and nobody has yet heard its chorus containing the lines “Olé Olé; Get them a pint, get me a lighter; Ten in the box, bro on the wing, but he’s a striker; Olé Olé” being belted out at Wembley. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
In contrast, it is impossible to go anywhere on an England match day without hearing Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds’ Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) being sung from pubs, bars and living rooms. The song is currently at number 22 in the official UK singles chart and rising fast – it is expected to enter the top 10 this week – despite being first released in 1996, the last time England hosted the European championships.
An even older song, Sweet Caroline sung by Neil Diamond and first released in 1969, has become the other soundtrack to England’s march to the semi-finals, the classic hit record played at Wembley before the history-making win over Germany in the last 16. Sweet Caroline, with its rousing chorus of “Good times never seemed so good”, is a firm favourite.
Ole (We Are England) was written by Krept & Konan, a critically acclaimed rap duo from south London and performed with three guest rappers. The track was written in the weeks before the championships began, with approval from Gareth Southgate and with assistance from a number of players.
A BBC Three documentary, Krept & Konan: We Are England, followed the song’s development. When asked for tips on how to approach the song, the England manager told the duo: “You shouldn’t worry about what’s been important in the past. To be English now is different: our team is more diverse, our culture is more diverse. What will appeal to the audience you’re seeking is different to what it was back then.”
Reviews have been favourable. “Ole is both playful and vibrant, riffing on the genre-blurring nature of pop music,” wrote The Independent, adding: “Fans will be jamming to this long after the final whistle.”
That audience participation has, to date at least, proved elusive.
Ole a hit among London and Birmingham fans
A spokesman for Krept & Konan suggested the crowd at England matches may not match the demographic familiar with the anthem. She said the song was the “unofficial official” England anthem for Euro 2020 and that 18 to 30-year-olds in “London and Birmingham” were well aware of its existence.
Krept & Konan, real names Casyo Johnson (Krept) and Karl Wilson (Konan), enjoyed commercial success with their breakthrough album, The Long Way Home, in 2015 after difficult upbringings in south London. The duo were awarded the British Empire Medal for services to music and the community in Croydon in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2020.
The pair have had a huge influence on young people over their inspirational tale in turning their lives around. Konan’s stepfather was gunned down in front of him and killed in 2017, his killer now in jail.
Konan told the BBC Three documentary: “No matter who you are or where you’re from, we’re supporting England and the song should unite that as well.”
Krept appeared to anticipate older England fans not embracing the song: “It’s a new time and they’ve just got to accept that it’s new times now. And if they don’t like it, their kids will.”