Official World Cup anthems are one of the most viable commodities around sporting events, but they rarely result in musical brilliance. Although there's usually plenty of energy, the official anthems are often heavily diluted, derivative, and worse, inoffensive -- the musical equivalent of the ubiquitous (and much-loathed) cartoon Olympics mascot. Listen Up! The Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Album joins the ranks, but with a parade of multinational pop stars indulging in epic collaborations -- think R. Kelly backed by a Soweto choir (which honors the World Cup host South Africa) or the songwriter Angélique Kidjo from Benin appearing with American R&B star John Legend. (Many African music fans cried foul over Colombian star Shakira's writing "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)," although she collaborated with the South African group Freshlyground.) One of the few tracks that doesn't smack of bland multi-culturalism is "Ke Nako," written by teacher and songwriter J Pre, and delivered by a group including Wyclef Jean and Jazmine Sullivan. Kidjo and Legend's duet on "Move on Up," a cover of the Curtis Mayfield positivist classic, is especially vibrant and moving, with a group including Antibalas horns, Christian McBride on bass, guitarist Lionel Loueke, and a South African trio of backing vocalists. Admittedly, those are the few bright spots. Worse yet, the disc naturally doesn't include any music not blessed by FIFA, so look no further if you want to find unofficial anthems like England's entry, "Shout for England," with Dizzee Rascal and comedian James Corden, or Coca Cola's "official" anthem, "Wavin' Flag" by Somalian superstar K'NAAN. On the plus side, all net proceeds benefit FIFA's "20 Centers for 2010," which promises to build health and education centers across Africa, plus other African charities chosen by the album's artists.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush