On November 5, 2022, I sat among the legion of fans who’d made the pilgrimage to San Francisco’s Chase Center to experience the League of Legends Worlds final first-hand. Shortly after I took my seat, the lights dimmed and the opening ceremony began, causing a surge of apprehension and awe to ripple through the crowd. At the height of it all stood Lil Nas X – the human embodiment of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.
As last year’s League of Legends Worlds song, Star Walkin’, began to bellow out over the sound system, the musical megastar proceeded to prance around the stage glamorously – Lux cosplay on point – leaving me with a singular thought: ‘Who put an esports finale in the middle of a Lil Nas X concert?’
While the performance was captivating and a real testament to the boundless talent possessed by the MOBA’s creative team and the Industry Baby themselves, there had been a unanimous acknowledgment in the leadup to the tournament’s finale that, unfortunately, Star Walkin’ wasn’t a ‘Worlds song.’
Don’t get me wrong, Star Walkin’ is a fabulous track, and it was a mainstay in my Spotify Wrapped last year, but I couldn’t help but share the sentiment of fellow League esports fans everywhere – Riot had gone for chart-toppers instead of show-stoppers. To be honest, it’s been quite some time since we’ve had a track that has truly captured the spirit of the tournament’s crowning event – not since 2018’s Rise which, for me at least, is the quintessential Worlds anthem.
A few days ago, pro team Fnatic posted a YouTube Short ranking all of the past and present Worlds songs. Unsurprisingly, Rise took the top spot, while Star Walkin’ wallowed at the bottom. Having spoken to peers and surveyed several other tier lists across Reddit and other socials, this is a fairly standardized take. Nestled just below Legends Never Die on the Fnatic list is this year’s offering, Gods, which comes from one of K-Pop’s hottest properties: girl group NewJeans.
Having only been active since 2022, the five-piece has rocketed to stardom thanks to tunes like OMG, Ditto, and Super Shy. Blending elements of fin de siecle pop and R&B, as well as old school garage – everyone from the UK liked that – NewJeans currently has a whopping 24 million monthly listeners on Spotify. To put their ascension into perspective, more people are listening to NewJeans right now than Blackpink, which is widely considered the most successful K-pop girl group to hit international waters.
Riot’s certainly gone big once again, but unlike Star Walkin’ Gods deserves to be considered among the very best, as it’s an amalgamation of everything that makes the classics so iconic.
When it comes to League Anthems 101, there are a multitude of factors that, in my opinion, constitute a timeless banger – ‘awe’ and ‘apprehension’ being two of the primary drivers. Other keywords I’d be inclined to include are ‘stakes,’ ‘empowerment,’ ‘dynamism,’ and, unsurprisingly, ‘anthemic.’ The accompanying video also has to be up to snuff.
Between its empowering lyrics, big, choral chorus, and abundance of star power, Gods has all of these elements down in bombastic spades, but without falling into the same commercialized pitfall as Star Walkin’. There are plenty of moments throughout where I felt the influence of fan-favorites like Warriors and Rise coming through, with an added layer of freshness – Riot has finally found a way to modernize its formula, without compromising on substance.
All the more impressive is that Gods represents a marked departure from NewJeans’ typical sonic stylings. In the lead-up to its release, many wondered if the group would be up to the task, or if it would simply fall flat as less-popular offerings like Worlds Collide and Take Over had done over the years. After all, they’re contesting with the vocal might of Dan Reynolds (Imagine Dragons), Chrissy Costanza (Against The Current), and Lynn Gunn (PVRIS), who are all absolute tour de forces.
Thankfully, the group has more than proven that it can rise to the occasion, easily standing among their fellow anthem-belting Gods (sorry). Additionally, the excellent vocal layering creates a dynamic range to the track that really helps it hit, especially when the “Go-Go-Go-Go-Go-Gods” ring in on the chorus – the synergy between production and vocalists is on point.
And then there’s the video. Honestly, I can’t imagine the conceptualization stage took particularly long, considering Worlds 2022 delivered perhaps the greatest storyline we’ve ever seen on the international stage: Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok and Kim ‘Deft’ Hyuk-kyu – the esports crown jewels of Mapo High School – facing off as the icing on the cake of DRX’s dream run from Play-Ins to Worlds glory. Shivers.
Its materialization is equally fantastic. The metaphorical use of Deft fighting the Blue Sentinel, while Faker’s off solo’ing Baron at the beginning really helps visualize the difference in where the two began in their respective careers, and there are plenty of great callbacks to LoL esports history throughout – Sorry, Ryu ‘Keria’ Min-seok, but you got the short end of the stick on this one… There’s even a continuity throwback to 2021’s Burn It All Down, as Heo ‘ShowMaker’ Su once again showcases his Unleashed Power on Syndra.
After the dramatic conclusion of last year’s tournament, I have never felt more excited heading into Worlds – the scriptwriters will have their work laid out for them, I’m sure. Will JDG continue its dominant run? Will Faker finally lift the Worlds trophy on home soil? Or will the copium coma set in as G2 Esports finally brings it home for EMEA? Only time will tell who will return empty-handed, and who will ascend to the status of Gods. For now, though, I will simply return to listening to this year’s Worlds song on repeat as I queue for yet another ranked game – maybe it’ll be the soundtrack to me escaping Gold.