So, let's look at songs about not winning. Now, this does not necessarily mean losing, because, really, to actually get up and do physical activity at any level means you are not a loser at all. But elite athletes have this strange definition of what it means to be a loser, as if the only important thing is winning. So these are not necessarily songs about losing, but about not winning.
Having said that, losing is a theme that appears in many of these songs. These are not songs about losing yourself in the music, the moment, etc. (TM Eminem), or being lost in your eyes, arms, love, etc., or losing as in misplacing things. Normal other rules apply – one song per artist, I need to like the song, one version of each song – and they are presented in chronological order. Except for the last song which is sort of about losing but also about winning… and you'll see.
'You Beat Me To The Punch' by Mary Wells (1962)
An early Motown song, actually a response song to 'You Threw A Lucky Punch' by Gene Chandler (of 'Duke of Earl' fame). It's got a fun beat and is certainly something many in the martial arts would claim after a loss.
'I'm A Loser' by The Beatles (1964)
Classic Beatles track about, well, being a loser, and this could be the cry of 90% of Olympic athletes once the Games are over, while they are still living in the heat of the moment.
'Three Time Loser' by Rod Stewart (1975)
While it is ostensibly about love, it could just as well apply to so many swimmers who enter multiple events and just don't make it through to the finals.
'If You Can't Beat Them' by Queen (1978)
An album cut from the Jazz album, a decent Queen track that not many would have heard. It is probably how members of every losing team feels once that final siren sounds…
'Lonesome Loser' by Little River Band (1979)
I am sure many athletes feel this way after not achieving their goals – that they are all alone in the world. While I have gone on record as saying I prefer the John Farnham version of LRB, the Glenn Shorrock version is still really good (and the less said about the current US tribute act version, the better), and this is one of my favourite of their songs.
'Nobody Wins' by Elton John (1981)
Interestingly, this song is an English adaptation of a French-language song. It is one of John's best, in my opinion, and yet is so depressing lyrically. But surely someone wins at the Olympics? Well, yes, but not forever. Everyone is defeated eventually.
'Lost Again' by Yello (1983)
And we continue with our use of Yello songs no one except me seems to have heard of with this weird sound kaleidoscope and predominantly spoken-word piece that is just weird, but so good. I think I have four different remixes of this track – Yello were wonderful.
'Ain't No Second Prize' by Jimmy Barnes (1984)
This was actually Jimmy Barnes' debut solo single, the song which launched a career that is still going strong to this day. The song, though is a great piece of rock, and certainly reflects the attitude of many elite athletes.
'I Lost On Jeopardy' by 'Weird Al' Yankovic (1984)
Okay, yes, this about a game show contestant being a loser, but I really like the whole "lost" motif and just had to include it here. It is also a near-perfect parody of 'Jeopardy' by the Greg Kihn Band (Greg Kihn appears in the video as the car driver at the end) and one of Yankovic's many good ones.
'You'll Be The One Who'll Lose' by Kim Wilde (1988)
A slower song from Kim Wilde, it sounds like a rather polite taunt you might hear if the athlete knows their mother is watching. Still, a good album track from the first decade of her long career.
'I Can't Win' by Noiseworks (1988)
A cover song about, basically, being unable to win. Simple, really. Noiseworks really take The Invincibles' original and change it up, though. And, I am sure, too many athletes feel this way after not quite making it at the Olympics.
'(I Don't Want To Be) Second Best' by Margaret Urlich (1992)
So close, yet so far… that's how those in second often feel. But this song from Margaret Urlich is a really strong one, carried by her magnificent voice. I only have a live version, so finding the studio version for this was a pleasant bonus.
'Loser' by Beck (1993)
A song that has become a modern-day classic about being such a loser that nothing is worth it. From its weird spoken verses to its backwards guitars and Spanish sections, it is such a strange song, but one that sticks with you for a long time.
'Broken, Beat & Scarred' by Metallica (2008)
Death Magnetic is not my favourite Metallica album, but I don't mind this song, a hard rocker as you would expect from the band, and possibly the theme song for any boxer who didn't make it past the first round.
'Failed' by Paul Weller (2021)
And we finish with a track from Fat Pop. While it is about Weller's own failings, I dare say it is how a number of athletes feel once the Games are over. That is a shame because just to get there means they are not failures, but I know sportspeople…
And I'll finish with a comedy song that is probably only funny to Australians while being insulting to New Zealanders, but in Australia, deep down, not winning doesn't matter, as this song (which I own on cassingle!) explains: 'I Don't Care As Long As We Beat New Zealand' by Andrew Denton and the Cast of Live And Sweaty (1992)
So, there we are, 15 songs (plus 1) about not winning. I was involved in sport for a long time and I came to realise early on that winning was not that important. Do your best and, as far as I am concerned, you've won.