Give the United Center credit for diverting from the beat-laden path of most NBA arenas: to my knowledge, they are one of the few that does not blare Pitbull through the stadium's PA speakers. In trying to gauge the quality of the music at the UC, this feels like a one big checkmark in the "pros" column. But as with most things in life, the music at the United Center is a mixed bag, with a few gems making up for the standard stadium fare that makes one want to shove electrical screwdrivers into his or her ear holes.
Let's start with the good, shall we? Pardon my rather sizable bias, but the starting lineup introductions at Bulls games are the best in sports. The Bulls were one of the first teams to turn the lights down and crank the Alan Parsons Project up, and the tradition has carried the team from the Michael Jordan era through the Marcus Frizer era to the Ben Gordon era all the way to the Derrick Rose era. The name of the song is "Sirius" is it is mostly perfect. I hope it never changes.
The song played for opposing starting lineups has not remained as entrenched, and this is an issue. There was a time when the Bulls would play Pink Floyd's seminal "On the Run" while the opposition was getting announced, but those days are long gone. Now, it's the "Imperial March", the Star Wars cut that first introduced you to Darth Vader.
While this seems dope in theory, I've always wondered: wouldn't hearing your name announced to the freaking "Imperial March" in an opposing arena totally get you jacked up? I'd be ready to force choke a some unfortunate jerk, but maybe that's just me.
After tip-off, the music at the United Center will take many predictable turns. There's that Black Eyed Peas song that really tests your faith in humanity. There's a lot of Harlem Shaking and perhaps even some Gangnam Styling. Is there some Electric Sliding? Perhaps, but at least there's no Pitbull.
The Bulls also have a strong affinity to still play the "YMCA". This is fine so long as the game is blowout and all the fat people in the stands are just counting the minutes until they are blessed with a free Big Mac, but nothing is more cringe-worthy than when it's played during a close game in the fourth quarter. It's all about the context, just the Village People likely attended.
It's not all hogwash, though, and this is important. The United Center will still play a few legitimately good songs. Clipse's "Lord Willin'" endures as one of my favorite rap albums ever even a decade-plus after its release, and the Bulls like to drop that album's monstrous single "When the Last Time" when the mood is right. Could they change things up by throwing in lynchpins like "Grindin'" or maybe even the Birdman-aided "What Happened to That Boy" every once in a while? Sure, but beggars can't be choosers.
There's also "Get Ur Freak On", a Missy Elliot banger that only gets better when it serves as the soundtrack to Kirk Hinrich dribbling the ball off his own foot. I swear the folks on the 1's and 2's at the UC used to intentionally cue up this jam whenever Brian Scalabrine got the ball in garbage time, and I'll always love them for that.
With that being said, the music at the United Center could be better. After all, the Grizzlies play the beat from "Yonkers" during games, so I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for a few more quality jams.