Riot Games disappoints “League of Legends” fans again with another subpar Worlds anthem

How the newest anthem compares to its predecessors


Courtesy of Riot Games

Riot Games worked with Lil Nas X’s to produce “STAR WALKIN’,” an animated music video to be the anthem of the 2022 League of Legends World Championship.

Matthew Chang, Advertising Manager

For those who aren’t aware of what’s going on in the “League of Legends” community, the 2022 World Championship—also known as Worlds—is nearly over. Worlds is the premier annual international tournament for “League of Legends,” bringing together the best teams from across the world to compete against each other for the title of world champion. Beginning in 2014, Riot Games, the developer of “League of Legends,” released its first anthem to accompany Worlds. Since then, it has become a tradition for a new anthem to be produced for each consecutive Worlds.

So far, there are nine Worlds anthems, each with its own music video, yet I would argue that they aren’t created equally. The Worlds anthems are supposed to enhance the competitive spirit of both the players and the fans. However, recent productions have not met fans’ expectations, especially this year’s. As such, I find it necessary to break down each one of the Worlds anthems.

“Warriors” (2014) – 8/10

Since “Warriors” was the first Worlds anthem to debut, it set the bar. Written and produced by the popular band Imagine Dragons, the song combines powerful lyrics, heavy undertones and an incredible music video. In the opening, the lyrics start with the topic of childhood, which is where most players began their journey. In addition, the visual of a teenager gaming on his computer is familiar to both pro players and casual players alike. At the time, the division of skills between players wasn’t as well defined as it is now, so everyone could relate to the scene. As the song moves into its chorus, the drums enter, building a sense of energy. The lyrics are also very impressive because they echo the sentiment that the game and its esports scene were made possible by the “League of Legends” community. When the second verse arrives, the music video perfectly suits the lyrics, showing a team with a victory screen and another with a defeat screen—a screen that I know a bit too well. The song and music video continue to uphold their high quality through the end. Overall, “Warriors” was a great start to the sequence of Worlds anthems.

“Worlds Collide” (2015) – 6/10

Succeeding “Warriors,” the 2015 Worlds anthem had a lot to live up to, but it fell a little flat. Nonetheless, I don’t think “Worlds Collide” is a poor production, but I also don’t think it is anything grand—it’s simply in the middle. I do think, however, that this song best embodies what Worlds means to all players and fans: how one team rises above the rest. A lot of the time, we focus on the results of the matches instead of how the match plays out. We don’t take the time to acknowledge the split-second decisions pro players have to make during the match, nor do we consider the dynamics between them. The lyrics of the song evoke this idea. A super-team made up of mechanically gifted players without coordination may fare worse than a team with poorer capabilities and better communication. Many factors determine which teams advance to the next stage of the tournament, and ultimately two teams will face each other in the grand final—as depicted by the reduction in the number of blue and red beams at the end of the music video. Only one will remain victorious. 

“Ignite” (2016) – 4/10

“Ignite” is probably the most unique composition out of all the Worlds anthems. The song itself doesn’t bring the hype that the other anthems do, which I think is partly due to the artist behind the track. Zedd is primarily known for producing a lot of EDM music, and “Ignite” doesn’t stray from that trend. While I don’t dislike EDM music, this song does not feel suitable for Worlds because it doesn’t evoke the same sense of excitement as other anthems do. However, the one thing that makes up for its lackluster tone is the animation of the music video. The color palette chosen was sharp and electric, and the character designs and expressions were top-notch. Whenever the bass is about to drop, something exciting happens. The choreography was carefully planned out, highlighting the fluidity of the characters’ movements.

“Legends Never Die” (2017) – 7/10

I know I am going to give a biased review for this song because it was the one that got me into “League of Legends,” yet I still thought that “Legends Never Die” was super fitting for Worlds in general. The song opens with the muffling of the instrumental combined with the clarity of Chrissy Costanza’s voice against the Current’s lead vocalist, creating an ominous tone. The reverb given off by Chrissy’s voice brings a sense of vulnerability and hopelessness. These emotions eventually disappear when the percussion kicks in and the chorus arrives. The chorus is filled with a large set of drums, which make a beat that is predictable and catchy. The ad-libs that are squeezed in between each line are small, yet bring so much to the song. The song is admittedly a bit repetitive, and the animation might be considered subpar, but the drum pattern in the chorus and the production efforts for the song were phenomenal. The music video tries to convey the idea that hard work is necessary to overcome adversity, but it fails to convince me in the way it goes about it. If the spotlight was shined on players and their hurdles instead of on the champions and their lore, I might have found it more compelling. Nonetheless, “Legends Never Die” revived the purpose of the anthems and shaped what they should be for the future. 

“Rise” (2018) – 8/10

“Rise” is packed with motivational lyrics, well-developed graphics and a ton of references to players and past championships. The music video symbolizes former pro player Ambition’s revenge arc coming to fruition against his greatest nemesis, Faker. To give some backstory, Ambition was humiliated by Faker during his debut game and then lost the finals of Worlds 2016 to him. Worlds 2017 was different, however, as Ambition was able to claim his victory against Faker in the finals. As the music video progresses, the combination of animation and CGI shows Ambition facing off against various iconic players, such as Perkz’s Yasuo, Uzi’s Vayne and Faker’s Ryze. When it comes to competitive “League of Legends,” or any challenge in general, there is no better feeling than ending a lengthy rivalry in a victorious manner. “Rise” embodies this idea really well, inspiring us to continue chasing our dreams despite the obstacles ahead of us. Ambition’s journey to becoming a world champion was not an easy one, but only those with enough ambition and grit will be able to gauge how much effort is required to reap the rewards of reaching those goals. The message behind this song, its beautiful music video and its powerful bass makes “Rise” a top contender on my list.

“Phoenix” (2019) – 7/10

“Phoenix” brings back Chrissy Costanza, who sang in the 2017 Worlds anthem, alongside Cailin Russo. I wasn’t a huge fan of this song at first, but after a few listens I think it is brilliant because of its symbolism and beautiful vocals. Compared to the other anthems, Riot Games chose to approach this one from a different angle: start gentler with the verses and build up to the climax during the chorus. Each time the chorus arrives, we’re blasted with the same, yet clean, chord progression that never fails to excite me. It wasn’t easy for me to distinguish between Chrissy’s and Cailin’s voices throughout the song, but they formed wonderful harmonies during the parts when they sang together. The symbolism behind “Phoenix” was cliché in my opinion but inspiring nonetheless. The song tells us that our greatest enemies aren’t each other, but rather ourselves and our own limitations. It asks us to contemplate what we are willing to lose to rise to the top. The song carries a similar message to “Legends Never Die,” saying we should keep moving forward despite our hardships but in a different fashion than before. This time we should be focused on the doubts and fears we carry within ourselves. It’s time to accept our flaws and to move past them so they won’t bother us anymore. 

“Take Over” (2020) – 5/10

I still feel indifferent about “Take Over” even though I’ve listened to it many times. There is more bass in this song compared to any of the other anthems, but it doesn’t bring the hype that the other songs carry. This is the first Worlds anthem where another language is spoken, and I thought it worked pretty well with the concept Riot Games was striving for. The music video was misleading if you take it at face value, which I wasn’t a huge fan of. “League of Legends” is not played as a 1v1 in VR. You can’t pick up the weapons of champions you have slain in-game nor has any woman ever made it to Worlds. Perhaps the message Riot Games was trying to pass on was that “League of Legends,” as a game, is transcending into a more respectable, yet unorthodox sport. Viewership has been steadily rising since the game’s release, and 2020 marked the tenth anniversary of the championship. 

“Burn It All Down” (2021) – 5/10

Just like “Take Over,” this song didn’t sit well with me. The song as a whole contains a lot of electronic elements while maintaining a game-centric energy that’s necessary to hype up a crowd for a big event; however, I thought that there were too many synthesizers and instrumentals involved, especially in the chorus, and I couldn’t keep track of everything. The verses weren’t memorable either because they lack the unique symbolism that all of the other anthems carry. The music video, on the other hand, was phenomenal. There was a cool shift between traditional animation to a hybrid of animation and CGI. I’d argue that this is the best animation we’ve seen from any Worlds music video. There are over twenty referenced pro players throughout the entire music video and at the end, we can see all of the players going against each other as their favorite champions. Overall, I thought the music video carried the song; the song wouldn’t be as successful as it is without the music video.  

“STAR WALKIN’” (2022) – 4/10

Written and produced by Lil Nas X, “STAR WALKIN’” is a decent song, but it still falls short next to others like “Rise.” Lil Nas X brings a catchy and classic chorus, with similar structures to the previous anthems. As the song continues forward, however, the climax of the song feels like it never quite arrives. There are moments where you think the song is building up to a big drop, but it instead takes a turn and abruptly transitions into the next verse. The energy levels mostly remained the same throughout the song, and there was no sense of intensity like most of the previous anthems brought. I thought the music video was not in sync with the song either. Lil Nas X was able to bring his flair to the table, but it looked like Riot Games restricted his creative freedom and morphed his singing abilities around the music video. Viewers also spend the majority of the time watching the featured players and their champions march into battle instead of the battle itself. Just like the song, there’s a lot of buildup but no drop. Riot Games broke away from the norm for this song. While I think experimenting with new ideas is a great thing, it might be worth going back to the drawing board when a song fails to bring the excitement and praise that the largest international tournament for the “League of Legends” community deserves.