One of the best known pop-rock anthems of the 1980s, which includes one of the most iconic drum solos of the era, has been updated this year, just in time to make sure NFL fans are ready for some “Monday Night Football.”
Phil Collins’ 1981 hit “In the Air Tonight” has been redone by country star Chris Stapleton, rapper Snoop Dogg and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana and will be used as the show’s music video open, starting with Monday night’s Week 2 double billing of the New Orleans Saints at the Carolina Panthers on ESPN and the Cleveland Browns at the Pittsburgh Steelers on ABC.
ESPN said in a news release Monday morning that the “reimagined” version of the song “will elevate the excitement and emotions leading into each game” by combining “nostalgia with intensity.” The network also provided a 30-second preview of the clip on social media.
“In the Air Tonight” might be better-known today than it was in the immediate aftermath of its release 42 years ago. While the song peaked at No. 2 on the U.K. singles chart, it only reached No. 19 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
The song, which Collins has said was inspired by his divorce during the recording of his first solo album, “Face Value,” received a boost in popularity with its inclusion in the popular TV show “Miami Vice” a few years later. In 2020, it received another bump in popularity thanks to a viral reaction video posted on the TwinsthenewTrend YouTube channel.
Apple Music ranks “In the Air Tonight” in the top 25 of its most-streamed songs from the 1980s. Part of its enduring popularity likely comes from Collins’ haunting vocals, which sound just as good performed by Stapleton based on the preview clip.
But the song is probably best known for Collins’ drumming, particularly a 3-second sonic blast of a solo that explodes through the stark musical landscape laid out in the first 3 minutes and 40 seconds of the song. Again judging from the preview clip of the new version, Blackman Santana seems more than capable of handling that classic burst of percussion.
“I’m so very excited and honored to be a part of this incredibly iconic event, song, and video with Chris and Snoop,” tweeted Blackman Santana, the 63-year-old jazz/rock drummer who has been married to guitarist Carlos Santana since 2010. “This was a blast! MNF, ESPN… here we come!”
For many years, Hank Williams Jr. provided the musical intro for “Monday Night Football,” injecting the catchphrase “Are you ready for some football?” into his song, “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.” Butcher Brown’s version of Little Richard’s “Rip It Up” was used as the broadcast intro in 2020 and 2021 and was replaced last year by Marshmello’s remix of the traditional MNF theme “Heavy Action.”
ESPN said that the original, instrumental version of “Heavy Action,” which has been associated with the show since 1976, will remain in its usual spot following the intro video and leading into the broadcast.