The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #153: Sandstorm by Darude (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #153: Sandstorm by Darude.

Our word of the day is: ubiquitous.

When something is “ubiquitous”, it means that it something that is somewhere specific but everywhere, at the same time. The song, “Sandstorm” by Finnish DJ, Darude, is a good example of something that is ubiquitous. It is a song that you may think you have never heard of before but, chances are, that somewhere while watching TV, being at a sporting event, playing a video game, being at a party or a club (pre-Covid, of course) you have had this song (or parts of it) play in your presence. It is a song that has been so completely and totally woven into the fabric of our social soundscape that, at times, we don’t even realize we are feeling the emotions that we are because this song is playing but, operating almost in a subliminal manner, in our brains. “Sandstorm” by Darude is a song that was created in a bedroom in Finland in 1999 and since that time, it has been viewed/streamed/downloaded/played live almost one billion times…..that is “billion”….with a “B”……one billion times. No other song in all of music comes close to having been played aloud as much as “Sandstorm” has. So, let’s take a moment and learn the story of a song you may think you have never heard before but, in reality, you have probably heard many, many times before, even if you didn’t know it. This is the story of the world’s most played song, “Sandstorm” by Darude.

Back in the day, Darude was a young DJ in Finland. He wasn’t famous, by any stretch. He was a local DJ who was becoming interested in the growing Electronic Dance Movement that was emerging out of the House Music scene that, in turn, had grown out of the Disco scene back in the 1970s and into the 80s. The beauty of the new Electronic Dance Music scene was that much of the music was comprised of pre-recorded samples of existing music. Thus, a person, like a young local DJ, could sit in their bedroom, without the need of any other musicians, and they could play around on synthesizers; manipulating bits of sounds and pieces of larger recordings in ways that created new soundscapes and, in more complete cases, brand new songs. As this new technology began to become better understood, various sub-genres of Electronic Dance Music began to appear. In the case of Darude, his work with, what ended up becoming “Sandstorm”, fell into a sub-genre of EDM called “Trance” music. The idea behind “Trance” music was that the structure of how the beats were arranged would be such that human emotions could be predicted and influenced as a result. Specifically, “Trance” music’s characteristic structure is such that there are continuous swells of high emotion and then, a release of emotion throughout the song and, in the middle of the song, there is a climax, a period of calm and then a rousing finish to the song. You will see this play out before your eyes in the live performance of “Sandstorm” I will share at the end of this post.

The popularity of “Sandstorm” began in Clubs and at larger EDM concerts. “Sandstorm” was one of the first, break-through hits for the genre of Electronic Dance Music, as a whole, and helped pave the way for many future artists/Djs to come. But, just like “This Is How It Ends” by DeVotchKa (that we talked about in a post from a few weeks ago…the “Little Miss Sunshine”post)…the ultimate success of “Sandstorm” came from its inclusion in multiple viewing formats. For instance, like “This Is How It Ends”, “Sandstorm” gained fame, beyond the dance clubs, first through its inclusion in the soundtrack to a video game called, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare”. Because “Sandstorm” is designed, structurally, to play with your emotions, it was a huge addition to the “Call of Duty” franchise in terms of giving the player a greater feel for the actual emotions at play for soldiers during combat. Further to this, “Sandstorm gained an even greater life by becoming a “hype” song at sporting events. It has been adopted by many sports teams and has gotten to the point where it is played so often that it simply has become interwoven with the overall sporting experience. I, for one, have heard this song played countless times while I watch Toronto Maple Leaf hockey games on TV. I will show you a video from a US College football game that shows the extreme effect the song has on fans. The final apsect of “Sandstorm’s” popularity is from how technology works these days. There are so many ways that a song can be reduced to digital files and shared on file-sharing websites and then, re-interpreted by new musicians/DJs that “Sandstorm” has gone on to become one of the most covered songs by others. You can easily search the Internet or, more specifically, websites like YouTube, and finds hundreds, if not thousands of cover versions of this song; piano renditions, acoustic guitar tracks and so on, all abound in abundance on the Interweb.

So, without further delay, here is a live version of “Sandstorm” from New Zealand. Holy Hell! What a sensory experience this is. As you watch the video, note the structure of the song and how the pace becomes frentic and then, calms….becomes frentic again and then, calms. Watch for the big calming pause in the middle of the song and then, the soaring conclusion that ends the song. This structure is characteristic of “Trance”, as a sub-genre of Electronic Dance Music. In the comments section, I will post how the song was used as a hype song as sporting events, as well as, how it was used to simulate the emotions felt in combat in the video game, Call of Duty. Electronic Dance Music is quite the thing and has really become an important genre of music since we have entered the 2000s. Whether you enjoy this live video, stone-cold sober or, perhaps more appropriately, under the influence of something chemical, “Sandstorm” is one of the most popular and ubiquitous songs ever produced for a reason, as you are about to see. So, here is “Sandstorm” by Darude, live! Get ready. Enjoy!

The link to the video for the song, “Sandstorm” by Darude, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Darude, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Sandstorm”, as used as a hype song in College football, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Sandstorm”, as used in the video game, “Call of Duty”, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for playing the most innovative music through the decades. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.