CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago is already the subject of adoration in two Frank Sinatra anthems, not to mention versions of “Sweet Home Chicago” by everyone from Robert Johnson to the Blues Brothers.
But Choose Chicago, the official city tourism agency, eschewed them all in favor of a brand new ode to the city. The agency unveiled the collaboration between progressive rock jam band Umphrey’s McGee, blues icon Buddy Guy, and the band Chicago.
And so far, listeners are panning it.
The song, simply titled “Chicago,” premiered on Thursday. The three acts performed the song live at a thank-you concert for HUG Chicago 2012, a hospitality industry effort to beautify and protect the city.
In a news release, Umphrey’s McGee describes the song as being “bolstered by Guy’s howling lyrics and (the band) Chicago’s legendary horns.”
But reviews weren’t too charitable on the official YouTube clip of the song that was posted by Choose Chicago Thursday.
“Everyone who had a hand in selecting this should lose their jobs,” one YouTube listeners wrote. “It’s like the theme song from an ’80s sitcom, probably starring Tony Danza, only it’s the muzak version of that song. A milestone in war crime level banality.”
“This song is a joke. I want all the tax dollars that went into funding this project to go back to the people, plus interest,” another listener wrote. “Also, a written apology from every board member who green-lighted this monstrosity.”
The song wasn’t treated any better on Twitter.
“If hadn’t left Chicago already, this terrible new city theme song would have made me do it,” tweeted Erin Gloria Ryan.
In addition to the musical style that listeners widely described as dated, the lack of specificity in the lyrics also irked some people who came across the song.
“Home sweet home. There’s so much more than meets the eye,” the lyrics begin. “From the water to the sky, every corner holds a new surprise.”
By contrast, “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town),” a song best known for the Sinatra version but actually dating from 1922, references “State Street, that great street.” Sinatra’s other ode to Chicago, “My Kind of Town,” refers specifically to the Wrigley Building and the Union Stockyards.
But the new “Chicago” song only refers generically to the city’s features. The chorus goes, “See the buildings as they climb into the sky, where the champions aren’t yours because they’re mine. All the reasons why we’re second now to none, I can tell you but you’ll find them in Chicago.”
The reference to Chicago being “second now to none” is an adaptation of the Choose Chicago slogan. Last year, the city chose “Chicago: Second to None” as the slogan for a $6 million campaign to draw more tourists and events to the city.
Some YouTube listeners defended the song, if only by arguing that tourism ad campaigns aren’t known for high-quality music.
“LOL at all of the whiners expecting a TOURISM AD to be some incredible song,” a listener wrote. “Tourism ads are cheesy and terrible, that’s how it always ends up. This sounds nothing like Umphrey’s McGee’s regular catalog of songs. All of the moaners and complainers, let’s see what you’ve got. Post a video of you making a Tourism song for Chicago and let’s compare it.”
The song is part of a massive push for national and international tourism in Chicago. Earlier this month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a goal of drawing 50 million tourists every year by 2020.