Lil Nas X’s “STAR WALKIN'” is a decent track but a disappointing Worlds anthem—here’s why

Not every puzzle piece can fit the mold.

Screengrab via Riot Games

“Why worship legends when you know that you can join ’em?”

This is a perfect lyric to represent the sentiments of every competitor headed to the 2022 League of Legends World Championship. One hundred twenty players from around the globe, all hoping that they’ll join the many names etched on the Summoner’s Cup. But only five will rise high enough to touch the stars, while the rest will fall back down to Earth.

It might sound a little grandiose and quite dramatic, but that’s what Worlds is all about. This is the biggest event in professional League and one of the most-watched events in all of esports. When the first trailers start dropping on the LoL Esports Twitter, the levels of excitement and hype start to rise. And when fans listen to the anthem of this star-studded event, the song should evoke these burning feelings every time it plays.

This year, Riot Games has tapped into superstar rapper and singer Lil Nas X, naming the talented 23-year-old as “President of League of Legends” before the debut of his new song and the 2022 Worlds anthem, “STAR WALKIN’.” It was a highly anticipated release, boosted by not only the presence of a multi-award-winning artist but by Riot’s own self-built reputation in the music scene.

From endeavors like K/DA, True Damage, Pentakill, and the various incredible anthems for Worlds over the past several years, fans expected this new track to take them to the cosmos. Instead of flying past the stars, however, “STAR WALKIN'” fell short of the clouds and has left League fans searching for a better anthem to lead them into battle.

But what led to this widespread discontent among the community?

Building a banger

Ever since he released his hit single “Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X burst onto the music and pop culture scene with authority, taking over the charts with catchy songs that can parade their way into almost anyone’s playlist. Whether it’s for a party, a ride on the town, or a session of solo queue with friends, Lil Nas X is a young icon making his mark. But this doesn’t mean that his usual style of music can fit every single occasion.

“STAR WALKIN'” is a decent track with a classic and catchy chorus that can make even the most stoic listeners bob their heads to the beat. In fact, if this was a single off of an upcoming album, it would probably have been well-received among his fans. But this isn’t just any song dropping on his Spotify, this is the anthem representing Worlds.

Most Worlds anthems have followed a similar structure, where the music makes you feel like you’re climbing a mountain. In the beginning, the tracks all establish a baseline for their starting energy point, whether it’s the immediate hard-hitting instrumentals from minute one of “Take Over” or the slow, moody piano in “Burn It All Down.” But as the song continues forward, the energy begins to pick up as it approaches the chorus. And when it finally hits, excitement levels are high—but not as high as they can be.

The final build-up to the last chorus comes in by hyping up the listener like they’re reaching the apex of their ascent to greatness, like how the winning team at Worlds must feel after having a whole year of work pay off. Whether it’s emotionally charged ad-libs or a rising choir in the back, the final drop should be the greatest on the track. It’s that feeling of confidence and anticipation that helps separate a Worlds anthem from a generic song on the Hot 100.

Lacking that distinct Worlds flavor

“STAR WALKIN'” had moments where it built up to a big drop, but instead of giving fans that resolution, the energy flattened out and abruptly led into the next verse. There was no change in energy levels and the final drop eventually bottomed out to an empty piano solo.

The energy levels of the song simply weren’t intense enough to match the anthems of previous years. No matter what kind of genre or artist Riot chose, one thing was certain: the energy levels would always end at an 11. “STAR WALKIN'” lacked an urgency that helped make other anthems iconic, and even though the song could make the charts and become a hit, it just doesn’t fit the bill when it comes to representing what this event means to the 120 players and their year-long journey to the top.

It also didn’t help that the music video lacked a bit of intensity, from both the storyline shown to the lack of action sequences. There’s a lot of build-up and not a lot of substance, except for the ending of the video where the giant champion mechas finally jump into battle. A majority of the video is spent watching these players walk to the battle or looking at fans as they pass by.

When the battle started to kick off, the animation was well done, but the energy from the anthem didn’t match what was happening on screen all too well. When CoreJJ’s Rell jumped forward with a primal yell, it felt like the song was already winding down, draining any hype that was left in the scene.

Ultimately, this anthem and music video won’t make you want to take up your region’s flag and ride into battle. Breaking away from the norm isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when the song fails to build excitement for the biggest international League tournament of the year, then it might be time to go back to the drawing board.