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Did the Nationals Dump Chuck Brown?

The team no longer plays "Bustin' Loose" after home runs.
Did the Nationals Dump Chuck Brown?
Chuck Brown recording a music video in LeDroit Park in 2007. Photograph by Flickr user Dale Sundstrom.

When the Washington Nationals moved to their city-funded stadium in 2008, the team polled its fans to determine one of the most critical traditions for any baseball park: the song played after a player on the home team hits a home run.

To the relief of many, Nationals fans picked Chuck Brown‘s “Bustin’ Loose,” with the go-go anthem beating worn-out jock jams like Blur‘s “Song 2,” Fat Boy Slim’s “Because We Can,” and Zombie Nation‘s “Kernkraft 400.” Since then, “Bustin’ Loose” has been a familiar refrain at Nationals games.

But on Friday, the Nationals’ two home runs were followed by a different tune: “Bang Bang,” a 2014 single by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj. Fans have noticed the lack of “Bustin’ Loose” since Opening Day on April 6, when Bryce Harper hit one out.

Why did the Godfather of Go-Go get the heave in favor of a flash-in-the-pan hit that briefly flirted with the No. 2 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart? The Nationals declined multiple requests for an explanation, but the team’s fans are not happy about the new music.

“I have been in this city since 1971, and Chuck Brown is DC,” says Susan Vavrick, a senior editor for NPR.org who attends about 40 games a year. “It was such a good followup for a home run.”

Vavrick’s fellow fans have not been silent about their confusion and frustration over the musical change, either:

If the Nationals are trying to restrain their DC exceptionalism, “Bustin’ Loose” never sounded like self-limiting celebration music. It is unquestionably one of the most recognizable tracks in the history of the go-go genre. The song, which Brown and his Soul Searchers released in 1979, topped Billboard’s R&B chart for nearly a month and peaked at No. 34 on the mainstream Hot 100 chart. And even if go-go does not have much renown beyond Washington, “Bustin’ Loose” got a bit of contemporary attention when Nelly sampled it for the hooks in his 2002 hit “Hot in Herre.”

Whatever the reason behind the dismissal of “Bustin’ Loose,” the Nationals may have a tough time turning “Bang Bang” into a fan favorite. While Brown’s song was loud even over the din of high-fiving crowds after a Nationals four-bagger thanks to its soaring horn section, “Bang Bang” is barely audible, with only a few thumps of its bass line washing over the stadium during last Friday’s game, which featured home runs by Harper and Danny Espinosa.

“I’m so accustomed to hearing [“Bustin’ Loose”] that when it didn’t show up, I was like, ‘Huh?'” says Vavrick. “It’s got a good hook to it. People react to it. You’re on your feet, you’re standing, you’re clapping. It makes you want to dance. You certainly don’t want to with this Bang Bang song.”

And even if the Nationals want to stress their regionalism, it wouldn’t hurt to hold on to a few city totems, says Vavrick: “This is a DC team and it needs some DC traditions, and I think that’s the best one of the bunch.”

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.