It’s one of the world’s most universal words, ‘woo!’, up there with ‘taxi’ and ‘mama’, needing no translation unlike even ‘beer’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’. And the woo takes many forms, from long melodic placeholders to woo-babies, extending to the long triumphant whoa-ohs of Bon Jovi or Parkway Drive.
But not all woos are created equally, varying in expressive function, duration, purpose and dimensions. We’re searching for the uber-woo, the finest instance of the brief, immediate and unifying expression of righteousness that so many have recorded yet so few have mastered.
A woo-hoo is not a woo, which immediately rules out the most immediate candidate, Song 2 by Blur. Joyful, yes, but the woo-hoo means that Song 2 is a no-no, like a whoa whoa. As are, alas, the plaintive woos of longing that pepper the history of rock. Sorry, Springsteen - I’m On Fire doesn’t make the cut, just like Sympathy for The Devil or Built This Pool by blink-182. You’d have thought that Led Zeppelin might have a few, and Weezer too – but Rivers Cuomos' knowing whoas are often self-aware and lifeless. Woozy woo is not good woo.
There’s a lot of good woo in hip-hop, too, but they tend to be shaped by a different impulse – generally woo as introduction, as statement: Linkin Park and Jay-Z have a good woo at the start of Numb/Encore, and Busta Rhymes has the immortal ‘Woo-ha! Got y’all in check’. But no dice, Busta. You’ve got good woo-ha – perhaps the best – but it’s a different species.
Good woo is righteous, spare, spontaneous and unexpected. It can take many forms and appears across generations, but the best share a purity of intent that you cannot predict. The uber-woo is a universal affirmation and unifying force usually originating with the performer, but the uber-woo is a crowd sound, too. And here we think we’ve found it.