This Rock anthem was selected as the official song of London's 2012 Summer Olympic Games. The track was played throughout sports sessions at official venues for the games, such as when athletes enter and during the build-up to medal ceremonies. Frontman Matt Bellamy said on the band's website: "It's a huge honour to have the track chosen as such a major part of the London 2012 Olympic Games. I wrote it with the Games in mind as it expresses a sense of conviction and determination to win." The song was debuted on BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe show on June 27, 2012.
Bellamy told Lowe that he had been approached to write a song about the Olympics in 2011, but the project "went away." "Then when we were asked to play the ending ceremony," he continued, "the song had developed so we got the Olympic people in to hear it and they said they'd love to use it as the official tune."
The Muse trio had already participated in the build up to the sporting event, having carried the Olympic torch through their hometown of Teignmouth in southwest England as part of the flame's 8,000-mile journey to the games.
Muse was the first band to sell out the rebuilt Wembley Stadium, which in its earlier incarnation had been a venue for the 1948 Olympics. They performed at their June 16, 2007 concert to a sell-out crowd of 90,000 fans.
Drummer Dominic Howard admitted to NME that, "it's a pretty weird song for the Olympics to choose." He added: "It's cool that they think the song can represent the enormity of the Olympics. It takes you back to Gladiator-style Olympics."
The album title refers to the second law of thermodynamics, which states that because energy is naturally expended and consumed and no new energy produced, unlimited growth is 'unsustainable ' However, humanity seem to be going directly against that. In the context of The 2nd Law's worldwide catastrophe scenario, this song takes on a greater significance than winning an Olympic medal. Bellamy told NME: "It's getting into the brutality of what that is, to survive against whatever."
Bellamy told Rolling Stone that the themes of The 2nd Law were inspired by a BBC broadcast that he watched in 2011, where a panelist noted that "The laws of physics say that an economy based on endless growth is unsustainable." Said the frontman: "Everyone is obsessed with constant, unchecked growth, and no one is pointing out that we might be maxing out. 'Survival' tunes into the insanity of that."
The over-the-top rock anthem features swelling strings, battle drums and a choir. "We had that idea lying around and we enhanced it, adding more lyrics, a choir and making the arrangement more grandiose," Bellamy told the Metro newspaper. "I wouldn't describe it as a joke but we were definitely having fun with it. It's certainly melodramatic, Nietzschean, and pushing the outer limits of human madness. Maybe that paradox only works live."
During his acceptance speech as he collected the gong for Best Act In The World Today at the 2012 Q Awards, Matt Bellamy said: "We're as surprised as you are that we passed off a song about a survivalist psychopath on the Olympics.
Later he clarified his comment to Q magazine: "Now it's all over, we can say that the song was really written about survivalists," he said. "There was this TV show called Doomsday Preppers, which was all about these crazy survivalists who think the world's gonna end. The song is basically about that. So I was just making a comment that I was as surprised as everybody else was, that that song got selected for the Olympics."
The song, along with another Muse track, " Isolated System
," were used for the soundtrack of the apocalyptic horror film World War Z
. The Brad Pitt starring flick is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Max Brooks. "I was reading World War Z when I made the album - and I loved it - it had an influence [on] songs like 'Survival', like 'Isolated System'," Matt Bellamy told Absolute Radio.
"I was thinking about this kind of insane survival situation," he continued, "this real bleak kind of apocalyptic scenario - when I was making the album, which I tend to do anyway when I'm making albums. So it's a really great fit, it's a lovely film. Well maybe lovely's not the right word - it's a real, like, thrill ride, total edge of your seat - got some real scary moments."