How does a song become a Stadium Classic?
Here’s a great Behind the Music (see video) explanation about how Seven Nation Army became a sports stadium classic.
NPR also featured the song’s backstory in a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action.
Within a few years, the song had entered the pantheon of stadium jams, alongside Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” But Sloan says “Seven Nation Army” has something that those anthems lack: singability.
It’s a simple musical phrase: just five different pitches, spread out over less than an octave. “And with the exception of the second note, the notes are all in sequence in the scale — like consecutive steps on a ladder,” explains Nate Sloan, co-host of the podcast Switched On Pop. “It’s very egalitarian, the kind of riff that’s the first thing you figure out when you’re learning how to play guitar.”
The minor key gives it an intimidating ring. “Those last two notes — from the flat six to the five — have a lot of weight in musical history. You hear them a lot in laments, which form a genre going back to the baroque,” Sloan says. The rhythm compounds that feeling: “By holding on to that first note, it generates a feeling of suspense. Then you get the almost machine-gun rapid fire of the next four notes, and they’re syncopated, on the off-beats. … That gives the riff an urgency that makes it much more memorable.”