Seven Nation Army
|"Seven Nation Army"|
|Single by The White Stripes|
|from the album Elephant|
|B-side||"Good to Me"|
|Studio||Toe Rag Studios (London)|
|The White Stripes singles chronology|
"Seven Nation Army" (also stylized as "7 Nation Army") is a song by American rock duo The White Stripes. It was released as the lead single from their fourth studio album, Elephant, in March 2003, and reached number one on the Alternative Songs chart —maintaining that position for three weeks. It also became the third best-performing song of the decade on the same chart. It was well received commercially as well, and won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.
The song is known for its underlying riff, which plays throughout most of the song. Although it sounds like a bass guitar (an instrument the group had never previously used), the sound is actually created by running Jack White's semi-acoustic, 1950s-style Kay Hollowbody guitar through a DigiTech Whammy pedal set down an octave. A combination of the song's popularity, recognizable riff, and defiant lyrics led to it becoming the band's signature song. Often ranked as one of the greatest songs of the 2000s, it has been used widely at sporting events and political protests internationally.
- 1 Background and development
- 2 Release
- 3 Composition and lyrics
- 4 Music video
- 5 Reception
- 6 Commercial performance
- 7 Cultural impact
- 8 Formats and track listings
- 9 Personnel
- 10 Charts and certifications
- 11 Cover versions
- 12 External links
- 13 Notes and references
Background and development
"Seven Nation Army" has its origins in a guitar riff that Jack White, the White Stripes' lead singer and guitarist, wrote in Corner Hotel in Melbourne, Australia, while the band was on tour in January 2002. He proceeded to show the riff to Ben Swank, who was traveling with the band for the tour; Swank responded, "It's OK." Jack White later recalled that he "didn't even think that rhythm was that great, either". After initially saving the riff in case he was ever asked to create a James Bond theme song, he decided to incorporate it into a song for the White Stripes, believing the aforementioned scenario to be unlikely.[note 1]
"Seven Nation Army" was recorded at Toe Rag Studios in Hackney, London, England, and was produced by Jack White. He wrote "Seven Nation Army" as a "little experiment", hoping to create a compelling song that did not include a chorus. The song's title originated from his mispronunciation of Salvation Army as a child. The title "Seven Nation Army" was initially used as a placeholder for the track before its lyrics were written; the name ultimately stuck.
Jack White's idea of releasing "Seven Nation Army" as a single was initially opposed by the White Stripes' record labels, who wanted to release the song "There's No Home for You Here" instead. Jack White ultimately succeeded in persuading the band's record labels to release "Seven Nation Army", and in 2003 the song was released as a promotional single alongside Elephant track "In the Cold, Cold Night". It was subsequently released as a 7-inch vinyl single and a CD single; the former included a cover of "Good to Me"—written by Brendan Benson and Jason Falkner—as its B-side, while the latter included both "Good to Me" and folk song "Black Jack Davey". The photograph used as the album's artwork was taken by Patrick Pantano; it includes an elephant painting made by Greg Siemasz.
"Seven Nation Army" was later made available for digital download. On January 3, 2014, Third Man Records announced a limited edition clear 7-inch vinyl reissue of "Seven Nation Army" as part of a package for subscribers to its Vault service. A black 7-inch vinyl reissue with updated artwork was released on February 27, 2015.
Composition and lyrics
"Seven Nation Army" is an alternative rock and garage rock song with a length of three minutes and 52 seconds. According to sheet music published by Universal Music Publishing Group, it is composed in the key of E minor in common time with a tempo of 120 beats per minute. The song is driven by a riff that resembles the sound of a bass guitar. To create this sound, Jack White connected a semi-acoustic guitar to a DigiTech Whammy Pedal that had been lowered one octave. The riff uses five different pitches and consists of seven notes; it begins with a held note followed by four syncopated notes, ending with two notes that appear frequently in laments. The song also features distorted vocals and a "heartbeat drum", played by White Stripes drummer Meg White. Tom Maginnins noted that the song "manipulat[es] the power of tension and release": it creates a sense of "anticipatory energy", then transitions into what AllMusic's Tom Maginnis described as a "[wordless] crush of what stands for the chorus", consisting of an electric guitar and a "bashing crash cymbal".
A 15-second sample from "Seven Nation Army", featuring the song's driving riff and its opening lyrics.
Problems playing this file? See media help.
John Mulvey of NME described "Seven Nation Army" as a "diatribe against fame". The song's lyrics were inspired by the growing attention received by the White Stripes. According to Jack White, the song tells the story of a person who, upon entering a town, hears its residents gossiping about him and proceeds to leave the town in response. Driven by a sense of loneliness, he ultimately returns. Regarding the song's meaning, White stated, "The song's about gossip. It's about me, Meg and the people we're dating." Maginnis described the lyrics as presenting an "obstinate attitude", citing the opening lines: "I'm gonna fight 'em off/ A seven nation army couldn't hold me back/ They're gonna rip it off/ Taking their time right behind my back".
The video, directed by Alex and Martin, consists of one seemingly continuous shot through a kaleidoscopic tunnel of mirrored black, white and red triangles, touching on Jack's love of the number three. The triangle slides alternate between images of Jack or Meg playing, interspersed with marching skeletons and an elephant, referring to the name of the album "Seven Nation Army" appeared on. The speed at which the triangles move forward through the tunnel speeds up and slows down in unison with the dynamics of the song. During the video, when the song begins to intensify, the lights in surrounding the triangles flash and other effects build up as well.
"Seven Nation Army" has received widespread critical acclaim, winning the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards. Heather Phares of AllMusic described it as a "breathtaking opener" to the album Elephant, and Bram Teltelman of Billboard suggested that "adventurous rock programmers might want to join the 'Army'". In particular, "Seven Nation Army"'s central riff has been the subject of praise since the song's release. A writer for Rolling Stone described it as the best riff of the 2000s decade, and Rebecca Schiller of NME wrote that the riff is "the most maddeningly compulsive bassline of the decade, and not even actually played on a bass guitar". Critics also praised Meg White's drumming—a "hypnotic thud" according to Tom Maginnis of AllMusic. Teltelman described the drumming as "simple but effective", and Phares said it was "explosively minimal".
Critics compared the song to the White Stripes' other work. According to Teltelman, "Seven Nation Army" represented an effort to "defy categorization", especially the garage rock label that had been attributed to the band. He further wrote that it was "much more of a straightforward rock song" than the band's 2002 single "Fell in Love with a Girl". Phares found "Seven Nation Army", along with "The Hardest Button to Button", to "deliver some of the fiercest blues-punk" of any song by the White Stripes, and Alex Young of Consequence of Sound viewed it as the band's best song.
Critics have ranked the song among the best tracks of the 2000s decade; it appeared on NME's, Rolling Stone's, and WFNX's retrospective lists, and it was placed at number one on Consequence of Sound's "Top 50 Songs of the Decade".
It was also ranked No. 1 on Rhapsody's list of the Top 100 Tracks of the Decade. The song was listed at No. 30 on Pitchfork Media's top 500 songs of the 2000s, and at No. 2 in Observer Music Monthly's top 75 songs of the decade. It ranked No. 2 on Channel V Australia's top 1000 songs of the 2000s.
In March 2005, Q magazine ranked "Seven Nation Army" at No. 8 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. It was also called the 75th greatest hard rock song by VH1. In May 2008, Rolling Stone placed the song at No. 21 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.
In February 2013, listeners to BBC Radio 6 Music placed the song at No. 6 on "6 Music's 100 Greatest Hits," reflecting the top songs released in the station's lifetime.
On March 8, 2003, "Seven Nation Army" debuted at number 27 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart;[note 2] on July 16, it peaked at number one, a position it maintained for three weeks. The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart on May 24, peaking at 76 that week. It debuted at number 38 on Billboard's Mainstream rock chart on July 12, and it reached its peak position of 12 on November 8. It charted at number one on Canadian television channel Much's MuchMusic Countdown for the week starting July 18, 2003.
The song debuted on the UK Singles Chart on May 3, 2003 at number seven, its peak position. It also reached the UK Indie Chart and Scottish Singles Chart the same week. The song debuted on the former at number one and remained at that position for another week, and it debuted and peaked at number six on the latter. On May 1, it debuted on the Irish Singles Chart, where it peaked at number 22. On June 22, the song debuted on the Australian Singles Chart at its peak position of number 17. It debuted on the Official German Charts at number 69 on June 27; it peaked at number four two weeks later.
"Seven Nation Army" continued to chart intermittently years after its release. The song debuted at number four on the Federation of the Italian Music Industry (FIMI) chart on July 27, 2006, and it peaked at number three a week later. On June 29, 2008, it debuted at number 18 on the Swiss Hitparade chart, where it ultimately peaked at number four; it reentered this chart several times afterward, most recently in 2013. The song debuted at number 23 on the Ö3 Austria Top 40 chart on July 4, 2008, and it peaked at number 18 the next week; it later entered the Ö3 Austria Top 75 chart for one week on February 3, 2012. The song also entered the French Singles Chart on multiple occasions from 2013 to 2018, peaking at number 48 on February 23, 2013. It debuted on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart on January 18, 2014, peaking at number 12 during its first week.
The song was awarded several certifications in the 2010s. It was certified gold by Germany's Federal Music Industry Association in 2010, indicating over 150,000 sales of the single. In 2013, the British Phonographic Industry awarded "Seven Nation Army" a silver certification; after receiving a gold certification two years later, the song was certified platinum in 2017 for selling over 600,000 copies. The song was certified gold by the FIMI in 2014; three years later, it received a platinum certification, having sold over 50,000 copies.
"Seven Nation Army" played a significant role in the White Stripes' popularity. A writer for Rolling Stone described it as a "career-changing hit", and NME's Daniel Martin viewed the song as the White Stripes' "defining tune", having sparked the band's transition "from their garage rock beginnings to an entirely new level of acclaim". In addition, "Seven Nation Army" contributed to the garage rock revival movement, becoming the first song in the genre to reach number one on Billboard's Modern Rock chart.[note 2] After its initial run on music charts, the song—especially its riff—grew in popularity as a result of its usage in sports. In 2012, Deadspin's Alan Siegel described the "riff-turned-anthem" as "ubiquitous", and according to The New Yorker's Alec Wilkinson, the riff "might be the second-best-known guitar phrase in popular music, after the one from 'Satisfaction'". Erik Adams of The A.V. Club attributed the song's popularity to its riff's "simplicity"—a characteristic that he remarked makes the song "instantly familiar" and "instantly memorized"—and Nate Sloan said that the four notes following the riff's first note create a feeling of "urgency that makes [the riff] much more memorable".
The song has also appeared in various other media. It was featured in Ken Burns' 2010 baseball documentary The Tenth Inning, and it appears as a playable track in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock as well as in Guitar Hero Live's online GHTV mode. In 2016, video game company EA used the Glitch Mob remix of the song in a trailer advertising Battlefield 1. A surge in streams and digital sales of the White Stripes' version of "Seven Nation Army" followed the release of the trailer: within two weeks, the total number of streams and digital purchases of the song increased by 146 percent and 332 percent, respectively. On May 9, 2014, during the celebration of the 825th Hamburg Port Anniversary, "Seven Nation Army" was played using the horns of cruise ship MSC Magnifica as it entered the harbor.
According to Alan Siegel of Deadspin, "Seven Nation Army"'s riff is "an organic part of sports culture". The riff is commonly used in sports audience's chants, in which each note is usually sung using the "oh" sound. This phenomenon has its roots in a UEFA Champions League soccer game in Italy in October 2003, during which fans of Belgium's Club Brugge KV began singing the riff in a game against Italy's A.C. Milan. They continued the chant after Club Brugge KV striker Andrés Mendoza scored a goal. Club Brugge KV won the game, and the song subsequently became the team's "unofficial sports anthem". After A.S. Roma won against Club Brugge KV at a soccer match in Belgium in 2006, fans of the former team began to use the riff as a chant, having learned it from the latter. Fans of the Italy national football team proceeded to chant the riff at games leading up to the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and "Seven Nation Army"—known as the "po po po po po" song among Italians—became the team's "unofficial theme". After Italy won the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final, the riff was sung in Rome's streets. Regarding the song's popularity in Italy, Jack White said:
I am honored that the Italians have adopted this song as their own. Nothing is more beautiful in music than when people embrace a melody and allow it to enter the pantheon of folk music.
The song's usage has since expanded into various other sports settings. By 2007, audiences at the Penn State Nittany Lions' football games had begun chanting the riff in support of the team; since then, other football audiences have chanted the riff as well. Meanwhile, Arrangers' Publishing Company began publishing marching band arrangements of "Seven Nation Army", and the song has since been played by marching bands at various colleges, including Boston College and the University of Southern California. The song has been chanted by NFL fans and played by NBA and NHL teams, and it was once chanted by Formula One racing driver Nico Rosberg. Audiences often replace the "oh"s in the chant with the names of members of sports teams, as with Maxi Moralez and Andrea Pirlo of New York City FC.
"Seven Nation Army" has served as an official anthem at various sporting events; NPR's Rick Karr remarked that the song is "arguably ... the world's most popular sports anthem". It has been played at each UEFA European Football Championship since 2008, and it was played prior to the start of each game during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Karr estimated that the song has reached "hundreds of millions of television viewers around the world" as a result of its usage in the latter tournament. Multiple sports teams and personalities have also used "Seven Nation Army" as their official song, including boxers Gennady Golovkin and Anthony Joshua, football teams the Baltimore Ravens and the Detroit Lions, ice hockey team the New Jersey Devils, baseball team the Baltimore Orioles, and darts player Michael van Gerwen.
Usage in politics
"Seven Nation Army" has been used in elections and political protests. In 2016, the White Stripes stated via Facebook that they were "disgusted" by the song's appearance in a video supporting Donald Trump's campaign for the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and they said that they "[had] nothing whatsoever to do with [the] video". Matthew Strauss of Pitchfork was unable to ascertain which video had prompted the post, though he mentioned a video unaffiliated with the Trump campaign that "featur[ed] Trump imagery and audio of his speech at the Republican convention, set to 'Seven Nation Army'". In response, the White Stripes manager Ian Montone remarked, "If you can't find the video, great. Then our lawyers have done their job."
In addition, "Seven Nation Army" made multiple appearances at events leading up to 2017 British general election. Following a speech by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at Wirral Live music festival at Tranmere Rovers' ground on May 20, 2017, supporters in the audience began to chant Corbyn's name to the tune of the song's riff. This chant was repeated on several occasions in the run-up to the election and afterwards at the 2017 Glastonbury Festival, where Corbyn appeared on the Pyramid stage. As a result of the chant's appearance at the Glastonbury Festival, "Seven Nation Army" saw a 16,893 percent increase in streams, according to music streaming website Deezer. Names of other politicians, including Labour politician Rebecca Long-Bailey and Conservative politician David Davis, were also chanted to the tune of the song's riff during conferences held for the election. At a People's Assembly protest on July 1, alternative rock band Wolf Alice performed a cover of the song.
Formats and track listings
- "Seven Nation Army" – 3:52
- "In the Cold, Cold Night" – 2:58
- "Seven Nation Army" – 3:52
- "Good to Me" (Brendan Benson/Jason Falkner) – 2:06
- "Black Jack Davey" (Traditional) – 5:06
Adapted from "Seven Nation Army" 7-inch vinyl reissue liner notes.
Charts and certifications
The song has been covered by blues musician C. W. Stoneking as well as the country group The Oak Ridge Boys (with bass singer Richard Sterban singing the original guitar riffs), funk metal band Living Colour, rock supergroup Audioslave, indie band Hard-Fi, alternative rock band The Flaming Lips, English indie singer Kate Nash, British soul singer Alice Russell, hard rock band The Pretty Reckless, heavy metal band Metallica and Argentine electrotango band Tanghetto. In 2015, it was covered by Haley Reinhart for Scott Bradlee's Postmordern Jukebox in a style reminiscent of a "New Orleans funeral march". The song has been remixed by The Glitch Mob as well, which was used in the first trailer for the 2016 video game Battlefield 1. The song was covered during Maroon 5's Overexposed Tour in 2012, with lead guitarist James Valentine providing guitar and vocals and lead vocalist Adam Levine providing drums. The song was also covered by KT Tunstall (as a medley with her own "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree") on her 2013 Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon tour. European fans of the English pop star Robbie Williams frequently chant the song's riff both before and during a concert; renowned for his call and response relationship with his audience, Williams often improvises lyrics relating to the city in which he is performing, backed by the audience's riff. Thrash metal band Sepultura used the main riff as an outro on Zombie Ritual, a cover by Death.
Ben l'Oncle Soul version
|"Seven Nation Army"|
|Single by Ben l'Oncle Soul|
|from the album Ben l'Oncle Soul|
|Released||March 8, 2010 (promo) |
September 24, 2010 (CD Maxi)
|Format||Digital download, CD single|
|Producer(s)||Guillaume Poncelet, Gabin Lesieur|
|Ben l'Oncle Soul singles chronology|
French soul singer Ben l'Oncle Soul covered the song on his self-titled album. Released as the album's debut single, "Seven Nation Army" was a commercial success in multiple countries, peaking at number 16 on the Belgium Ultratop Charts for Wallonia and charting in Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. The version was also included in a number of compilation albums, including NRJ Hits 2010 Vol. 2 on Warner Records and Les hits de l'été 2010 on Universal Music Group label.
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)||16|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||51|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||57|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||54|
Marcus Collins version
|"Seven Nation Army"|
|Single by Marcus Collins|
|from the album Marcus Collins|
|B-side||"Break These Chains"|
|Released||March 4, 2012|
|Format||Digital download, CD single|
|Genre||Pop, soul, funk|
|Producer(s)||Matt Furmidge, Alex Smith, Brian Rawling|
|Marcus Collins singles chronology|
British singer and The X Factor runner-up Marcus Collins covered the song as his debut single, in a version based on the cover by Ben l'Oncle Soul. It was released in the United Kingdom on March 4, 2012, a week prior to his debut album Marcus Collins.
Revealing that he has received a lot of abuse from White Stripes fans, Collins said: "I know I can't please everyone. A lot of people have got opinions on it, but they can always listen to the White Stripes version. Why are they listening to me if they don't like it? Listen to the original if you don't like my singing. It's just the X Factor connection but, you know, why are people kicking off about it now?"
A music video to accompany the release of "Seven Nation Army" was first released onto YouTube on February 16, 2012 at a total length of two minutes and fifty-eight seconds. Critically, Lewis Corner of Digital Spy noted the "distinctive soul-pop" vocals showcased by Collins and wrote that, "Truth be told, we wish he'd fought a little harder to get one those eight original compositions he has on his forthcoming record out first." Priya Elan of NME concluded that although the cover may have seemed "disturbing in theory", it was ultimately "disposable and forgettable as a McChicken sandwich [...] but not bad".
|1.||"Seven Nation Army"||2:56|
|2.||"Break These Chains"||2:27|
|Hungary (Rádiós Top 40)||13|
|Scotland (Official Charts Company)||9|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||9|
|United Kingdom||March 4, 2012||Digital download, CD single||RCA Records|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Elephant (album)|
Notes and references
- Maginnis, Tom. "Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes". AllMusic. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
- Angermiller, Michele Amabile (August 14, 2015). "Watch Haley Reinhart & Postmodern Jukebox's Jazzy 'Seven Nation Army' Cover". Billboard. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
- "Top Songs of the 2000s". Retrieved January 6, 2017.
- Martin, Dan. "20 Things You Might Not Know About 'Seven Nation Army'". NME. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
- Siegel, Alan (June 13, 2012). "How The Song 'Seven Nation Army' Conquered The Sports World". Deadspin. Gizmodo Media Group. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- Boilen, Bob (April 17, 2012). "Jack White: How I Made 'Blunderbuss'". NPR (video). Retrieved September 1, 2018. 17 minutes, 11 seconds in.
- "Seven Nation Army" (7-inch vinyl reissue). The White Stripes. Third Man Records. 2013. TMR262 – via Third Man Store.
- di Perna, Alan (June 4, 2018). "Jack White Breaks Down His Ambitious New Album, 'Boarding House Reach'". Guitar World. Future US. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
- "True believers: The White Stripes live out their rock-and-roll fantasy". Boston Phoenix. April 17, 2003. Archived from the original on October 9, 2015. Retrieved January 7, 2008.
- Adshead, Adam (April 1, 2010). "Jack White: 'White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army' nearly wasn't released'". NME. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
- Handyside, Chris (2004). "Discography". Fell in Love with a Band: The Story of the White Stripes. St. Martin's Press. p. 225 – via Google Books.
- "Seven Nation Army - Single". iTunes (AU). Retrieved September 1, 2018.
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- "Vault Package #19". Third Man Records. January 3, 2014. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- "White Stripes Elephant-Era Singles". Third Man Records. February 27, 2015. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
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- Teltelman, Bram (March 29, 2003). "Singles". Billboard. Vol. 115 no. 13. New York City, New York: Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 32. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
- Karr, Rick (July 11, 2018). "Why 'Seven Nation Army' Is The One Jock Jam To Rule Them All". NPR. Digital version includes contributions from Daoud Tyler-Ameen. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
- Mulvey, John (March 7, 2003). "White Stripes: Elephant". NME. Archived from the original on February 9, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
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- "The White Stripes Chart History (Hot Rock Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved April 29, 2018.
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- "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank ('Seven Nation Army')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved July 24, 2017.
- "British single certifications". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved July 24, 2017. Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field.
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- "Beyoncé's Solo Debut Does 'Crazy' Business". Billboard. Vol. 115 no. 28. New York City, New York: Nielsen Business Media, Inc. July 12, 2003. p. 51. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
- Wilkinson, Alec (March 13, 2017). "Jack White's Infinite Imagination". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
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- "Jack White 'honoured' at Italian football tribute". NME. TI Media Limited. July 12, 2006. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
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- "Spurs Fans Do 'Seven Nation Army' Chant At End Of NBA Finals Game 3 (Video)". Huffington Post. June 12, 2013. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
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- McCarter, Reid (July 6, 2018). "Here's how The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" turned into a stadium chant". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- Rafael, Dan (September 15, 2017). "Gennady Golovkin finally gets the fight he wants". ABC News. American Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- "Anthony Joshua vs. Joseph Parker: AJ lightest in 10 fights". ESPN. March 20, 2018. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- "Seven Nation Army voted new goal song". NewJerseyDevils.com. November 2, 2013. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
- "Jack White rocks along as 'Seven Nation Army' plays at Camden Yards". The Baltimore Sun. May 28, 2018. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- "Michael van Gerwen: Is Mighty Mike the next dominant force?". BBC Sport. BBC. July 18, 2013. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- Strauss, Matthew (October 4, 2016). "The White Stripes 'Disgusted' by Donald Trump 'Seven Nation Army' Video". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
- "Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!': how the Labour chant all started". The Guardian. London, UK. June 12, 2017. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
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