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Why Lightning arena music sticks in your head

Raw Charge takes a look at one of the most key elements of a hockey game: the goal song.

Detroit Red Wings v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Five Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

From the overwhelming light displays to the arena food and intermission entertainment, there are so many things that contribute to the NHL’s total hockey vibe. Each club and arena has their own unique sights, sounds, and traditions. Today, because it’s what I do, I’m going to discuss sound.

Bolts fans can recognize some of the more popular arena sounds such as Steven Stamkos’ goal song U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer, or AC/DC’s Thunderstruck that accompanies the opening cinematics, but some may not know what exactly makes these songs tick.

Repetition is key

Thunderstruck is a widely played tune at sporting events, yet holds a special place in Amalie Arena. The resounding “Ah Ah Ahhhh’s” provide an easy, accessible melody for fans to sing. Followed with the shouts of “Thunder!”, the classic rock anthem is a crowd-pleaser and fits nicely into the mold of the arena’s atmosphere. This, coupled with the jumbotron videos, the myriad of lights, and of course, the Tesla coils, fill fans with a sense of anticipation and excitement.

Then there’s Fluxland by XL. This anthem is paramount to Amalie’s arena experience and likely stays in your head well after games end. Fluxland is unquestionably catchy. This isn’t done without rhyme or reason, but rather by design. Fluxland features a repeating chorus and allows the listener to pick up on its melody. Humans love repetition in music. Why?

Enter the “mere-exposure effect.” First studied by physicist and psychologist Gustav Fechner, the mere-exposure effect explains that the more often someone comes into contact with something, the more comfortable and familiar they are with it. Although Fechner’s studies date back to the 1800’s, more recent research has been done to shed light on the phenomenon.

Popular modern-day social psychologist Robert Zajonc made further contributions to the concept and brought the work into contemporary science. The mere-exposure effect is the increasing comfort level and familiarity someone shows as they increase exposure to a certain stimulus.

This familiarity turns into enjoyment.

Music, and Fluxland in particular, is hard-wired in our brain to make this concept work so well. The version of Fluxland that repeats through Amalie arena’s loudspeakers is particularly repetitive—it only repeats the same melody and no other continuation of the song.

Fluxland has four notes. And that’s all it needs. Many of the “Oh’s” ride on the F note. Briefly the melody alternates between F and B-flat, and then from B-flat it ascends to D-flat, then E-flat, then finally rounding out at F again. Pure genius.

There is a great TED-Ed video explaining the mere-exposure concept, if you’re interested in learning more!

Zajonc also helped create “social facilitation”, the idea that the presence of others alters personality and cognition. This concept is enacted within arenas and stadiums when fans, whether shy or outgoing, come together to join in cheering.

The KONGOS hit Come with me now and The Who’s Baba O’Riley are also popular Amalie hype tunes. Then add on arena organist Krystof Srebrakowski’s lush adaptations of film scores and his own compositions, and you get an overarching hockey arena sound that really sets the tone for games.

I went ahead and made a Spotify playlist of the Lightning goal songs. Feel free to add some we missed in the comments or even make some suggestions, such as @GeoFitz4 suggestion for Kucherov’s goal song to be “Smooth Criminal”!

Individual Goal Songs

  1. Ryan Callahan - “Going back to Cali” by LL Cool J
  2. Steven Stamkos - “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer
  3. Victor Hedman - “Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
  4. Tyler Johnson - “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry
  5. Andrej Sustr - “Oops!...I Did it Again” by Britney Spears

General Goal Songs

  1. “Come with Me Now” by KONGOS
  2. “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC
  3. “Baba O’Riley” by The Who