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Feedback’s at the heart of their ‘Boston Song’

Eytan Nicholson (left) and Vincent Sneed asked people what Boston meant to them and turned the responses into an anthem for the city. Eytan Nicholson (left) and Vincent Sneed asked people what Boston meant to them and turned the responses into an anthem for the city. (Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)
By Martín Caballero
Globe Correspondent / September 20, 2011

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What does a Boston song sound like?

If you ask the Dropkick Murphys, it might sound something like the Irish tribal roar of their smash hit “Shipping Up to Boston.’’ To the Standells, who immortalized the city on the Charles with 1966’s “Dirty Water,’’ it took the form of rambling garage rock. But to Vincent Sneed and Eytan Nicholson, Boston sounds like that catchy advertising jingle that sticks in your head all day.

“I was in a jingle-writing class at school, and I remember thinking, ‘Why can’t you write a jingle about something besides a product, like a city?’ ’’ Nicholson says recently, sitting inside a Starbucks across from his alma mater, Berklee College of Music.

After 2 1/2 years of work with co-writer Sneed, he believes they have found the answer in the form of “So Good (the Boston Song),’’ a methodically crafted tune that Nicholson hopes will become an unofficial, or official, city anthem for a new generation.

“Our goal was to give people something that everybody can feel good about,’’ Nicholson says of the song, which already has more than 64,000 views on YouTube since premiering last month. Nicholson and his band, Sweet Tooth & the Sugarbabies, will perform “So Good’’ as part of the Boston Song Music Festival at Faneuil Hall on Thursday, a free event featuring several other local acts.

“We aren’t trying to harvest a profit in the traditional ways from this,’’ he says. “It’s more about positively impacting the community and giving them something they can enjoy.’’

Though neither Nicholson nor Sneed has directly profited from the track, which is available for free on their website (www.thebostonsong.com), the pair approached writing the song as if it were for commercial use. They dedicated six months to research, during which they sought to distill the city’s personality and tastes into a potent three-minute pop song.

“We asked people what Boston meant to them, and in the end we had a list of around 70 things that people said, and we had check marks next to them to see which was most popular,’’ Nicholson says. “So we tried to write the song around that. We also thought in terms of who do people look to as being a Boston musical icon? A lot of people were saying things like Journey or the Black Eyed Peas or Neil Diamond, even though they aren’t from Boston.’’

Eventually they came up with “So Good,’’ a bright, upbeat anthem that refers to Newbury Street, the T, and, naturally, Boston’s sports culture. Adding the instantly recognizable call-and-response chorus of “so good,’’ taken from the Bostonized version of Diamond’s Fenway favorite, “Sweet Caroline,’’ was a natural choice to give the song the feel of a memorable jingle.

The reception so far indicates Nicholson and Sneed got their formula right. After Councilor Mike Ross heard the song, he invited both to a City Council meeting, which turned into an impromptu performance caught on film and used in the song’s video. But while Nicholson is optimistic that “So Good’’ could eventually be licensed for a Boston-based business or tourism board, he’s just as confident that the same formula could be used to create an anthem for another city.

“I think this is something that we could package and take to other places. Some people react funny to that because they think it means we don’t love the city,’’ Nicholson says. “We do, absolutely, but it’s something that if another city or community wanted us to do this same thing, then we could work with somebody, maybe an artist from there and follow the exact same system to try to re-create this.’’

For Sneed, however, it’s only about Boston.

“I couldn’t write a song about Seattle. I’ve never been there. I’ve lived in Boston for, like, three years and I’ve grown to really love the city,’’ Sneed says. “So I think in writing this song there was a lot of personal involvement and experience that helped us to write the song better. You have to go to someone who actually lived there. For me, this was about a personal connection.’’

Martín Caballero can be reached at caballeroglobe@gmail.com.

THE BOSTON SONG MUSIC FESTIVAL

Featuring Sweet Tooth & the Sugarbabies, Alicia Lemka, Shea Rose, Me Vs Gravity, and Doug Trasher

At: Faneuil Hall Marketplace, West End Promenade, Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Free. www.bostonsongfestival.com