"Madden" football may be one of the most popular franchises in video games these days, but the man behind the newly announced soundtrack for the series' 2007 version says this time the music will be short on one thing: pop.

The music is taking a harder edge, according to Steve Schnur, a former MTV and record-label executive who has been selecting songs for "Madden" for the last five years in his role as the head of music and music marketing at games publisher Electronic Arts. "There's many more independent-signed bands here than we've ever had before," he said, citing songs from Matchbook Romance and Atreyu. "The rock is credible and hard."

And as for hip-hop, "A lot of it is pop music right now," he said, lamenting that moms are now aware of who the big rap stars are. In response, Schnur went more underground with this year's soundtrack. "We have really tried to establish where we think hip-hop is going, musically speaking," he said. He's particularly bullish on Dr. Dre protégé Bishop Lamont.

Ten acts will debut songs on "Madden" before releasing them on their own albums, including Audioslave, the Panic Channel and Shorty Da Kid. The soundtrack includes already-released tracks from artists such as Wolfmother, Lupe Fiasco, Underoath and Rise Against.

Whereas previously Schnur would have to ask for songs for "Madden," now artists come to him. According to Schnur, all of the music for the new game was pitched to EA by record labels because labels want the exposure. It makes selecting songs difficult, though there's one type of track Schnur had an easy time dismissing: songs about "Madden."

"We do get songs submitted to us, year after year, by sometimes very significant artists, who write songs for 'Madden,' " he sighed. "And they're always about, 'Throw me the ball,' 'Hit the "x" button.' " That's an approach Schnur stopped embracing a few years ago, especially when other game companies started featuring those types of songs. "I think it's a bit cliché," he said.

Schnur acknowledged that his annual "Madden" soundtrack announcements may soon become obsolete. All of the next-gen consoles are expected to support broadband-based online gameplay out of the box, encouraging gamers to get online and stay online. With that kind of setup, Schnur has pointed out in the past, EA could keep adding to the soundtrack of a game throughout the year.

So when's that happening? "It's almost here," he said. "By the time 'Madden 2008' comes out, we should be able to deliver some of the exciting ideas here. We're going to have a much deeper 24/7 relationship with 'Madden' gamers."

"Madden" soundtracks have solid track records, helping in previous years to launch Good Charlotte, Franz Ferdinand and Yellowcard. Green Day's "American Idiot" made its debut in "Madden 2005" (see "Green Day Unveiling New Song In 'Madden 2005' Video Game"). Combined with the fact that "Madden" is a multimillion-selling game every year, Schnur said he feels the pressure to find new hits.

"I need to know that in three months there will be X-million people who will go, 'Of course I love Atreyu! That's my "Madden" band.' "

"Madden NFL 07" will be released on all major home and portable gaming platforms in early August. The soundtrack will be included on all home consoles as well as Sony's PlayStation Portable.

Tracks that will debut on the "Madden NFL 07" soundtrack, according to EA:

  • Audioslave - "Revelations"
  • Bishop Lamont (featuring Chevy Jones) - "The Best"
  • Cord - "Go Either Way"
  • Dynamite MC - "Bounce"
  • Glasses Malone - "Right Now"
  • Omnisoul - "Not Giving Up"
  • Shorty Da Kid - "Get Loose"
  • Sparta - "Future Needs"
  • The Panic Channel - "Teahouse of the Spirits"
  • The Rapture - "WAYUH"