Killjoy Scientists Develop Song Catchiness Test Algorithm

By Gary Cutlack on at

It might be possible to predict hit records to some degree of success, says a team of academics having fun measuring the structure of hit pop tunes at a university.

It all comes from a group at Durham University, which analysed music by asking 3,000 people to say which tracks tended to get stuck in their heads the most. They claim to have discovered that the key to catchiness is to use a generic melody to avoid scaring people with anything new, but to tweak this in a few places so there's some sort of memorable element within the song.

Dr Kelly Jakubowski from the university explained: "Our findings show that you can to some extent predict which songs are going to get stuck in people’s heads based on the song’s melodic content. This could help aspiring songwriters or advertisers write a jingle everyone will remember for days or months afterwards.

"These musically sticky songs seem to have quite a fast tempo along with a common melodic shape and unusual intervals or repetitions like we can hear in the opening riff of Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple or in the chorus of Bad Romance by Lady Gaga," she added. Which is all well and good, but is perhaps cheating a little by using songs we already know are catchy to explain catchiness.

So there might be a time in the future when a soulless automaton churns out endless hits according to an algorithm. Do a joke about a pop star you hate here. [Durham University via IB Times]

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