The Top 20 Catchiest Songs Ever, According to Science
Published Nov 05, 2014A few years ago, a team of British scientists determined that Queen's "We Are the Champions" was the catchiest song ever. Now, a new study has emerged with rather different findings.
Researchers from Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry found that "Wannabe" by Spice Girls is the most instantly recognizable song. Rounding out the top five are "Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…)" by Lou Bega, "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor, "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga and "SOS" by ABBA.
The study was conduced via an online game called Hooked on Music. This included clips of 1,000 songs from the past 70 years — that is, the 40 best-selling hits from each decade going all the way back to the '40s.
Data from more than 12,000 people was used in the study. Participants could play four different modes: "Recognize That Tune?" (where users must hum along with a song after it cuts out), "What's the Hook?" (choosing which of two songs is catchier), "Time Trail" (recognizing as many songs as possible in three minutes) and "In a Row" (recognizing as many songs as possible in a row).
In other words, this study seems to be more about recognizability rather than catchiness, which perhaps explains why very new and very old songs mostly didn't fare very well. (Music from the '70s up until the '90s dominated the findings.)
Ashley Burgoyne of the University of Amsterdam, who designed the study, told the BBC, "The most important aspect of this stage of the experiment was getting this very precise measurement of exactly how memorable segments of the songs are. What I am going to focus on for the next year is asking what explains this; what are the musical features that makes something catchy? Although this is just a casual observation on my part, very strong melodic hooks seem to be the most memorable for people."
The researchers hope to learn about how music memory works, with the goal that they will be able to use this to help people with dementia.
See the list of the top 20 catchiest songs below.
1. Spice Girls - "Wannabe"
2. Lou Bega - "Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…)"
3. Survivor - "Eye of the Tiger"
4. Lady Gaga - "Just Dance"
5. ABBA - "SOS"
6. Roy Orbison - "Pretty Woman"
7. Michael Jackson - "Beat It"
8. Whitney Houston - "I Will Always Love You"
9. The Human League - "Don't You Want Me"
10. Aerosmith - "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"
11. Lady Gaga - "Poker Face"
12. Hanson - "MMMbop"
13. Elvis Presley - "It's Now or Never"
14. Bachman-Turner Overdrive - "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet"
15. Michael Jackson - "Billie Jean"
16. Culture Club - "Karma Chameleon"
17. Britney Spears - "Baby, One More Time"
18. Elvis Presley - "Devil in Disguise"
19. Boney M - "Rivers of Babylon"
20. Elton John - "Candle in the Wind"