Feeds

Boffins prove Queen ballad 'world's most catchy song'

We are the Champions hits right note

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Enterprising "music scientists" have declared Queen's 1977 cheesy power ballad We are the Champions as the world's catchiest song after thoroughly analysing it.

Certain features of Freddie Mercury's voice stir a primal urge in us, gush the boffins, and make us more likely to raise our voices in a chant and then, er, follow him into battle. So says musicologist Dr Alisun Pawley, who has just completed a PhD in "singability" at York University, and Goldsmiths music psychologist Dr Daniel Müllensiefen.

They believe that singing along to a song is "a subconscious war cry" that keys into an inherent tribal part of our consciousness. And that's why songs sung by men tend to be catchier: "Psychologically we look to men to lead us into battle, so it could be in our intuitive nature to follow male-fronted songs."

But not any old male-fronted song. A higher male voice with noticeable vocal effort indicates high energy and purpose, say Pawley and Müllensiefen, particularly when combined with a small vocal range. Both Mercury and rock boss Bon Jovi seem to have the requisite voice qualities.

Otherwise phrase length and pitch complexity are the attributes that make a song catchy.

"Longer and detailed musical phrases – the breath a vocalist takes as they sing a line is crucial to creating a sing-along-able tune," their overtly technical statement explains. "The longer a vocal in one breath, the more likely we are to succumb to a sing-song."

And a final crucial characteristic is the number of pitches in the chorus's hook. And the more the better. "The more sounds there are, the more infectious a song becomes" say the researchers. The ultimate catchy songs combined longer musical phrases and a hook over three different pitches.

The research, based on Pawley's PhD, has been published as part of a campaign to get the kids interested in science and engineering and to encourage entries to the National Science & Engineering Competition for 11-18 year olds.

Top 10 most annoying songs

By their reckoning, these are the top ten catchiest songs of all time:

  1. We are the Champions, Queen (1977)
  2. Y.M.C.A, The Village People (1978)
  3. Fat Lip, Sum 41 (2001)
  4. The Final Countdown, Europe (1986)
  5. Monster, The Automatic (2006)
  6. Ruby, The Kaiser Chiefs (2007)
  7. I’m Always Here, Jimi Jamison (1996)
  8. Brown Eyed Girl, Van Morrison (1967)
  9. Teenage Dirtbag, Wheatus (2000)
  10. Livin’ on a Prayer, Bon Jovi (1986)

Apologies, Reg readers: you'll probably be stuck with these in your head all day now. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Nintend-OH NO! Sorry, Mario – your profits are in another castle
Red-hatted mascot, red-colored logo, red-stained finance books
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.