Study Finds What Makes A Song Popular

by Prachee published on -

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What makes a song worthy of the charts and so catchy that you can’t get it out of your head. A team of researchers has figured out that some aspects which are associated with a popular song include uncertainty and surprise.

Scientists at the Max-Planck-Gesselschaft, Germany conducted this study through a statistical-learning model that was trained to quantify the expectancy of 80,000 chords from famous American billboard hits. The chord progressions were also stripped of other original material such as lyrics and melody. The results found that two patterns could be associated with chord pleasantness. It was either low uncertainty and high surprise, or high uncertainty and low surprise.

Young man in a suit listening seeming happy listening to music while carrying a coffee cup

“In other words, what is crucial is the dynamic interplay between two temporally dissociable aspects of expectations: the anticipation beforehand, and the surprise afterward”, says Vincent Cheung, the lead scientist of the study. “On one hand, our results could be applied to assist composers or even computers in writing music. On the other, algorithms could be developed to predict musical trends and how well a song would do based on its structure. The possibilities are endless.”

This suggests that songs that progress by building a certain expectation only to take a surprising turn is liked by a majority. On the other hand, songs whose chord progression was harder to predict but it was not surprising also did well.

The results were published in the Current Biology journal.

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About the Author

Prachee is a content writer for Organic Facts and is responsible for writing on the latest wellness trends. A former Journalism & Media teacher, she prides herself on being able to seamlessly dabble between health, science, and technology. She has completed her Masters in Communication Studies from the University of Pune, India as well as an online course on “Introduction to Food and Health” from Stanford University, US. Prachee fancies herself to be a poet and a cook when the rare lightning of inspiration strikes.

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