What is the Catchiest Song of All Time? Let’s Ask Science!

There are plenty of songs that once lodged in your head stay there forever. If I had to make a list, it would include the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” “Respect” by Aretha Franklin and, worst of all, “It’s a Small World” from that goddam Disney ride.

But those are very personal choices. What if we were to apply scientific principles to the catchiness of songs? That’s what exactly researchers at the University of Amsterdam and the Museum of Science and History in Manchester set out to somehow quantify.

Using an interactive site called Hooked on Music (try it; I dare you), they asked 12,000 users to listen to the 40 top-selling songs of the past seven decades. Assuming that popularity correlates with catchiness, songs were judged on how quickly users could identify the song.

Out of all songs tested, the one people identified the quickest was–wait for it–“Wannabe,” the 1996 hit by the Spice Girls. The average time it took to ID the song was 2.29 seconds.

The rest of the Top 10 can be found here. You might be surprised at some of the findings. Get the full story on the study from The Independent.

The song song is going through your head now, isn’t it?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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