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Ongoing History Daily: The catchiest song of all time

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 stupid Disney ride.  But 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, 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. Now the song is stuck in your head. You’re welcome.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

Alan Cross has 38452 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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