Researchers analyzed hundreds of songs that give people chills. Here’s the playlist that resulted.

We’ve all had the experience of getting chills and goosebumps from hearing a piece of music. Neuroscientists love studying these reactions because it offers insight into how the brain and the body process sounds we find pleasurable–a physical response scientists call “frisson.” Because, frankly, we’re still not sure why music can work in this way.

Some new research is in from Queen Mary University of London.

Researchers Rémi de Fleurian and his colleague Marcus Pearce, went through dozens of previous studies and compiled a list of more than 700 songs that have been tagged as chill-inducing. Then they took some Spotify data and matched each of these songs to another track by the same artist. The trick was this matching song had to be roughly the same length and had to have achieved the same level of popularity. The next step was to compare those two matched pieces for music, looking at things like mood, tempo, and so on.

From this analysis, they discovered that chill-inducing songs were “sadder, slower, less intense, and more instrumental than matched tracks.” They called this “sophisticated music,” which in this case means “relaxing, quiet, nondanceable, slow, nonelectric, and instrumental.” Examples include Prince’s “Purple Rain,” “Back to Black” from Amy Winehouse, and a number of versions Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

There is now a playlist of 715 of the most chill-inducing songs ever written. Note that it will take you more than 24 hours to listen to the whole thing. And you might need a sweater.

Read more at Quartz.

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.

2 thoughts on “Researchers analyzed hundreds of songs that give people chills. Here’s the playlist that resulted.

  • October 22, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    I don’t see how something as subjective as music can be given a quantifiable playlist that would be considered scientific unless you throw in a bunch of qualifiers – which then, essentially, makes it science for a small subset of the population.

    For example, people of a certain age think Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeah is the greatest love song ever while people of another think Somebody by Depeche Mode is that song, and so on. In each case, that chosen song, if the person were even *capable* of getting chills from music (see Alan’s post from earlier this year or last year) would probably react quite differently.

  • October 22, 2021 at 5:57 pm

    “The Coldest days of my life” by the Chilites should be on that list.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.