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A study conducted by UK researchers has produced a list of the 10 catchiest pop songs since the 1940s, as determined by science. Carried out by the University of Amsterdam, the study revealed that the catchiest song belongs to none other than defunct British girl group Spice Girls.
The study was developed by Dr John Ashley Burgone, a man with the amazing job title of “computational musicologist”. Data was collected from over 12,000 participants using an interactive online game called Hooked on Music game, which records how quickly subjects recognise more than 220 of the UK’s best-selling songs.
“We were particularly interested in music and memory and why exactly it is that certain pieces of music stay in your memory for such a long time,” Burgoyne told BBC News. “You may only hear something a couple of times yet 10 years later you immediately realise that you have heard it before. Yet other songs, even if you have heard them a lot, do not have this effect.”
The study was conducted to identify whether or not catchy songs have similar characteristics. Music industry insiders and fellow researchers have previously suggested that pop songs do actually share many characteristics. Burgoyne has said that understanding how musical memory works can help research into dementia.
While Spice Girls took out first place in this study, other notable names in the top 10 include Lou Bega, Lady Gaga, ABBA, Michael Jackson and Survivor. View the full list with accompanying music videos, below. The Hooked on Music game will be available online until the end of the year.
1. Spice Girls – Wannabe
Wannabe, the debut single from Spice Girls, took people an average of 2.3 seconds to recognise, compared to a combined average of 5 seconds for the pool of tracks used in the study. The song sold seven million copies worldwide, and won Best Single at the 1997 Brit Awards, despite some critics disliking the track.
2. Lou Bega – Mambo No. 5
Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5 was the second most recognisable track, clocking in at 2.48 seconds. Bega’s track is actually a version of the mambo song recorded and composed by Cuban Dámaso Pérez Prado in 1949. Bega’s version appeared on his 1999 album A Little Bit of Mambo, and has gone on to soundtrack school discos ever since.
3. Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger
Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger came in third, needing only 2.62 seconds to be recognised by the public. The song was written for the movie Rocky III, at the request of actor Sylvester Stallone, who couldn’t get permission to use Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust.
4. Lady Gaga – Just Dance
The most recent song included in this list, Just Dance was Lady Gaga’s debut single, and catapulted her to international fame. Contrasting against the other tracks in the top 10, which are largely about love, the central theme of Just Dance is being intoxicated at a nightclub.
5. ABBA – SOS
SOS was Swedish pop group ABBA’s third single. Fun fact: SOS is the only #1 Australian single in which both the title and the artist are palindromes.
6. Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman
Roy Orbison’s Oh, Pretty Woman was released in 1964, and went on to sell seven million copies.
7. Michael Jackson – Beat It
Beat It appears on the best selling album of all time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Eddie Van Halen famously features on the song’s overdriven guitar solo, but was sadly not allowed to appear in the song’s music video.
8. Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You
The late Whitney Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You is a definite tear-jerker. Houston recorded the song for the 1992 film The Bodyguard, and it has since become one of the best selling singles of all time.
9. The Human League – Don’t You Want Me
British synthpop heroes The Human League made number nine on the list with Don’t You Want Me, the song often misprinted as Don’t You Want Me Baby due to its insanely catchy vocal line.
10. Aerosmith – I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing
Aerosmith’s 1998 power ballad I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing was written for the 1998 film Armageddon, and later appeared, strangely enough, in the 2013 video game Saints Row IV. The song closes out the list at number 10.