Can't get you out of my head: why some tunes are catchier than others
Published 03/11/2016 | 19:10
It will be music to the ears of artists hoping to write their next number one single. Scientists have finally discovered the secret to making a tune so catchy it gets stuck inside the head for hours.
Irritating loops of music which lodge in the brain are dubbed ‘earworms’ and researchers have discovered they follow certain patterns.
After asking 3,000 people to rate which pop songs were the most catchy, they found that those which stick in the mind contain musical phrases which follow the patterns of nursery rhymes.
For example, ‘Moves Like Jagger’ by Maroon 5, follows the same melodic phrasing as 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'.
The catchiest pieces of music also had a faster tempo and unusual or unexpected intervals in the rhythm, such as The Knack’s ‘My Sharona.’
Dr Kelly Jakubowski, of Durham University said: "Our findings show that you can to some extent predict which songs are going to get stuck in people's heads based on the song's melodic content.
"This could help aspiring song-writers or advertisers write a jingle everyone will remember for days or months afterwards.
"These musically sticky songs seem to have quite a fast tempo along with a common melodic shape and unusual intervals or repetitions like we can hear in the opening riff of 'Smoke On The Water' by Deep Purple or in the chorus of 'Bad Romance' by Lady Gaga."
Overall, Lady Gaga’s 'Bad Romance' was found to be most catchy tune, followed by ‘Can’t Get You Outta My Head’ by Kylie Minogue and Journey’s 'Don’t Stop Believin''.
Tips to get rid of an irritating song include playing it all the way through, listening to another tune like the national anthem to force it out of your mind or simply allowing it to fade away on its own.
Dr Jakubowski, added: "We already know that recent and frequent exposure to a song makes it more likely to get stuck in your head and people who sing and listen to music a lot tend to get earworms more often than others.
"We now also know that, regardless of the chart success of a song, there are certain features of the melody that make it more prone to getting stuck in people's heads like some sort of private musical screensaver."
The study was published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts.