It's happened to all of us. We hear a song and then we're humming it all day and can't get it out of our minds. According to a recent study out of the University of London, there's a scientific reason for it.
According to a recent news release issued by the university, music psychologists have identified the scientific properties that give certain melodies the 'sing-along-able' factor.
The research monitored the behaviour of thousands of people as they sang along to more than a thousand tunes. The fieldwork, undertaken by expert musicologist Dr. Alisun Pawley and Dr. Daniel Mullensiefen, from the Department of Psychology, uncovered the common traits in songs that are most 'catchy'.
The four core elements that trigger people's inclination to sing are:
1. Longer and detailed musical phrases. The breath a vocalist takes as they sing a line is crucial to creating a sing-along-able tune. The longer a vocal in one breath, the more likely we are to sing along.
2. A greater number of pitches in the chorus hook. The more sounds there are, the more infectious a song becomes. Combining longer musical phrases and a hook over three different pitches was found to be key to sing-along success.
3. Male vocalists. Singing along to a song may be a subconscious war cry, tapping into an inherent tribal part of our consciousness. Psychologically we look to men to lead us into battle, so it could be in our intuitive nature to follow male-fronted songs.
4. Higher male voices with noticeable vocal effort. This indicates high energy and purpose, particularly when combined with a smaller vocal range.
What's the catchiest song of all time? According to the researchers it's Queen's 1977 classic 'We are the Champions' at the top of their most sing-along-able list, making it more likely to get listeners joining in than any other song. Take a listen and see if you agree.
Dr Mullensiefen said: "Every musical hit is reliant on maths, science, engineering and technology, from the physics and frequencies of sound that determine pitch and harmony, to the hi-tech digital processors and synthesisers that can add effects to make a song more catchy.
"We've discovered that there's a science behind the sing-along and a special combination of neuroscience, maths and cognitive psychology can produce the elusive elixir of the perfect sing-along song. We hope that our study will inspire musicians of the future to crack the equation for the textbook tune."
Top ten sing-along songs
1. 'We are the Champions', Queen (1977)
2. 'Y.M.C.A', The Village People (1978)
3. 'Fat Lip', Sum 41 (2001)
4. 'The Final Countdown', Europe (1986)
5. 'Monster', The Automatic (2006)
6. 'Ruby', The Kaiser Chiefs (2007)
7. 'I'm Always Here', Jimi Jamison (1996)
8. 'Brown Eyed Girl', Van Morrison (1967)
9. 'Teenage Dirtbag', Wheatus (2000)
10. 'Livin' on a Prayer', Bon Jovi (1986)
Question: What's the one song you can't get out of your mind?