The only thing worse than getting a song stuck in your head is getting a terrible song stuck in your head. How these songs get stuck in there or why is a bit of a mystery. However, a new study has explored the music of the ages to discover which song is the most recognizable of them all.
The study took over a year to complete and was conducted by the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. They surveyed 12,000 people on a wide variety of songs to discover what song was the easiest to recognize. They used a sample of 1,000 songs based on the top 40 selling songs in each decade all the way back to the 1940s.
From there they simply played a number of games with the survey respondents to determine the answer. The first game asked survey respondents to hum along with a song and to continue humming in time when the music stopped. The test measured how in time they were with the song once it stopped playing. The second test asked listeners to hear two parts of a song and decide which is catchier. The third game simply asked listeners to recognize a song as fast as they could. The fourth and final game asked them to recognize as many songs as they could in a row.
The most recognizable song was found to be the Spice Girls, Wannabe. This was followed by Lou Bega’s Mambo Number 5. While it took an average of five seconds to recognize a song it took only 2.29 seconds to recognize the Spice Girls hit.
The researchers found it interesting that the release date of the song was not of particular relevance. It shows that some songs really are timeless classics and no matter in what era they were released, they will always stay with you. Despite someone not having heard a particular song for 10 years they could still recognize it in a few seconds.
The next step of the study is to dive into this phenomenon in more detail. The lead researcher says that the team wants to understand what exactly makes a song catchy. Dr. Ashley Burgoyne designed the study and believes that strong melodic hooks play the key role but this is just a hypothesis. There could be a special key that people associate with better or a particular timing that resonates well.
While this research sounds like a lot of fun, there are real benefits to it too. Dr. Burgoyne hopes that the findings will allow further research into dementia and possible solutions. The relationship between music and memory is a strong one and it could hold the key to unwrapping dementia. There is research already in existence that shows if you can find a track that has serious significance to a person with dementia it can be very therapeutic. However, as the person has dementia it can be difficult to find out what songs are special to them. If there are common things that make a song catchy there may be universal songs to help patients with memory issues.
The study is only in its first stage but it is already showing positive results that may be able to help with serious illnesses in the future. While the Spice Girls – Wannabe has likely done a lot of damage in its time it may now be able to do some good. This song and others may hold the key to helping patients with dementia. As the Spice Girls once said, “ I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah”. Wise, wise words.