Researchers in the U.K. have given the Spice Girls another accolade to go along with their hits from the 1990s. The girl group’s 1996 chart-topper “Wannabe” is the catchiest of approximately 220 hit songs from the past several decades.
Scientists at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, in association with the University of Amsterdam, created an online game called “Hooked on Music,” where users were tasked with recognizing a song as quickly as possible. More than 1,000 clips of the popular songs are in the game. The songs chosen were the top 40 selling tracks from each decade, from the 1940s to the present day.
The Guardian reports that users recognized “Wannabe” in an average of 2.3 seconds, compared to an average of 5 seconds for other songs.
On the “Hooked on Music” website, game creators acknowledge that many Beatles tracks populate the database because the group dominated the charts in the 1960s. Perhaps surprisingly, no Beatles tracks made the top 20 most-recognizable list.
The University of Amsterdam professor who created the project, Ashley Burgoyne, told BBC News that he and his team wanted to study what makes people remember music — a phenomenon that has barely been studied.
“I work within a group that studies music cognition in general – any way in which the brain processes music — and 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. 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.”
Dr. Burgoyne said knowing what makes music memorable is relevant to other areas of scientific study.
“While it is fun to know this — because people love music but in the long run — if we have a better understanding of how the musical memory works, we are hopeful that we can move into research on people with dementia. There has already been some research that shows that if you can find the right piece of music, something that had a very strong meaning, playing that piece of music can be very therapeutic. But the challenge is figuring out what is the best piece of music.”
As published by the Independent, here is the list of the twenty catchiest songs, according to the experiment.
- Spice Girls – Wannabe – 2.29 seconds
- Lou Bega – Mambo No. 5 – 2.48 seconds
- Survivor – Eye of the Tiger – 2.62 seconds
- Lady Gaga – Just Dance – 2.66 seconds
- ABBA – SOS – 2.73 seconds
- Roy Orbison – Pretty Woman – 2.73 seconds
- Michael Jackson – Beat It – 2.80 seconds
- Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You – 2.83 seconds
- The Human League – Don’t You Want Me – 2.83 seconds
- Aerosmith – I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – 2.84 seconds
- Lady Gaga – Poker Face – 2.88 seconds
- Hanson – Mmmmbop – 2.89 seconds
- Elvis Presley – It’s Now Or Never – 2.91 seconds
- Bachman-Turner Overdrive – You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet – 2.94 seconds
- Michael Jackson – Billie Jean – 2.97 seconds
- Culture Club – Karma Chameleon – 2.99 seconds
- Britney Spears – Baby One More Time – 2.99 seconds
- Elvis Presley – Devil in Disguise – 3.01 seconds
- Boney M. – Rivers of Babylon – 3.03 seconds
- Elton John – Candle in the Wind – 3.04 seconds
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