Last updated May 17, 2018 at 1:35 pm
It could predict which songs will be chart toppers or door stoppers.
Songs that top the charts are mostly sung by women, more upbeat, and ‘party-like’, according to scientists who may or may not be Eurovision fans.
After sifting through more than 500,000 songs released over the past 30 years and their success on the UK Singles Chart, scientists from the University of California Irvine claim to have cracked the formula of what makes songs successful.
They also showed how our tastes in music have been changing… and basically that these kids today don’t know what good music is /oldmanrant.
What makes a song hot?
Between 1985 and 2015 there was a clear rise of female artists, with pop music becoming less male-dominated.
There was also a decrease in the “happiness” and “brightness” of pop music overall.
However despite this overall trend towards gloominess, the songs that topped the charts were different. Compared to the other songs in the charts at the same time, hits are more likely to be ‘happier’, more ‘party-like’, less ‘relaxed’, and more ‘female’.
And who pulls that off better than anyone? Queen B.
“What is very surprising to discover is that successful songs behave almost like a different species,” said Professor Natalia Komarova, who led the work.
“They have their own trends and are quantifiably different from average songs.”
Predicting smash hits
Now they had cracked the code of what makes a song hot or not, could artists or record companies predict whether a track is going to scorch the charts or whimper away like a new Good Charlotte song?
The researchers trained a computer using machine learning to predict the success of songs. First they used solely how the songs sounded and whether they fit the profile of a hit, and then added an extra powerful factor – whether the artist was already a superstar.
They found they could predict whether a song would be a killer or a filler 85% of the time.
It’s not as easy as following a formula to create a pop hit, however. After looking at so many songs they found that while some hits followed or even set these overall trends, others did call back on past styles.
“Music, and in particular songs, rarely leave people unmoved,” the authors wrote. “There is something magical about music, and scientists have been trying to disentangle the magic.”
At the end of the day though, while this might be interesting for artists and record companies, for us there’s only one thing to know – if you like something, listen to it.
The research has been published in Royal Society Open Science