What makes a great song? The beat? The lyrics? Its ‘catchability’? Scientists at the University of London came up with an algorithm to determine the most iconic song of all time, examining such factors as the number of beats per minute, key, and chord changes. “We looked at a range of measures for each song and compared them to see if there were similarities in these recordings which occur less in other songs,” comments Dr Mick Grierson, who adds that there is no formula for a great song. “Even by applying scientific process, what is considered iconic is ultimately up to the individual. My conclusion is that if you want a formula for creating great music, there is one: you just have to make something that sounds great.”
That doesn’t sound very scientific to me. I mean, I’m not a big fan of gravity; can I just ignore the scientific proof of its existence? Anyway, the team decided that Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the most iconic song ever, with classics such as Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean” and Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” close to the top. “Imagine” by John Lennon finished in the #2 spot, higher than the Beatles’ sole entry in the top ten: “Hey Jude.” The study, by the way, was carried out by Fiat for its new advertising campaign, so don’t be surprised if you hear classic tunes blaring from Fiat car stereos sometime soon.