May 25, 2023
“Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys tops the charts as the song that makes people happiest, according to a university professor’s scientific formula. The 1966 hit single checks all the boxes for Michael Bonshor, Ph.D., who specializes in Music Psychology at the University of Sheffield in Britain, reports Study Finds.
To create a happy song, Dr. Bonshor believes in the combination of a major key, 7th chords, 137 BPM, a strong beat, four beats in every bar, and a verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. The ditty also should have a short intro, repeated riffs, high volume, bright tone, and a mix of predictability and surprise.
The top ten list of happy songs, according to Bonshor’s formula includes the following:
- “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys
- “I Got You” (I Feel Good) by James Brown
- “House of Fun” by Madness
- “Get the Party Started” by P!nk
- “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel
- “Sun Is Shining” by Bob Marley
- “I Get Around” by The Beach Boys
- “YMCA” by Village People
- “Waterloo” by ABBA
- “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire
“Previous studies have found that songs are perceived to be happy if they are in a major key, with a sweet spot of approximately 137 beats per minute,” Dr. Bonshor says in a statement. “We like ‘7th chords’ as they add interest; regular chords use three notes, whereas ‘7th chords’ add an extra note which provides a sense of musical ‘tension’ and ‘relief.’”
“Alongside this, cheery songs usually have a strong 1-2-1-2 beat to them, so that you can dance along—and a short introduction means the song kicks off with a bang straight away, and there’s not a long build up,” Dr. Bonshor notes.
“We like high volume when it comes to how our happy songs are made, with notes played in a bright and bouncy way by instruments such as trumpets or electric guitars instead of mellower instruments. Finally, a repetitive rhythm or guitar riff that people can latch onto and becomes memorable is the cherry on the cake.”
But it’s not just Dr. Bonshor who believes in the ability of some music to lift our spirits. In a recent poll conducted by OnePoll, 46% of adults said singing along to their favorite tracks is a great way to boost their mood. Of those who have specific tunes they turn to in order to cheer up, on average, they have eight numbers on rotation which do the trick.
Nearly six in ten (58%) say these songs have an upbeat feel to them, and the same percentage say they remind them of good memories which put a smile on their face. Meanwhile, 38% say most of their happy tracks were released throughout their teenage years.
The poll also finds that it takes an average of just 14 seconds for these songs to start working their magic. Pop, rock, and dance rank as the three happiest genres of music, while 71% feel music is one of the most powerful influences for changing or reinforcing their mood. Half believe the power of music is actually underestimated, and 38% recognize it can deliver amazing highs and lows.
When reflecting on why music is important to them, 48% put it down to the powerful memories it can evoke and 29% like the fact that they can share it with others. Another 36% have even put on uplifting music around loved ones when they are feeling down to try and lift their spirits.
While half of those who tune in regularly do so within the comforts of their home, 25% consume the most while they are driving.
Research contact: @StudyFinds