Still can't stop humming Spice Girls' 1996 hit song "Wannabe" after all these years? Turns out, there is a scientific reason for that. Based on an interactive online experiment, researchers from the University of Amsterdam have come to the conclusion that the UK girl band's debut single is the catchiest song.
The researchers teamed up with the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, UK to determine why certain songs are catchier than the others and developed an interactive online game called "Hooked on Music". Participants of the game were asked to recognise a random song, taken out of a loop of 1,000 best-selling songs dating from the 1940s till date.
BBC reports that participants recognised Spice Girls' "Wannabe" in about 2.29 seconds, while the average time taken to recognise most other popular songs was about five seconds.
Data from more than 12,000 participants suggest that with an average recognition time of 2.48 seconds, Lou Bega's "Mambo No 5" is the second catchiest song, while Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" with an average recognition time of 2.62 is earned the third place.
Ashley Burgoyne, a computational musicologist from the University of Amsterdam and the developer of "Hooked on Music" said, "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."
Burgoyne and his team wanted to see if it was possible to identify any shared characteristics of catchy, popular songs, since there are no dependable studies on the subject. "There are lots of ideas [about] why this is the case but very, very little empirical research," he confirms.
"Hooked on Music" is expected to remain active at least till the end of the year and will pave for further research on not just remembering catchy songs, but also on dementia and Alzheimer's further down the road.
"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," said Burgoyne.
Here's the full list of the top 20 catchy songs of all time according to the study:
- Spice Girls, "Wannabe"
- Lou Bega, "Mambo No. 5"
- Survivor, "Eye Of The Tiger"
- Lady Gaga, "Just Dance"
- ABBA, "SOS"
- Roy Orbison, "Pretty Woman"
- Michael Jackson, "Beat It"
- Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You"
- The Human League, "Don't You Want Me"
- Aerosmith, "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing"
- Lady Gaga, "Poker Face"
- Hanson, "Mmmmbop
- Elvis Presley, "It's Now Or Never
- Bachman-Turner Overdrive, "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet"
- Michael Jackson, "Billie Jean"
- Culture Club, "Karma Chameleon
- Britney Spears, "Baby One More Time"
- Elvis Presley, "Devil in Disguise
- Boney M., "Rivers of Babylon"
- Elton John, "Candle in the Wind"