Rutgers Researchers Crack Pop-Song Formula

Having a number one has never been easier -- move over The KLF. Shaun Ellis and Tom Engelhardt, two Rutgers graduate students, used substantive data over the last 50 years of pop music to visualize what it takes to make a hit.

Turns out it's more than just big-city dreams: Data analyzed include tempo, song lengths, keys and record labels. The study also takes into account more subjective factors, including "energy" and "danceability," both of which I'm glad someone finally quantified. Curiously, the duo didn't factor in "agitation," "haircuts" or "drugs." Here's their opening statement:

"What if we knew, for example, that 80% of the Billboard Hot 100 number one singles from 1960-2010 are sung in a major key with an average of 135 beats per minute, that they all follow a I-III-IV chord progression in 4/4 time signature, and that they all follow a "verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus" sequence structure?"

I think we did already know that -- these dudes just seem to have articulated it through many impressive graphs. I mean, they are really dynamic and colorful. Someone needs to figure out how to turn these charts into musical scores -- ultra-meta-music.

To sift through all the data analytically, the developers concocted a helpful interface. They say, for example, you could find only songs between 1963 and 1981 in the key of C released on the Motown label, peaking at number 5. Pretty impressive. I feel like that's a really specific set of criteria to not know the song you're looking for, but hey, there it is. (Via Chartporn)

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