“Music is great!” says stereo manufacturer, via paid scientist

Mathematical formula finds the number one song to listen to ‘if you wanna have a good time’

A mathematical formula has been created to discover the number one song that will really make you happy – and it’s not by Pharrell Williams.

Queen’s hit, Don’t Stop Me Now, topped the charts after expert in cognitive neuroscience and emotion, Dr Jacob Jolij, sifted through 126 songs from the last 50 years.

Source: Mirror, 17th September 2015


Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now is the top feel-good song of the past 50 years… and a scientific formula has proved it

Despite being released 37 years ago, Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now still has the ability to lift moods and fill the dance floor.

Now a neuroscientist has confirmed the impact it seems to have on listeners with an equation that shows it is the top feel-good song of the past 50 years.

The 1978 hit has just the right tempo, lyrics and is played in the musical key identified as producing a happy feeling.

Source: Daily Mail, 18th September 2015


Good old scientists – always working on the important stuff, right? Isn’t it amazing that a university would pay a professional scientist with public funds to spend all his time putting together formulae for things like pop songs? Isn’t that what science is all about and why so many people think it’s not something they should value?

Well, obviously, not quite: as ever with PR formulae, the ‘science’ is likely secondary to the PR, with the body commissioning the research using the legitimacy of a scientist’s reputation to give their advert more credibility. In this case, the scientist is Dr Jacob Jolij and the company dressing up their adverts as science is Alba, the stereo manufacturer:

Dr Jolij concocted the formula in a project with technology brand Alba, whose products are sold by Argos.

A survey by Alba found three quarters of people in Britain use music to lift their mood and 54 per cent use it to motivate themselves.

In stories like these, a quick look at the formula is always worthwhile:


The equation developed by Dr Jolij requires a combination of positive lyrics (L), a tempo of 150 beats per minute (BPM) and a major third musical key (K) to produce the ultimate feel good song (FGI)

So in essence, a song is a ‘feel good’ song if the lyrics are universally positive, if it has a reasonably fast tempo and if it isn’t in a minor key. I’d be astonished if those were findings that were lead by the ‘research’, rather than a conclusion outlined ahead of time which had a formula clunkily retro-fitted to it to make it seem impressive.

PR stories which use a ‘scientific’ formula as a hook come up from time to time, and I’ve covered plenty on this blog in the past. Whenever such stories arise, it’s worth highlighting that for many people, this is what they see of science: the silly PR puff-pieces that appear in the news, involving no real research and paid for by commercial bodies. These are the stories that carry the reputation of science, and these are the stories which leads some elements of the general public to assume that scientists are out of touch, wasting their time and our money on things are are never going to be important. Just take a look to the comments:

If it was real the "scientist" would have used it to write chart topping hits, and make millions (or billions). Every time I read DM I think of the term 'scientist' or 'expert' with less respect.

Each time a scientist accepts a commission from a PR company to create spurious research in order to push a product, a little of the legitimacy and public trust in science as a whole is cashed in. For my money, it’s a waste.