Scientist Identifies the Top 10 ‘Feel-Good’ Songs

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The next time you’re feeling down, try listening to one of the songs listed below.

A formula created by a neuroscientist has determined they are the most “feel-good” songs from the past half-century.

The formula was devised by Jacob Jolij of the Netherlands’ University of Groningen. Jolij has specialized in the use of music to manipulate mood.

His latest research was commissioned by British technology brand Alba, which had conducted a large customer survey about musical preference, including the British respondents’ favorite songs to improve their moods.

Jolij explains on his blog:

Basically, they asked me whether I could find a general pattern in the songs that respondents reported as “feel-good songs” and whether they could use this pattern to come up with a “formula.” …

Music appreciation is highly personal and strongly depends on social context and personal associations. In that respect, the idea of a “feel-good formula” is a bit odd … Fortunately, music does have specific features that are known to play an important role in emotional reception of songs.

Jolij analyzed 126 songs dating back to the early 1960s and identified three features that the uplifting tunes generally share in common. Those features are:

  • Tempo: The average tempo of the feel-good songs (140 to 150 beats per minute) is higher than that of the average pop song (118 BPM).
  • Key: All but two or three of the feel-good songs are in a major key rather than a minor key.
  • Lyrical theme: Most of the feel-good songs are about positive events like going to the beach, going to a party or doing something with your loved one.

For those who are not mathematically or musically inclined, Alba released a list of the songs that came out on top based on Jolij’s formula.

The top 10 feel-good songs are:

  • “Don’t Stop Me Now” (Queen)
  • “Dancing Queen” (Abba)
  • “Good Vibrations” (The Beach Boys)
  • “Uptown Girl” (Billy Joel)
  • “Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor)
  • “I’m a Believer” (The Monkees)
  • “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (Cyndi Lauper)
  • “Livin’ on a Prayer” (Bon Jovi)
  • “I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor)
  • “Walking on Sunshine” (Katrina & The Waves)

The most feel-good song releases of each decade are:

  • 2010s — “Happy” (Pharrell Williams)
  • 2000s — “Dancing in the Moonlight” (Toploader)
  • 1990s — “Let Me Entertain You” (Robbie Williams)
  • 1980s — “Uptown Girl” (Billy Joel)
  • 1970s — “Don’t Stop Me Now” (Queen)
  • 1960s — “Good Vibrations” (The Beach Boys)

What’s your favorite feel-good song? Share your thoughts in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

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