Scientists name the ultimate earworm and explain what makes songs addictive

Top 20 official earworms includes a lot of Queen

Scientists at the University of St Andrews have named the Top 20 official earworms in a study as to what makes songs addictive.

The team of researchers at the university’s School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies also developed a mathematical formula for explaining what makes an earworm.

Researcher Bede Williams said an earworm needs five key components: surprise, predictability, rhythmic repetition, melodic potency and receptiveness (how the listener feels about the song).


The formula is expressed as Receptiveness + (predictability-surprise) + (melodic potency) + (rhythmic repetition x1.5) = earworm. The most addictive earworm was named as Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’, with the band having three songs in the Top 20 alongside ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘We Are The Champions’. ‘Jingle Bells’ was the oldest song in the list.

In no way casting doubt on the research, the study was carried out for Heinz’s new #cansongs TV advert.

Williams said: “If you look at the songs which emerged from the research, they all have a distinctive rhythmic fingerprint. If we remove the melody, they’re still recognisable by their rhythm alone.”

The Top 20 earworms named by the University of St Andrews are:
1) Queen – ‘We Will Rock You’
2) Pharrell Williams – ‘Happy’
3) Queen – ‘We Are The Champions’
4) The Proclaimers – ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’
5) The Village People – ‘YMCA’
6) Queen – ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
7) Europe – ‘The Final Countdown’
8) Bon Jovi – ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’
9) James Pierpoint – ‘Jingle Bells’
10) Baha Men – ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’
11) Psy – ‘Gangnam Style’
12) Rick Astley – ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’
13) Journey – ‘Don’t Stop Believin’
14) Mark Ronson – ‘Uptown Funk’
15) Taylor Swift – ‘Shake It Off’
16) Michael Jackson – ‘Beat It’
17) Kaiser Chiefs – ‘Ruby’
18) The Rocky Horror Show – ‘The Timewarp’
19) Meghan Trainor – ‘All About The Bass’
20) Culture Club – ‘Karma Chameleon’

You May Also Like




More Stories