Music is such a subjective thing, what might be one person’s favorite song ever, will be deemed as audible dog shit to another person. Thankfully sciencists have used their science machines to do thorough analysis and declare what the 50 most iconic songs of all-time are.
Computer scientist and musician, Dr. Mick Grierson, from Goldsmiths, University of London, examined songs featured in seven “all-time best” lists produced by newspapers and major music magazines including Rolling Stone, VH-1, NME and Q magazine. Then with the help of analytical software, he attempted to find similarities between the songs, which including their key, beats per minute, chord variety, lyrical content, timbral variety and sonic variance.
Dr. Grierson explained his experiment:
“We looked at a range of measures for each song and compared them to see if there were similarities in these recordings which occur less in other songs. We found the most significant thing these songs have in common is that most of them use sound in a very varied, dynamic way when compared to other records. This makes the sound of the record exciting, holding the listeners attention. By the same token, the sounds these songs use and the way they are combined is highly unique in each case.”
Dr. Grierson discovered that approximately 80 percent of the songs were in a major key and a similar proportion were in the keys of A, E, C or G. He also found the average tempo was 125 beats per minute, with around 40 percent being about 120BPM.
He also noticed that most of the songs had around 500 beats, except a few standouts including Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” which has more than double that number.
Analysis showed that chord changes were found to be low in most of the songs, all of songs had between six and eight.
Dr. Grierson did this exhaustive study after being commissioned by car manufacturer Fiat, who wanted to utilize the information to select a song they could use to promote the FIAT 500.
Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit,” was found to be the most iconic song of all-time. The song will be covered by singer songwriter Ella Eyre for an upcoming TV commercial for the new car.
The good doctor admitted that there is no magic formula for creating great music and everyone hears music differently. “Even by applying scientific process, what is considered iconic is ultimately up to the individual,” Dr. Grierson. “My conclusion is that if you want a formula for creating great music, there is one: you just have to make something that sounds great.”
Here are your 50 most iconic songs of all-time that you assuredly have issue with because no one can agree on music ever.
50. Best Of My Love, The Emotions
49. River Deep Mountain High, Ike and Tina Turner
48. A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke
47. When Doves Cry, Prince
46. Dancing In The Street, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
45. My Generation, The Who
44. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, The Righteous Brothers
43. God Only Knows, The Beach Boys
42. Sultans Of Swing, Dire Straits
41. What’d I Say, Ray Charles
40. Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stones
39. Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag, James Brown
38. Stand By Me, Ben E King
37. A Day In The Life, The Beatles
36. Every Breath You Take, The Police
35. Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley
34. No Woman No Cry, Bob Marley
33. Jonny B Good, Chuck Berry
32. Yesterday, The Beatles
31. Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
30. Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys
29. Dancing Queen, ABBA
28. Family Affair, Sky And The Family Stone
27. Respect, Aretha Franklin
26. Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel
25. Creep, Radiohead
24. Be My Baby, The Ronettes
23. Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen
22. What’s Goin’ On, Marvin Gaye
21. Over The Rainbow, Judy Garland
20. Heartbreak Hotel, Elvis Presley
19. Life On Mars? David Bowie
18. I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston
17. Live Forever, Oasis
16. The Twist, Chubby Checker
15. Stairway To Heaven, Led Zeppelin
14. Your Song, Elton John
13. Hotel California, The Eagles
12. Waterloo Sunset, The Kinks
11. London Calling, The Clash