20 Songs Most Likely to Get Stuck in Your Head -- According to Science (PHOTOS)

Kelly Bryant | Nov 7, 2014 Celebrities

Believe it or not, there is a science to how catchy a song is, or at least so says the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England, which dedicated an entire year to a study on the subject.

Dr. Ashley Burgoyne, a computational musicologist and designer of the survey at the University of Amsterdam, tells the BBC:

I work within a group that studies music cognition in general -- any way in which the brain processes music -- and we were particularly interested in music and memory and why exactly it is that certain pieces of music stay in your memory for such a long time.

More than 12,000 people were surveyed through an online game called Hooked on Music containing clips from over 1,000 songs produced over the past 70 years. The average overall time it took a participant to recognize a song clip was five seconds. Essentially, the songs which took the least amount of time for those surveyed to correctly identify are deemed the catchiest.

Without giving too much away, I take umbrage with this list because it contains zero tracks from Madonna or Katy Perry. Then again, I was never very good at science.

Let's count backward from the study's 20th catchiest song of all time and work our way up to number one to find out if you agree with the list and the ranking.

If you could add one song to the list, what would it be?


Image via Amazon

  • #20: 'Candle in the Wind' -- Elton John

    1

    So a sweeping ballad may not be the first track that comes to mind when you think of a catchy tune, but I dare you to not belt out "Candle in the Wind" when you hear it in the car. Seriously -- I dare you.

  • #19: 'Rivers of Babylon' -- Boney M

    2

    I've gotta be honest, I pride myself in knowing a lot about pop culture, but I had to look this one up. I'm not sure "Rivers of Babylon" would make my catchiest songs of all time list, but that album cover is pretty much everything.

  • #18: 'Devil in Disguise' -- Elvis Presley

    3

    They don't call him The King for nothing. This isn't the only time you'll see Elvis pop up on this list; I just can't believe it isn't for something like "A Little Less Conversation" or "Hound Dog."

  • #17: 'Baby One More Time' -- Britney Spears

    4

    Now you're speaking my language, Science. But really? Britney Spears only ranks at number 17? This is not okay ... and you'll see why when we get to number two. Sit tight.

  • #16: 'Karma Chameleon' -- Culture Club

    5

    We're definitely picking up some momentum with this list -- "Karma Chameleon" is so hooky, there's no way one can hear it without at least humming along.

  • #15: 'Billie Jean' -- Michael Jackson

    6

    I'm moonwalking in my mind right now. I'm on board with "Billie Jean," and don't fret Michael Jackson fanatics, there's more from the King of Pop to come.

  • #14: 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet' -- Bachman-Turner Overdrive

    7

    "Ba-ba-ba-ba-baby, you ain't seen nothing yet." I love this song, and up until today, I didn't even know who performed it. I didn't know such a thing as Bachman-Turner Overdrive existed. Now that I do, I'm happy to put these guys in all of their '80s glory with a song that has definitely gotten stuck in my head on many occasions.

  • #13: 'It's Now or Never' -- Elvis Presley

    8

    Again, not my choice for catchiest Elvis tune, but I'm happy to see the icon get some love on this list.

  • #12: 'MMMbop' -- Hanson

    9

    Love them, hate them, or feel totally indifferent about them, Hanson created one of the hookiest songs on the planet when they made "MMMbop." There's simply no denying it, so just go with it.

  • #11: 'Poker Face' -- Lada Gaga

    10

    Settle in, Little Monsters, because we have now entered the Lady Gaga portion of the top 20. Don't worry if you don't agree that Mama Monster's "Poker Face" isn't her catchiest hit of all time, because she has another track on the list a little further ahead.

  • #10: 'I Don't Want to Miss a Thing' -- Aerosmith

    11

    Not many slow tracks made the list, but Aerosmith cracks the top 10 with their power ballad from Armageddon, which is pretty darn well deserved given how long the Boston boys have been at this rock thing.

  • #9: 'Don't You Want Me' -- The Human League

    12

    There are so many amazing songs from the '80s that I actually don't mind having stuck in my head, and "Don't You Want Me" is definitely among them. I don't know what else you perform (aside from "Human"), Human League, but this one's a winner.

  • #8: 'I Will Always Love You' -- Whitney Houston

    13

    Those vocals, those lyrics, that movie -- "I Will Always Love You" ruled the '90s. Again, it's one of those belt-it-out ballads that is criminal not to sing in the car or at home when you're feeling a tad bit melancholy (or maybe that's just me?).

  • #7: 'Beat It' -- Michael Jackson

    14

    I'm pretty sure it's illegal to leave "Beat It" off of a catchiest songs list. Like, someone over there in Manchester would have gotten arrested if this didn't make it in the top 20, so it's a good thing it did.

  • #6: 'Pretty Woman' -- Roy Orbison

    15

    "Pretty Woman" is toe-tapping good fun and I'm so glad the movie of the same name gave new life to the classic tune.

  • #5: 'SOS' -- ABBA

    16

    If ABBA wasn't on this list somewhere, I'd have to call BS on the whole study, so I'm really relieved to see them lodged right here at number five with "SOS."

  • #4: 'Just Dance' -- Lady Gaga

    17

    I told you she'd be back on the list, Little Monsters, and with the initial hit that made her famous, no less.

  • #3: 'Eye of the Tiger' -- Survivor

    18

    Can you go anywhere in the modern world where "Eye of the Tiger" hasn't been played? I don't think so. From Rocky to sporting events, Survivor knew what they were doing on this pumped up track.

  • #2: 'Mambo No. 5' -- Lou Bega

    19

    And this is where we part ways, Science. Really? "Mambo No. 5"? Why don't you just throw "Who Let the Dogs Out" and "Macarena" in there as well? No, no, and no. I knew I didn't like you in seventh grade, Science, and I really don't like you for citing this as the second catchiest song of all time.

  • #1: 'Wannabe' -- Spice Girls

    20

    Sorry, Science, maybe I was a bit too hard on you about that number two pick because you have totally nailed it on number one. If you hear "Wannabe" and don't instinctively get up to dance or at least emphatically say, "Zigazig ah," you might want to check your pulse because you could be dead inside.

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