When was the last time you listened to Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” or “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega? Turns out that no matter how long it’s been, they’ll remain instantly recognizable to you.
Researchers in the U.K. just completed a year-long study in an attempt to find the world’s catchiest songs. (Apparently, they thought enough attention was going to cancer research.) Based on the results, we’re a little ashamed of our fellow humans’ choices in music, but it was a cool study nonetheless.
The research was relatively easy: The U.K.’s Museum of Science and Industry developed an online game called “Hooked on Music,” where players attempted to identify songs from their beginning notes. The game’s library spanned 1,000 clips of best-selling songs from the last several decades. Within the game, there were four ways to play. In “Recognise the Tune,” listeners heard a clip and hummed along, continuing when the music stopped and measuring how close they were to staying on time when the track began again. (We’d be terrible at this!) Another option was “Time Trial,” where users had to listen to snippets of songs and guess as many as they possibly could within a three-minute time frame. (We’d kill at this version!)
The study ran for a year and tested 12,000 participants. In the end, they used their collected data to configure a list of the 20 most catchy songs since the 1940s. The world’s catchiest song, “Wannabe,” became recognizable to viewers within 2.29 seconds!
We love a chance to “torture” our readers, so we’ve created a playlist of the study’s top 20 songs. By their standards, you probably don’t hate these songs… but they’re guaranteed to get stuck in your head! You’re welcome.
Any other songs you feel are even catchier than those in the playlist? Want a chance to test your own music recognition skills? You can play the game here.