British Daily Mail and GeekWire report on another computer science research into modern culture. This time around, computer scientist and musician Dr. Mick Grierson, from Goldsmiths, University of London, using specialized software, took it upon himself to find out what are the main characteristics of top 50 iconic songs and rank them.
Grierson checked out seven ‘best of’ lists created by major music press like Rolling Stone, VH1, NME and Q Magazine, and added a few other produced by some other newspapers. As Daily Mail notes, he “then used analytical software to examine what it is that appears to make these tracks iconic, including their key, the number of beats per minute, chord variety, lyrical content, timbral variety, and sonic variance.”
His results put Nirvana’s “Smell Like Teen Spirit” at the top of this list, followed by John Lennon’s “Imagine,” U2’s “One,” Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
As Grierson himself said, “Ultimately there is no ‘formula’ for this, other than to make your song sound as different, diverse and exciting as possible. Even by applying the scientific process, what is considered iconic is ultimately up to the individual. 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.”
The whole project was actually commissioned by the Italian carmaker Fiat, which wanted to use the proclaimed winner to promote its FIAT 500 model. The company kept its word and asked singer-songwriter Ella Eyre to remaster the song for a TV commercial launching the new model.