Nav: Home

C'mon get happy: Upbeat songs by female singers dominate the charts, UCI study finds

May 15, 2018

Irvine, Calif., May 15, 2018 - Roll over, Beethoven. Elvis Presley too. Female singers with upbeat dance songs are far more likely to make the bestseller music charts, according to new findings by University of California, Irvine researchers. Yet the number of happy songs has declined in recent years, while more negative tunes are increasing.

"What is very surprising to discover is that successful songs behave almost like a different species," said Chancellor's Professor Natalia Komarova, a mathematician and evolutionary biologist who led the work. "They have their own trends and are quantifiably different from average songs."

Musicality is key to success, the scientists found, not just how much is spent on marketing, what particular label a song is on or other socioeconomic factors. An upbeat song by a known superstar does stand a better chance of recognition.

"Music matters. Our study shows that," said Komarova, whose group used a dozen indicators to predict with an accuracy rate of 75 percent to 85 percent which songs would be hits.

She and fellow researchers, including four students, analyzed more than half a million songs released in Britain between 1985 and 2015 to understand the dynamics of success - defined as making it into top music charts. Several trends were uncovered: Despite the clear popularity of bright, optimistic tunes, particularly by women, their numbers are dwindling, according to the study, published late Tuesday in the Royal Society Open Science journal.

"We used machine learning techniques to predict the success of songs, first based on their acoustic features and then adding the 'superstar' variable, achieving an 85 percent prediction accuracy rate," Komarova said. "Interestingly, successful songs exhibit their own distinct behavior: They tend to be happier, more partylike, less relaxed and more likely to be sung by a woman than most."

The same trends hold true for the U.S. music market, based on a preliminary review of data. A few 2014 hits that meet the study's qualifications for success are "Rather Be," by Clean Bandit; "Shake It Off," by Taylor Swift; and "All About That Bass," by Meghan Trainor.

"Music, and in particular songs, rarely leave people unmoved," the authors write. "There is something magical about music, and scientists have been trying to disentangle the magic."
Co-authors are Myra Interiano, Kamyar Kazemi, LijiaWang, Jienian Yang and Zhaoxia Yu.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It's located in one of the world's safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County's second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit Additional resources for journalists may be found at

University of California - Irvine

Related Music Articles:

How listening to music in a group influences depression
New research published in Frontiers in Psychology takes a closer look at how music influences the mood in people suffering from depression, and examines what factors might affect whether listening to sad music in group settings provides social benefits for listeners, or if it rather reinforces depressive tendencies.
The making of music
A new study suggests that music -- and specifically infant-directed song -- evolved as a way for parents to signal to children that their needs are being met, while still freeing up parents to perform other tasks, like foraging for food, or caring for other offspring.
Not feeling the music
Researchers at the University of Barcelona and the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University have discovered that people with this condition showed reduced functional connectivity between cortical regions responsible for processing sound and subcortical regions related to reward.
Music in the brain: The first imaging genetic study linking dopaminergic genes to music
Sounds, such as music and noise, are capable of reliably affecting individuals' moods and emotions, possibly by regulating brain dopamine, a neurotransmitter strongly involved in emotional behavior and mood regulation.
How does the brain of people who do not like music work?
A new study by researchers at IDIBELL, UB and McGill University explains brain mechanisms associated to the lack of sensitivity to music and its evolutionary significance.
The mathematics of music history
New research from Center for Music in the Brain shows that patriotism in music is expressed through use of speech rhythms from the composer's native language.
Music at work increases cooperation, teamwork
Cornell University researchers found that music can have important effects on the cooperative spirits of those exposed to music.
Music makes beer taste better
Music can influence how much you like the taste of beer, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology.
Why we like the music we do
A new study from MIT and Brandeis University suggests musical tastes are cultural, not hardwired in the brain.
Researchers look into the brains of music fans
As soon as social considerations also play a part in economic decisions, our brain seems to switch to a different processing mode.

Related Music Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Moving Forward
When the life you've built slips out of your grasp, you're often told it's best to move on. But is that true? Instead of forgetting the past, TED speakers describe how we can move forward with it. Guests include writers Nora McInerny and Suleika Jaouad, and human rights advocate Lindy Lou Isonhood.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...