There’s no doubt that we connect to music emotionally - it can make us smile, cry, feel nostalgic, feel angry, and a whole lot more. But there is actually a formula for how “happy” a song can make you, based on science.
Through studying 126 songs from a period of 50 years, as well as surveying 2,000 people to find out what song made them happiest, researcher Jacob Jolij created a formula to reveal the happiest songs in the world.
Jolij found that “we generally like songs with a tempo that deviates from the average pop song tempo, that are in a major key, and are a bit more complex than three-chord songs, unless the song is a major key.” Happy songs tend to be in the range of 150 beats per minute (bpm) or more when compared to the 118 bpm of the average pop song.
The formula has been coined the ‘Feel Good Formula’, which has now been further refined by Jolij to include a continuous rating system that rates how “feel good” a particular song is on a scale ranging from 1 to 100. According to Jolij, this gives a better statistical model overall. Jolij also countered that what might be considered a happy song in Liverpool is probably a little different than what is considered a happy song in Jakarta.
The formula found that the happiest song in the world is actually ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by the Electric Light Orchestra, which has 180 bpm, played in the key of F Major. Jolij’s research found that the key the song was in was an important factor in determining the happiness of a song. In addition, he determined that the best feel-good songs focused on positive themes and lyrics or were nonsensical in nature.
Jolig’s research was based on the earlier findings of researchers at the University of Missouri, who found that people can successfully make themselves happier through the use of cherry music.
Following ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ in the happiest songs in the world came Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, which previous research had stated took the top spot. The song is in the range of 156 BPM and is also in the key of F Major.
Here’s the top 10 list:
‘Mr Blue Sky’ - Electric Light Orchestra
‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ - Queen
‘Good Vibrations’ - the Beach Boys
‘The Riddle’ - Nik Kershaw
‘I’m a Believer’ - the Monkees
‘I’ll Be There for You’ - the Rembrandts
‘Pamela’ - Toto
‘Mambo No. 5’ - Lou Bega
‘Our House’ - Madness
‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’ - Wham
If you’re curious as to what the formula actually is, here you go:
Rating = 60 + (0.00165 * BPM – 120)^2 + (4.376 * Major) + 0.78 * nChords – (Major * nChords)
You can find out more about what Jolij has to say about his research here. Listen to the world’s happiest song in the video above.