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The Playlist Guaranteed to Make You Happy (Science Says So)

I have to admit, there is something magical and entirely enjoyable about working at the heart of innovation in music.   With all the work being done in AI, machine learning, and things like predictive analytics, we know what you’re going to love.

Well, perhaps it’s not that exact a science; but it is nothing short of awesome when one’s work is at the heart of that which entertains us.

In 2015 (yes yes, eons ago when it comes to innovation), a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Groningen in Holland was commissioned to study local residents’ musical preference and any identifiable correlation between the songs they play and improvements in their moods.

“Music is intimately linked with memory and emotion, and these associations strongly determine whether a song will put you in a good mood or not,” noted Dr Jacob Jolij. “However, there are some key criteria for composers to consider when creating feel good songs – namely lyrical theme, musical key, and tempo.”

Blend these ingredients, he discovered, and you have the formula for the perfect ‘feel-good’ song. Press play and read on…

1. “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen.

Feel al-i-i-ve. Because you’re having a good time, having a good time. Rocket ship to Mars!   Reminds me, what did you think of Bohemian Rhapsody?  Sure, the song or the movie because come on… you can’t go wrong with Queen.

2. “Dancing Queen” by Abba.

A little off Dr Jolij’s 150 beat per minute finding but let’s be honest, you feel like dancing.

3. “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys.

The study of the Beach Boys’ music and iconic impact of the Pet Sounds album might only be eclipsed by the fact that we love to hear the sound of a gentle word.

4. “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel.

I missed the opportunity to see Elton John when he toured with Billy Joel.  I take that regret to the grave.

5. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.

There is something to be said for how effectively Katy Perry’s eye of the tiger struck a chord with us, like a fighter dancing through the fire.  I tend to think it’s because Survivor inspired us first.

6. “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees.

Whether your experience with this is from when Smash Mouth and a lovable Ogre brought to life one of the first films ever to appeal equally to adults and kids, or you have fond memories of Neil Diamond, Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork, you’re a believer.  (Wait… Neil Diamond??)

7. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper.

Need we say more?   You know they do.  And damn straight so do I when this song comes on.

8. “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi.

I still don’t know how to spell ooOoo-ah-ooOo-ah000 ooOwah-ooOoo-ah-ooOo-ah000 but you know you just did it in your head and you’re going to look up if Tommy still has his six-string in hock.

9. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.

What a great twist of lyrics… at first I was afraid, I was petrified (who hasn’t been there??).  Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side (oh! this a love song, alright, let’s do that).  But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong (Blues then?).  Do you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?  (hell yeah)

10. “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves.

And don’t it feel good (Hey! Alright now!) And don’t it feel good (I’ll say it I’ll say it I’ll say it again now)

Honorable Mention

Here’s the thing… the study left me feeling like we’re just a tad out of date.   Granted, great music lives on forever but I couldn’t help but apply my own scientific method to add a few songs I know qualify.

Shut Up and Dance.  No really, Walk the Moon and then dance.

Some Nights, fun.

HappyPharrell Williams knows what we’re talking about.

And when you go on a Journey and Don’t Stop Believing, I’m certain you’ll find a little Glee.

I know, I know, I’ve gone overboard a bit with the puns but in the immortal words of Justin Timberlake, with songs like this, you can’t stop the feeling.

science says soThis study popped into my social media feed again and though the research is a few years old, when you string together the pieces of the science and math of music, you can’t help but see a little logic in the art. Max Martin in recent decades, has brought to life more hit pop songs than anyone since The Beatles; it sounds to me like a few songwriters and producers have stumbled onto this recipe long before the science was really put to the test.  It was Neil Diamond’s string of hits that defined The Monkees and while Survivor found the Eye of the Tiger, Katy Perry’s Roar is thanks, in part, to similar artists that know how to uplift the spirit.

So, feeling blue?  Don’t take my word for it, science says so.  This is the playlist guaranteed to make you happy; I stuck it all together on Spotify so you can do a “Hey Alexa, play Spotify Uplifting.”

Oh! For those of you interested, based on his Dutch data, the full regression formula is: Rating = 60 + (0.00165 * BPM – 120)^2 + (4.376 * Major) + 0.78 * nChords – (Major * nChords)

Paul O'Brien

Silicon Valley technology and startup veteran, Paul O'Brien is affectionately known as SEO'Brien for an extensive past in the search industry. Today as CEO and Founder of MediaTech Ventures, O'Brien works in Venture Capital Economic Development, serving the investment and venture capital economies directly, through thought leadership, consulting, and startup development. More, a regional Director of the Founder Institute incubator and mentor in DivInc, Galvanize, and various startup Accelerators.

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