Man listening to music on headphones

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LONDON — “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys tops the charts as the song that makes people happiest, according to a university professor’s scientific formula. The 1966 hit single checks all the boxes in Dr. Michael Bonshor’s formula, who has a PhD in music psychology and studies music in relation to well-being extensively.

To create a happy song, Dr. Bonshor believes the combination of a major key, 7th chords, 137 BPM, strong beat, four beats in every bar, and a verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure is a sure-fire way to produce a happy beat. It should also have a short intro, repeated riffs, high volume, bright tone, and a mix of predictability and surprise.

Other tracks which follow this formula include “I Got You” (I Feel Good) by James Brown, “House of Fun” by Madness, and “Get the Party Started” by P!nk.

The happy formula has also been turned into a pitch-perfect track, called The Lighter Note, featuring upbeat notes, peppy chords, and feel-good musical breaks – which has been produced by Jamie P and Oliver Price and is available on Soundcloud. The track was commissioned by Müllerlight, which teamed up with Dr. Bonshor and also conducted research of 2,000 adults that discovered 32 percent turn to music daily to improve their mood.

“Previous studies have found songs are perceived as happy if they are in a major key, with a sweet spot of approximately 137 beats per minute,” Dr. Bonshor says in a statement. “We like ‘7th chords’ as they add interest; regular chords use three notes, whereas ‘7th chords’ add an extra note which provides a sense of musical ‘tension’ and ‘relief.’”

“Alongside this, cheery songs usually have a strong 1-2-1-2 beat to them, so that you can dance along – and a short introduction means the song kicks off with a bang straight away, and there’s not a long build up,” Dr. Bonshor continues.

“We like high volume when it comes to how our happy songs are made, with notes played in a bright and bouncy way by instruments such as trumpets or electric guitars instead of mellower instruments. Finally, a repetitive rhythm or guitar riff that people can latch onto and becomes memorable is the cherry on the cake.”

Average person has a playlist of 8 happy songs

The research also found 46 percent of adults say singing along to their favorite tracks is a great way to boost their mood. Of those who have specific tunes they turn to in order to cheer them up, on average, they have eight numbers on rotation which do the trick.

Nearly six in 10 (58%) say these songs have an upbeat feel to them, and the same percentage say they remind them of good memories which put a smile on their face. Meanwhile, 38 percent say most of their happy tracks were released throughout their teenage years.

The poll also finds that it takes an average of just 14 seconds for these songs to start working their magic. Pop, rock, and dance rank as the three happiest genres of music, while 71 percent feel music is one of the most powerful influences for changing or reinforcing their mood. Half believe the power of music is actually underestimated, and 38 percent recognize it can deliver amazing highs and lows.

When reflecting on why music is important to them, 48 percent put it down to the powerful memories it can evoke and 29 percent like the fact they can share it with others. Another 36 percent have even put on uplifting music around loved ones when they are feeling down to try and lift their spirits.

The poll, conducted via OnePoll, also explored the general listening habits of the United Kingdom, with the average Brit listening to more than 20 tracks each day. While half of those who tune in regularly do so within the comforts of their home, one in four consume the most while they are driving.

“Music is one of the most powerful ways to put a smile on your face, especially during these first few months of the year,” says Toby Bevans, from Müller Yogurt & Desserts.

“I know that a good playlist energizes me when I’m putting off going for a run when it’s cold and rainy outside. We’re going one step further by looking at exactly what about music makes us happy, so that we can create the ultimate feel-good track. We hope everyone gets a spring in their step when they listen to The Lighter Note.”

Blue skies off the list?

Just to show how subjective the world’s musical tastes can be, a 2020 poll of the happiest songs of all time did not even feature “Good Vibrations” in its top 50! On that list, 1,300 adults ranging in age from 30 to 55 has crowned the Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” the happiest song ever.

Similar to this year’s survey, researchers in 2020 found that 58 percent of adults say the songs which made them the happiest were the ones released in their youth.

Top 10 Happy Songs According to Dr. Bonshor’s Formula:

  1. “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys
  2. “I Got You” (I Feel Good) by James Brown
  3. “House of Fun” by Madness
  4. “Get the Party Started” by P!nk
  5. “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel
  6. “Sun Is Shining” by Bob Marley
  7. “I Get Around” by The Beach Boys
  8. “YMCA” by Village People
  9. “Waterloo” by ABBA
  10. “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire

72Point writer Olive Lewis contributed to this report.

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4 Comments

  1. Cara says:

    My happy song is “Dancing ( feat. Joe L Barnes & Tiffany Hudson) If you are in Love, really in LOVE, you must listen to this song. Try and watch the video. It will leave a smile on your heart ❤ Dancing is a wonderful thing.

  2. Elaine says:

    According to a”Louder Sound” article written by Graham Hartmann and published on February 13, 2019, cites that a scientist named Dr Jacob Jolij proved that Queen’s song “Don’t Stop Me Now” wins the honor of happiest most uplifting song. I love The Beach Boys, but Freddie and Queen put a bigger smile on my face and gets me dancing 💃🏼

  3. Bob Smith says:

    “Holiday” by Madonna is pure joy.

  4. Ms N says:

    Its not mine! I hate it and always will, the lyrics are sexist and the tune is awful!