The answer to the question as to what is the most iconic song of all time has apparently been answered or at least that’s what our colleagues at the Daily are reporting.  Daily just reported on a study that, through the use of science (i.e., software), was apparently able to determine what is the most “iconic” song of all time.  The methodology apparently combined various “best-of” lists from major music magazines and with the assistance of a computer program which analyzed certain elements, was able to come to a conclusion. The program seemed to hone in on the following factors:

• the song’s key;

•beats per minute;

•chord variety; and,

•lyrical content.

The study’s mentor, Dr. Mick Grierson of the University of London, in turn then determined that the 1991 Nirvana classic was the most iconic song ever.

A screen capture for the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit
A screen capture from the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit

Coming in second was John Lennon’s Imagine following by U2’s One which rounded out the top three. Said Grierson:

“We looked at a range of measures for each song and compared them to see if there were similarities in these recordings which occur less in other songs. The most significant thing these songs have in common is that most of them use sound in a very varied, dynamic way when compared to other records.”

According to the study the top 50 songs had these characteristics in common::

  • 80 percent were in a major key (mostly A, E, C and G);
  • Average tempo is 125 BPM; 40 percent were 120 BPM;
  • Most songs have around 500 beats in the entire song; and
  • Most regularly used words in those songs: “Baby,” “Feel,” “Love” and “Nah.”

Despite the study, Grierson had this to add when pondering foolproof methods for song writing:

“Ultimately there is no ‘formula’ for this, other than to make your song sound as different, diverse and exciting as possible. If you want a formula for creating music, there is just one: You just have to make something that sounds great.”

Here’s the list of the 50 most iconic songs according to this study following Smells Like Teen Spirit, by Nirvana.

2. Imagine, John Lennon

3. One, U2

4. Billie Jean, Michael Jackson

5. Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

6. Hey Jude, The Beatles

7. Like A Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan

8. I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, Rolling Stones

9. God Save The Queen, Sex Pistols

10. Sweet Child O’Mine, Guns N’ Roses

11. London Calling, The Clash

12. Waterloo Sunset, The Kinks

13. Hotel California, The Eagles

14. Your Song, Elton John

15. Stairway To Heaven, Led Zeppelin

16. The Twist, Chubby Checker

17. Live Forever, Oasis

18. I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston

19. Life On Mars?, David Bowie

20. Heartbreak Hotel, Elvis Presley

21. Over The Rainbow, Judy Garland

22. What’s Goin’ On, Marvin Gaye

23. Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen

24. Be My Baby, The Ronettes

25. Creep, Radiohead

26. Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel

27. Respect, Aretha Franklin

28. Family Affair, Sly And The Family Stone

29. Dancing Queen, ABBA

30. Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys

31. Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix

32. Yesterday, The Beatles

33. Jonny B Good, Chuck Berry

34. No Woman No Cry, Bob Marley

35. Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley

36. Every Breath You Take, The Police

37. A Day In The Life, The Beatles

38. Stand By Me, Ben E. King

39. Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag, James Brown

40. Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stones

41. What’d I Say, Ray Charles

42. Sultans Of Swing, Dire Straits

43. God Only Knows, The Beach Boys

44. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, The Righteous Brothers

45. My Generation, The Who

46. Dancing In The Street, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas

47. When Doves Cry, Prince

48. A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke

49. River Deep Mountain High, Ike and Tina Turner

50. Best Of My Love, The Emotions

We really want to hear from you about what you think of this list and this concept? Can a computer tell us what is iconic and what is not? Do you agree with the results of this study? in your opinion what songs do and don’t belong on this list?

Ken “K Bo” Biedzynski, Editor




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