CATCHY SONGS: WHAT MAKES THEM STICK

 
 
 
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Everyone may not be a connoisseur of art or a lover of music, but when you live in a society bustling with and around people – it’s hard to miss a beat or two. Everyone has had that particularly annoying tune from the radio stuck in your head. Sometimes, you find yourself humming it while you do your homework. Sometimes, a tune is so addictive that it transforms your music player containing thousands of songs into a single-song playlist for the entire week; you don’t want to stop listening. Maybe you can’t stop listening.

 

Remember Gagnam Style? Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen? That’s what we are talking about!

 

Here’s why: There are a multitude of factors that determine how catchy (or otherwise) a song will be, but certain principles seem to be at play, according to a variety of research done in the field by musicologists and psychologists:

    1. Familiarity. While the word catchy might in some ways connote “different” in that it differentiates itself from other songs that are not addictive, the surprising fact is that catchy songs have their basis or foundation in the kind of music people already listen to. We as individuals have something similar to a set combination of sounds in our minds – sound templates, if you will – that we find pleasing. Our inner sound systems are not good with new highly irregular sounds, which is why similar combinations of sounds seems to gain more acceptance. In fact, a recipe for a catchy melody is one in which something new is laced into something old aligning with an individual’s pre-existing sound templates. 

 

    1. Repetition. Our brains are looking for patterns everywhere. We look for organization even in chaos. In some ways, seeing patterns and repeating patterns is what we are good at doing, what we like to do, and what we gain a semblance of security and comfort from. In the current context of songs that are catchy, perhaps this principle indicates why songs that have a set of repeating lines or a repetitive tune tend to stay with us longer. 

 

  1. Simplicity. Contrary to popular opinion, less is often more when it comes to making a catchy tune. Keeping a tune simple is one of the key principles to making it stick. Complicated is at times refreshing, but simplicity and new-ness together become an unmatchable pair when trying to make a song go viral.

 

 

 

    1. Uniqueness. Everyone is looking for something just a little bit “different”. In music, there is a concept called musical incongruity, which in some ways describes just that – a varied mismatch of sorts within certain parts of the song such as irregular musical and lyrical features, i.e. either by tune or by words, including mispronounced words or unexpected syllable accentuation. These little peculiarities tend to attract and keep attention and interest levels, making it stand out. 

 

    1. Repeated listening. Sometimes, it just so happens that you may not really like a song much on hearing for the first time. However, constant exposure to it in various forms of the media, such as radio, television or advertisements may warm you up to those tunes and suddenly make them feel Thus, while a song may not be a naturally catchy tune, it acquires a “catchiness” of its own with repeated listening.

We have spoken a great deal about a variety of traits that help determine the catchiness of a particular song. But what really shows – without having to be a musical expert or to calculate and judge on various factors – that a song is catchy? A catchy song is not necessarily one that is well-thought out and calculated on the part of the musician to make an impact. A catchy song is one that manages to stay in your head, on your stereo, or your IPod because it has an intuitive appeal to you. Sometimes the song has this intuitive appeal only for you. At other times it becomes a collective rave, claiming the status of a sensational hit that keeps us bobbing our heads and singing along, sometimes seemingly against our own will.

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    1. Uniqueness. Everyone is looking for something just a little bit “different”. In music, there is a concept called musical incongruity, which in some ways describes just that – a varied mismatch of sorts within certain parts of the song such as irregular musical and lyrical features, i.e. either by tune or by words, including mispronounced words or unexpected syllable accentuation. These little peculiarities tend to attract and keep attention and interest levels, making it stand out. 

 

    1. Repeated listening. Sometimes, it just so happens that you may not really like a song much on hearing for the first time. However, constant exposure to it in various forms of the media, such as radio, television or advertisements may warm you up to those tunes and suddenly make them feel Thus, while a song may not be a naturally catchy tune, it acquires a “catchiness” of its own with repeated listening.

We have spoken a great deal about a variety of traits that help determine the catchiness of a particular song. But what really shows – without having to be a musical expert or to calculate and judge on various factors – that a song is catchy? A catchy song is not necessarily one that is well-thought out and calculated on the part of the musician to make an impact. A catchy song is one that manages to stay in your head, on your stereo, or your IPod because it has an intuitive appeal to you. Sometimes the song has this intuitive appeal only for you. At other times it becomes a collective rave, claiming the status of a sensational hit that keeps us bobbing our heads and singing along, sometimes seemingly against our own will.

 
 
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