Science reveals the secret of pop success

If you thought creating pop hits was an art, or at least part of the dark arts practised by Simon Cowell, you were wrong. It’s actually a science.

That’s the implication of research from the University of Bristol. The academics suggest that, by analysing key ingredients of pop hits, from Nat King Cole to Cheryl Cole, they can predict what will be a smash.

The "hit potential equation" can predict a top 5 hit with 60 per cent accuracy by focusing on a song’s key ingredients, like volume, tempo, timing and harmonic complexity.

Interestingly the team leader Dr Tijl De Bie, is a lecturer in artificial intelligence, which must mean he has some understanding of Cowell’s attempts to create hits from acts that seem to lack any distinguishing thought processes.

"The goal was to find out if we could come up with an equation that distinguishes between a hit and something that dangles at the bottom of the charts," he told the BBC.

The formula was complicated by the fact that musical trends change over the decades. Since the 80s, a song that is danceable has been much more likely to become a hit.

"Musical tastes evolve,” De Bie said. “That means our 'hit potential equation' needs to evolve as well. Indeed, we have found the hit potential of a song depends on the era. This may be due to the varying dominant music style, culture and environment."

No kidding? This may come under the familiar heading of "academics spend long hours and research grants uncovering the plainly obvious."

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