Latest News How do you write a happy song?

So you would like to write a happy song – well now there is a formula!

British music psychologist Michael Bonshor, along with his colleagues at the University of Sheffield, has released what they consider to be the top 10 happiest songs of all times, and what the common structure of those songs is.

They found that the happiest songs are in a major key, contain a tempo of approximately 137 bpm (beats per minute) and have a simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. They also have a strong 1-2-1-2 beat to them (so you can dance) and if there is a repetitive and distinctive rhythm or guitar riff that people recall all the better.

A survey conducted as part of the study found that 71% of respondents consider music to be one of the most powerful influences on their mood, and that they only needed to listen to one of their ‘happy’ songs for 14 seconds to give them a boost.

Music appreciation is highly personal and strongly depends on social context, and personal associations.

Their list of the 10 Happiest Songs of all Time is:

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

This was not the first such study on the topic. In 2015 Dutch cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Jacob Jolij was commissioned to carry out a similar study. While a couple of the tracks (and artists) appear on both lists Dr. Jolif was less committal on what constitutes a ‘happy’ song, saying “Music appreciation is highly personal and strongly depends on social context, and personal associations. In that respect, the idea of a ‘feel good’ formula is a bit odd’. However, he also found that uplifting songs tended to be a little faster than normal and written in a major key.

Dr. Jolifs list:

  1. Don’t stop me now – Queen
  2. Dancing Queen – Abba
  3. Good Vibrations – Beach Boys
  4. Uptown Girl – Billy Joel
  5. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  6. I’m a believer – The Monkeys
  7. Girls just want to have fun – Cindi Lauper
  8. Livin’ on a prayer – Bon Jovi
  9. I will survive – Gloria Gaynor
  10. Walking in Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves.

There are numerous other lists built up from surveys (with no scientific input) from industry publications, streaming services etc which come up with different suggestions.

Whatever the reason or the structure there is no questioning that music can impact your mood. I recall one of our staff having a tough day and I suggested that he play some Monkeys on the way home – the next morning he enthusiastically announced that it had worked.

So, what songs put you in a good mood? – we would like to hear what tracks adds that extra spring to your step. What would you add to the list?

I would need to slip ‘Friday on my Mind’ by the Easybeats and ‘Waterloo Sunset’ by the Kinks in there somewhere!

Over to you. 🙂

2 comment

  1. Interesting article. I’ll read more about Michael Bonshor and Dr. Jacob Jolij studies to go deeper into it. I’d need to learn more into make happy songs as most the lyrics I have wrote where social orientated.
    Also, I should recommend the book “How Music Works” by David Byrne.

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