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Study reveals Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' is most iconic song ever

What does it take for a song to become "iconic"? One researcher used analytical software to find out.
/ Source: TODAY

Scientists are back, and they're still messing with your record collection.

As we learned Wednesday, it is apparently possible via science to determine what the most "feel-good" song of all time is (hello, Queen); now it has been revealed that one researcher has used software and a formula to determine what the most "iconic" song of all time is.

U2 or Nirvana?AP file; Everett

Combining "best-of" lists from major music magazines along with a computer program that analyzed elements like songs' keys, beats per minute, chord variety and lyrical content, Dr. Mick Grierson of the University of London has determined that ...

"Smells Like Teen Spirit," the 1991 hit by Nirvana, is the most iconic song ever, with U2's "One" and John Lennon's "Imagine" coming up closely behind.

"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," Grierson, who had been commissioned by car company Fiat to determine what song to use to promote their new vehicle, told The Daily Mail.

"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," he added.

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.MTV

According to Grierson, that means the record sounds exciting and holds listeners' interest, while also sounding unique. He determined that the 50 songs that appear in "best-ever" lists have some things 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

  • Most regularly used words in those songs: "Baby," "Feel," "Love" and "Nah"

All this said, "Ultimately there is no 'formula' for this, other than to make your song sound as different, diverse and exciting as possible," said Grierson, a musician himself. "If you want a formula for creating music, there is just one: You just have to make something that sounds great."

Well, if that's all it takes!

For the full list of 50 most iconic songs, scroll to the bottom of the article here.

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