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Harmonic Surprise in Hit Songs

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  • Harmonic Surprise in Hit Songs

    A new study has found that a simple change in harmonic structure can contribute to our preference for certain songs. Analyzing the chords of over 500 pop songs between 1958 and 1991, the study reveals a link between those showing higher 'harmonic surprise' (chords that do not usually follow each other) and their popularity in the Billboard Top 100 chart.
    Last edited by LCK; 08-24-2017, 09:02 AM.
    “Good Vibrations” was probably a good record but who's to know? You had to play it about 90 bloody times to even hear what they were singing about. What’s next? Rock opera? —Pete Townshend, Melody Maker Interview, 1966.

  • #2
    Nice! Thanks for sharing


    • #3
      George Harrison was noted for complete key changes within a song and then reversing it. While it may contribute to preference as an underlying structural component, the aural portion of a score that sits nicely in the audience's ear makes/breaks popularity with/without the harmonic shell game. Catchy tune means success.

      The intro is where the hook needs to be. If it isn't it needs to entice. This is also 20/20 hindsight, of course. Clocks, by Cold Play, has a nice catchy melody on an engaging meter. The lyrics are crap but the melody alone is enough that the lyrics could really be greeking and it would still fly in the ears of an audience that can't be bothered with lyrical knightsmanship. Funeral For a Friend, by Elton John, builds the intro in such a theatrical collection of dynamics that it keeps an audience engaged right up to where Love Lies Bleeding takes on its own identity musically, lyrically and instrumentally. Both examples keep to a stoic observance of harmonic structure. In the case of the latter, pure musicianship coupled with good composition has proven the musical worth of Elton John and Bernie Taupin in collaboration. In the case of the former, I'm still on the fence about CP's melody relative to Dylan's Lay Lady Lay. Too close to completely dismiss the scrutiny.
      - The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule it. - H.L. Mencken