Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now is the Top Feel-Good Song of the past 50 years



18 September 2015 by Victoria Woollaston

– Cognitive neuroscientist studied pop songs from the last fifty years
– He has created an equation to reveal what makes a song ‘feel-good’
– It reveals that a major third key, a high-tempo and holiday lyrics are key
– Using this formula, the top feel-good song is Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now

Despite being released 37 years ago, Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now still has the ability to lift moods and fill the dance floor Now a neuroscientist has confirmed the impact it seems to have on listeners with an equation that shows it is the top feel-good song of the past 50 years. The 1978 hit has just the right tempo, lyrics and is played in the musical key identified as producing a happy feeling.

Freddie Mercury

The song Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen emerged as the top feel good song of the past fifty years due to its combination of a relatively fast tempo, positive lyrics and the perfect musical key.

Freddie Mercury
Queen’s Freddie Mercury performing in New Haven,
Connecticut, in November 1977

While a person’s favourite song is often a subjective choice, Dr Jacob Jolij, a cognitive neuroscientist the University of Groningen in Holland, found there were certain key components that mark out an upbeat song.

He said positive lyrics were important but a high tempo of 150 beats per minute also subconsciously makes people feel energised. Putting the song into a third major key – the third note or chord in a musical scale – also produced a happy sounding song.

Dr Jolij said: ‘A feel good song is very personal. Music is intimately linked with memory and emotion, and these associations strongly determine whether a song will put you in a good mood or not.

‘However, there are some key criteria for composers to consider when creating feel good songs – namely lyrical theme, musical key, and tempo. Holiday-themed lyrics naturally remind us of happy times, while a major third musical key sounds happy to our ears and something we associate with confidence. A high tempo of 150 beats per minute also subconsciously triggers a sense of energy. Combine these three ingredients together and you have the formula for the perfect “feel-good” song.’

He has now developed a formula that assesses how ‘feel good’ a song can be, allowing him to produce a top ten of the most feel good songs from the past fifty years.

These include Dancing Queen by Abba, Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys and Uptown Girl by Billie Joel. Eye of the Tiger by Survivor and Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer also made the list. READ MORE