Record companies have gotten pretty good at predicting what will be a hit, but it’s not an exact science. Every now and then, pretty pop princesses flop and weird metal or punk bands top the charts. It’s a “mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world,” as the Kinks once sang, and speaking of the Kinks, why weren’t they as big as the Who or the Stones? They certainly had better hooks.
As legions of power-pop bands and fans can attest, it takes more than hooks to have hits, and there are lots of little intangibles that go into truly unforgettable pop songs. After a fair bit of research and three or four deep dives into the darkest recesses of our iTunes libraries, we’ve come up with a list of eight secret ingredients that surface again and again in great tunes. Note: Some are more “secret” than others, and “great” is a term chucked around with wild poptimist abandon. Before you step into the lab, wrap that cynicism in plastic.