The Beatles’ song “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” is “the perfect pop song,” according to science. In a new study published by researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, the 1968 hit from The White Album out-ranked other famous pop singles as being the song most close to “perfection.”
So how exactly can science determine the perfect pop song? Researchers started by analyzing 80,000 different chord progressions from 700 songs recorded between 1958 and 1991, reports NME. Chords were then assigned a score, via machine learning, for how “surprising” it was compared to the chord preceding it. Chord sequences from 30 of the songs were then played to a group of volunteers, but they were stripped of both lyrics and melody, so as to make the original song they’re taken from unrecognizable. Volunteers were then asked to rate how enjoyable each chord was.
Results indicated that volunteers enjoyed a song more when chord progressions were unexpected as opposed to being predictable. This information was further supported by data that charted activity in a region of the brain connected with musical pleasure whenever the listener was unsure of how the song would progress.
It’s funny that out of all The Beatles songs to receive this title, it’s the one John Lennon famously called “granny music shit.” Then again, maybe he was just bitter that Paul McCartney wrote it. Following close behind it in perfection were “Invisible Touch” by Genesis and “Hooked on a Feeling” by BJ Thomas. “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5, “There She Goes” by The La’s, “When It’s Love” by Van Halen, and “Red Red Wine” by UB40 also scored highly during testing.
“It is fascinating that humans derive pleasure from a piece of music just by how sounds are ordered over time,” PhD student Vincent Cheung told The Times. “Songs that we find pleasant strike a good balance between us knowing what is going to happen next and surprising us with something we did not expect.”
Now that you’ve heard all the facts, go ahead and let your ears do the enjoying. Revisit the classic “perfect pop song” below.