Musical taste is usually considered subjective. But Dr. Mick Grierson, a computer science researcher with Goldsmiths, University of London, is challenging that perception.
Grierson analyzed lists of the top songs of all time as ranked by Rolling Stone and VH-1. Then, he used analytical software to rank the songs using a variety of quantifiable criteria, including number of beats per minute, chord variety, timbral variety, and sonic variance.
Topping his list: Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which is surprising considering that grunge music appealed most to underachieving Generation X-ers.
So do these findings mean a great song can be engineered in a lab? Grierson doesn't think so: "My conclusion is that if you want a formula for creating great music, there is one: you just have to make something that sounds great," he told The Daily Mail.
Here are some highlights from his study's list of the 50 most iconic songs:
The Beatles outdid their fellow musicians by appearing three times on Grierson's list with "Hey Jude," "A Day in the Life" and "Yesterday."
Elvis Presley's reign as "King of Rock and Roll" seems in doubt considering that only "Heartbreak Hotel" made the list. Maybe Grierson's algorithm needs to factor hip gyrations into the equation.
The Oddball of the Bunch
Judy Garland's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is undeniably a classic. But it sticks out like a Care Bear in a mosh pit when included on a list with The Rolling Stones and The Sex Pistols.
Who was the best Beatle? John Lennon, according to Grierson's study. Not only was Lennon the lone mop-topper honored for his solo career, but his song "Imagine" beat out the "Fab Four's" other hits.
Any Oasis fans still fighting the Battle of Britpop twenty years later can turn to this list for ammunition: the lads from Manchester took spot #17 with "Live Forever" while rivals Blur didn't rank.
Little Richard was left off the top 50 despite being ranked #8 on Rolling Stone's top 100 artists of all time.
Meanwhile, Eric Clapton's entire oeuvre was overlooked, including his work with The Yardbirds and Cream ( for which he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame). If "Clapton Is God" then Nietzsche was right.