Is Kylie Minogue’s 2001 chart hit, Can’t Get You Out of My Head, the catchiest tune of all time? A poll of 700 people, including Lily Cole, Carol Vorderman and Janet Street-Porter, seems to suggest so.
Blurred Lines, by Robin Thicke, and Daft Punk’s omnipresent Get Lucky trailed in the wake of Minogue’s single, which reached number one in the UK and 17 other countries upon its original release.
Organisers at the Manchester Science Festival hope that Hooked, a “citizen science project” designed by computational musicologist John Ashley Burgoyne and muso analysts from The University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University, will boost research into Alzheimer’s disease by explaining how memories can be triggered, allowing therapy to be perfected.
“Catchy music sticks in your head and lingers there,” says Dr Burgoyne.
“Understanding catchy music is about much more than just a recipe for next week’s number one hit – it’s the key to understanding why musical memories last a lifetime.
“When you hear catchy music again years or even decades later, all of a sudden the song comes back to and you find yourself singing along in your head.”
Pop fans who add their songs to a special playlist will help create a “name-that-tune” game, launching early next year in a bid to pinpoint the most infectious part of each tune and why its catchiness resounds.
“Once I hear it I can't stop singing it all day and moving to it too – not very well, obviously, but it doesn't stop me trying,” says Vorderman, discussing her selection of Get Lucky.
“The beat is amazing and it's happy and fabulous. It's ridiculously repetitive and memorable and makes me smile lots.”
Street-Porter chose Nothing Compares 2 U, by Sinead O’Connor, which she calls “soulful and tormented” with a “really high note which takes your breath away.”
Cole admits her favourite – Anyone’s Ghost, by The National – is “not very cheery”.
“Music comes randomly to my mind to the mood I happen to be in,” she adds, alluding to the possibilities for memory treatment.
“It isn't usually the same thing, but it surprises me sometimes what comes.”
Professor Alistair Burns, of the Institute of the Institute of Brain, Behaviour and Mental Health at The University of Manchester, believes music remains “really important” in “accessing long-term memories”.
“Many dementia support groups use music, singing and personalised playlists to help those with failing memory,” he points out.
“The results from Hooked could certainly have implications for improving the quality of life for people with dementia.”
The Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, picked the track Perpetuum Mobile, by legendary classical jazz group the Penguin Café Orchestra..
- To nominate your catchiest tune visit Hooked online, use the hashtag #hookedplaylist or browse the #Hooked playlist on YouTube. Manchester Science Festival runs October 24 - November 3 2013.
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