Science Says This Is The Most Feel-Good Song Ever Written

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woman with headphones

You'd think that if there was a survey about the most "feel good" song, the top pick would be either Pharrell William's "Happy," Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off," or Beyoncé's "Love on Top." 

But according to a 2015 survey conducted by British electronics manufacturer, Alba, none of those songs is number one.

In Alba's survey, 2,000 U.K. adults were asked to say what their favorite "feel good" songs were. They responded with old-school standards like ABBA's "Dancing Queen" (always fun to dance to at weddings), The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" (great for picnics at the beach), and Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" (hilariously referenced in Stepbrothers).

But the song that came in at number one was the 1979 song, "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen.

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If you're younger than 40, you probably don't even know who Queen or Freddie Mercury are. Even if you may not be familiar with Queen, you've probably heard some of their music before.

"We Are the Champions" and "Another One Bites the Dust" are both often played at big-time sporting events. "Bohemian Rhapsody" was immortalized in the classic comedy, Wayne's World. "Crazy Little Thing called Love" was featured in a Lay's potato chip commercial. 

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Queen was a British band and the survey was given to British adults.

They do play Queen music quite often at football (soccer) matches there, right before everyone gets into fights (football hooliganism), so there might be a very positive association with Queen for the Brits.

"Don't Stop Me Now" is also loved by fans of the film Shaun of the Dead, but still, how could a song released over 41 years ago have the perfect formula for a feel-good song?

Cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Jacob Jolij, who analyzed the survey data for Alba, said that "Don't Stop Me Now" was the perfect example of the feel-good-formula for music, having a fast tempo (about 150 beats per minute), written in a major key, and having upbeat happy lyrics.

A sample of the song's lyrics are: "I'm a racing car passing by, like Lady Godiva I'm gonna go go go."

Happy? Maybe. Confusing? Definitely.

"Although you cannot really pinpoint one song as the ultimate feel-good song, what we can do is identify specific features of songs that lift people's spirits," Jolij said in an interview. "The more data we have available, the more we can learn about how music affects our moods."

Next time my mood is in the toilet, I'm going to listen to "Don't Stop Me Now" and see if it can make me feel happier. In the meantime, I'm going to stick to "Happy."

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in October 2015 and was updated with the latest information.

Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, and Woman's Day. Visit her website or her Instagram.

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