Whats the best song to play at any time of the day? It is a question that cannot answer because of the subjectivity around music. Nevertheless, Danish scientists made an attempt.
They analyzed data from more than 150 million streaming sessions and came in a scientific article last week on the site of the British Academy of Sciences, The Royal Society, with an answer: Every Breath You Take.
The Polices 1983 song was an instant hit and ranked 1 in the US and the UK, and regularly returns in lists of best songs of all time.
The songs video clip:
In 2019, Police singer and bassist Sting, who wrote Every Breath You Take, was honored by the US copyright organization BMI. The song had redeemed Youve Lost That Lovin Feeling by The Righteous Brothers as the most frequently played song on American radio (more than 15 million times).
So scientists now have an explanation for that attraction. For their research, three music scientists from Aarhus University used public data from streaming service Spotify.
Music preference varies by day
They collected a dataset containing nearly 4 million unique songs. These songs came from hundreds of millions of stream sessions in which up to twenty songs were listened and little flushed, to make sure Spotify users listened to the music consciously.
After analyzing that data, the researchers saw clear differences between music preferences at certain times of the day.
In the morning, for example, people prefer to listen to slower, energetic music. In the afternoon, it turns into a preference for faster, harder songs. In the evening, music at a higher pace turns out, whatever dancing to is popular.
Every Breath You Take is from that perspective as “mid-tempo soft rock ballad” the ultimate average song, which can be listened to at any time of the day, the scientists write.
Head investigator Ole Adrian Heggli went deeper into the US public radio broadcaster National Public Radio. Pretty much everything about the song is average, he said.
“Its pace is average. Its a bit groovy, but not too. Theres no loud surprises in it. And above all, its just a very pleasant one, maybe even a bit of a saltless song.”
According to Heggli, his research can help musicians find greater reach on streaming services. With Every Breath You Take as a textbook example.