Spotify has worked with Professor in Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience to uncover a formula for writing the perfect love song. Sentimental lyrics + slow tempo + syncopated rhythm + major key + standard chord progression = perfect love song
Getting your music right on Valentine’s Day could lead to a night of passion or be a total passion killer. And with 14 February just around the corner, Spotify, the music streaming service, today reveals Adele’s cover of the Bob Dylan classic Make You Feel My Love as the perfect love song.
The research reveals that penning a perfect love song comes down this tried and tested formula: Sentimental lyrics + slow tempo + syncopated rhythm + major key + standard chord progression = perfect love song. The feeling of familiarity is also something which will keep us wanting to listen to the song again and again.
Spotify worked in partnership with Jacob Jolij, Assistant Professor in Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Groningen and Maureen Crowe, President of the Music Supervisors Guild. Crowe, who helped create the Spotify Perfect Love Songs playlist based on the formula, has supervised on films including The Bodyguard, which is famed for its number one smash hit I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston. Other tracks also featured in the playlist are Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers and At Last by Etta James.
Professor Jolij says: “In the song ‘Make you feel my love’, you hear the syncopated rhythm in the melody. This creates the feel of a relaxed heartbeat, a sound we are very familiar with, as that is what we heard during our period in the womb. Some researchers believe this is the reason why these rhythms have a soothing and relaxing quality.’’
Jolij continues: “Lyrics about love should be positive and the song needs to have a slow tempo. It is also important for the song to have a syncopated rhythm like Adele’s track. A major key is also vital as we associate it with positive emotions and standard chord progression is important for your brain to process the song without too much trouble.”
Spotify also carried out analytic research that shows men prefer to listen to male voices and women are the biggest listeners of love songs, with the research showing women resonate more with the higher octaves of a female voice than the lower tones of a man’s. Adele is known for her distinctive, soulful voice which is why her version of Make You Feel My Love has all the elements of the perfect love song.
Angela Watts, VP of Global Communications at Spotify, adds: “Music has the power to stir up all manner of emotions in us, and it inevitably becomes the soundtrack to our relationship status. We often associate songs with key moments in relationships, whether sad or happy, single or looking for love. There’s no doubt that Spotify’s list of perfect love songs will help get you in the mood this Valentine’s Day.”
Crowe adds: “The best songs come from heartbreak. Anytime an artist goes through hard times the A&R staff are thinking: big songs are coming. There are countless examples. When we are the most vulnerable, sacred insight comes. A song like that resonates. The song becomes a treasure, an expression of a deeply personal emotional experience that everyone can share and brings us all closer”.
Jolij comments: “The songs that made our playlist have a fairly simple structure: they are some of the most popular songs of all time that follow our simple formula of sentimental lyrics + slow tempo + syncopated rhythm + major key + standard chord progression = perfect love song. They do not have a very complex harmonic structure, and the chord sequences are all easy on the ears.
“Take for example Unchained Love. It opens with the so-called Fifties-progression, which is used by about a million other songs that immediately creates a feeling of familiarity. And familiarity is good – even though you might think that people prefer originality, we know from psychology and neuroscience that the brain likes familiar stuff.”
Spotify’s Perfect Love Songs
1. Make You Feel My Love – Adele
2. Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye
3. I Will Always Love You – Dolly Parton / Whitney Houston
4. Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton
5. Love Me Tender – Elvis
6. Let Her Go – Passenger
7. Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers
8. She – Elvis Costello
9. If I Ain’t Got You – Alicia Keys
10. Think Twice – Celine Dion
11. Vision of Love – Mariah Carey
12. Bleeding Love – Leona Lewis
13. If You Don’t Know Me By Now – Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
14. Un-break My Heart – Toni Braxton
Spotify’s Perfect Love Songs – embed code
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