What Makes a Song a Sing-Along? Bar-Crawling Reseachers Have the Answers
According to a research presentation at the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition last weekend in Greece, there exists a set of criteria that separates "Livin' On A Prayer" from the billions of tunes that aspire and fail to be "Livin' On A Prayer."
Musicologist Alisun Pawley spent 30 nights "undercover" hanging out at English pubs in order to observe and determine the common characteristics of the songs that produce a nearly involuntary group-sing. Of course, that's what we all say. But Pauley actually produced a scientific paper at the end of her long, lost weekend. Some determinations reached by Pawley and fellow researcher Daniel Mullensiefen, who spent six years on the project:
The singers being sung along with are invariably male. Barfly belters are sexists, as it turns out. Women will sing along with anyone, but men only want to sing along with men. Perhaps it should be no surprise that guys don't want to catch the eye of that elusive stranger across a crowded room right in the middle of a "Someone Like You" falsetto. But it's worth noting that Queen's "We Are The Champions" and the Village People's "YMCA" were the top two bar sing-alongs Pawley encountered in her pub crawl, so at least the Brits she studied weren't homophobes, just gynophobes. "Psychologically we look to men to lead us into battle, so it could be in our intuitive nature to follow male-fronted songs," the report says, concluding that the bar sing-along may be "a subconscious war cry."
While an abundance of vocal inflections are a turn-off, the chorus melody itself shouldn't be too narrow or unvaried. "The more sounds there are, the more infectious a song becomes," according to the report. "Combining longer musical phrases and a hook over three different pitches was found to be key to sing-along success."