Dr. Mick Grierson, a computer scientist from the University of London set himself on a mission to discover the 50 most iconic songs of all time using a scientific algorithm.

He took a number of ‘all-time best’ lists from music critics at major magazines and newspapers, then analysed each tune to determine what made them so iconic – this included what key the songs were in, beats per minute, chords and lyrics.

A few commonalities were found between the songs:

  • 80% were in a major key
  • Most had an average tempo of 125 bpm
  • Chord changes were low (between six and eight), and,
  • Certain words, like ‘baby’, ‘feel’, ‘love’ and ‘nah’, appeared regularly. 

Maybe the bangers below aren’t quite to your liking and perhaps your top track didn’t make the list, but don’t worry, Grierson concludes his study by stating, ‘Even by applying scientific process, what is considered iconic is ultimately up to the individual.‘ 

Anyway, enough about science – we’re kicking off the countdown at number 10, but if you want to check out the full list of the 50 most iconic songs, we’ll link it at the end.

10. Sweet Child of Mine, Guns N’ Roses

Where do we go? Straight to number 10 on the list.

9. God Save The Queen, Sex Pistols

The human machine ensured this song was a success.

8. I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, Rolling Stones

Do you feel satisfied with this song’s spot on the list?

7. Like A Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan 

This one ranks highly on the ‘feel’ radar

6. Hey Jude, The Beatles

This one’s got the most ‘nah’s’ of the whole bunch. 

5. Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen 

This isn’t just fantasy, science says this is a great a song as we all knew it was.

4. Billie Jean, Michael Jackson 

She thinks he’s the one but he’s actually the fourth.

3. One, U2  

Didn’t quite live up to it’s name but it got pretty close.

2. Imagine, John Lennon 

Did you imagine this would rank so highly?

1. Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana 

Here it is, in all its ’90s grunge glory.

You can check out the full list here.

Did any of these surprise you? What song did you think would take out the top spot?