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25th Sep 2015

The 50 most iconic songs of all time* have been revealed

Great shout at number one

Conor Heneghan

*According to science.

Science has the definitive word on quite a lot of things, but given that it is so open to interpretation and taste, music is certainly not one of them.


Despite that, a computer scientist at the University of London has sought to apply a formula to what determines the greatest songs of all time and, in his highly scientific experiment, he’s come up with a definitive list of the top 50.

According to the Daily Mail, Dr Mick Grierson examined a whole host of songs that appeared in ‘greatest songs of all-time’ lists in newspapers, on music stations like VH1 and in iconic music publications such as Q, NME and Rolling Stone. Indie, Disco, Anthems and Rock, they’re all in there.

Commissioned by car manufacturer Fiat, who wanted to identify a song they could use to promote the FIAT 500, he also used analytical software in an attempt to put a finger on what exactly made those tunes iconic.

That involved taking into account factors such as beats per minute, chord variety, lyrical content and eh, timbral variety and sonic variance before arriving at the list you can see below.

We’re certainly not going to argue with number one.

Turns out science doesn’t have a bad taste in music after all.

The Top 50 most iconic songs of all time

  1. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  2. Imagine – John Lennon
  3. One – U2
  4. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
  5. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
  6. Hey Jude – The Beatles
  7. Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
  8. I Can’t Get No Satisfaction – Rolling Stones
  9. God Save The Queen – Sex Pistols
  10. Sweet Child O’Mine – Guns N’ Roses
  11. London Calling – The Clash
  12. Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks
  13. Hotel California – The Eagles
  14. Your Song – Elton John
  15. Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin
  16. The Twist – Chubby Checker
  17. Live Forever – Oasis
  18. I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
  19. Life On Mars? – David Bowie
  20. Heartbreak Hotel – Elvis Presley
  21. Over The Rainbow – Judy Garland
  22. What’s Goin’ On – Marvin Gaye
  23. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen
  24. Be My Baby – The Ronettes
  25. Creep – Radiohead
  26. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel
  27. Respect – Aretha Franklin
  28. Family Affair – Sly And The Family Stone
  29. Dancing Queen – ABBA
  30. Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys
  31. Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
  32. Yesterday – The Beatles
  33. Jonny B Good – Chuck Berry
  34. No Woman No Cry – Bob Marley
  35. Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
  36. Every Breath You Take – The Police
  37. A Day In The Life – The Beatles
  38. Stand By Me – Ben E King
  39. Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag – James Brown
  40. Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones
  41. What’d I Say – Ray Charles
  42. Sultans Of Swing – Dire Straits
  43. God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
  44. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling – The Righteous Brothers
  45. My Generation – The Who
  46. Dancing In The Street – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
  47. When Doves Cry – Prince
  48. A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
  49. River Deep Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner
  50. Best Of My Love – The Emotions

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