Your parents are right, modern music is getting louder and more repetitive

And scientists discover exactly what it takes to make a hit record

Hit songs are getting louder and rhythmically more repetitive, according to a scientific study of chart music, which concludes that pop's golden era was actually the often-maligned 1980s.

A research team from the University of Bristol's Intelligent Systems Laboratory in the Faculty of Engineering set out to predict the popularity of a song by using state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms.

The team examined the UK Top 40 Singles Chart over the past 50 years and sought to identify the distinguishing features of songs which made the top five, compared to those which stumbled outside the top 30.

Click here for graphic: 'Top of the Pops: Why the 80s were the best'

The researchers used musical features such as tempo, time signature, song duration and loudness. They also computed detailed summaries of the songs such as harmonic simplicity, how simple the chord sequence is, and "non-harmonicity" – how "noisy" a song is.

By weighting the most significant 23 audio features, the team, led by Dr Tijl de Bie, produced a catchy equation for a potential hit: (w1 x f1) + (w2 X f2) + ... + (w23 X f23). How good is this equation? They claim it can predict with an accuracy of 60 per cent if a song will make it to the top 5, or if it will never reach above position 30 on the UK Top 40 Singles Chart.

The team discovered several trends which may explain why the singles chart, dominated today by R&B/dance collaborations, has been described as the least diverse it has ever been.

Before the Eighties, the danceability of a song was not very relevant to its hit potential. But following the disco boom in the late Seventies, danceable songs were more likely to become a hit.

In the Eighties, slower musical styles (tempo 70-89 beats per minute), such as ballads, were also more likely to become a hit than now. The UK's best-selling singles of 1985 were "slowies" – "The Power Of Love" by Jennifer Rush followed by "I Know Him So Well", the Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson duet.

The researchers found it most difficult to "predict" hits around 1980, when the charts were in a state of ferment following the punk explosion. Bands like Depeche Mode experimented with synthesisers, while rock bands The Jam and The Police co-existed in the top 10 with disco, soul and reggae songs. A new wave of colourful pop acts led by Adam and the Ants and Duran Duran was also about to emerge.

Although the early Eighties are often dismissed as a time of tinny, vacuous music, the researchers argue that "the late Seventies and early Eighties were particularly creative and innovative periods of pop music".

Hits changed in the Nineties as the "simpler, binary, rhythms such as 4/4 time", the mechanised DNA of House music, became dominant. Cheaper technology meant that anyone could construct a hit record in their bedroom. Yet it appears that your dad was right all along – pop music is getting noisier. "On average all songs on the chart are becoming louder," the team found. "Additionally, the hits are relatively louder than the songs that dangle at the bottom of the charts, reflected by a strong weight for the loudness feature."

Producers tweak songs so that they "cut through" on the radio and club sound systems, using a variety of techniques. The sound is compressed, enhancing the bass end "thud" and punchy female choruses of chart-aimed songs.

Dr De Bie, senior lecturer in artificial intelligence, said: "Musical tastes evolve, which means our 'hit potential equation' needs to evolve as well. Indeed, we have found the hit potential of a song depends on the era. This may be due to the varying dominant music style, culture and environment." That is why they worked out the hit potential equation as a function of time. This shows what is important in each given era, and the evolving priorities of fans.

Music experts however posit an alternative equation for a chart cert today – The X Factor. The songs colonising the current top 10 are those created by the talent show or by artists who performed in the sought-after guest slots, watched by millions of potential record-buyers. Coldplay's sales soared 132 per cent this week after their appearance during the series final.

The pop equation is explained at:

Surefire hits: The Formula

Musicians have laboured long and hard to find the elusive formula for a hit song. The "Hit Potential Equation" (w1 x f1) + (w2 x f2) + ... + (w23 x f23) claims to be just that. It sounds complicated but is the score given to a song according to the importance and occurrence of 23 audio features including loudness, tempo and duration. The team classified songs into "hit" or "not hit" based on its combined score. Hits according to the formula include TLC's "No Scrubs" (no 3 in the UK charts in 1999) and "If You Don't Know Me By Now" (no 2 in 1989) by Simply Red. The TLC song's loudness, harmonic simplicity and steady 93bpm tempo are deemed the key features of its success. In the late Eighties, changes in beat, low energy and tertiary time signatures were the formula for Simply Red's hit ballad.

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in 2011

Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandal

Arts and Entertainment
Comedian Jack Dee has allegedly threatened to quit as chairman of long-running Radio 4 panel show 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue'

Edinburgh Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago

Arts and Entertainment
Director Paul Thomas Anderson (right) and his movie The Master featuring Joaquin Phoenix

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Carmichael- Lady Edith Crawley</strong></p>
<p>Carmichael currently stars as Sonya in the West End production of
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre. She made headlines this autumn
when Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall shouted at her in a
half-sleepy state during her performance. </p>
<p>Carmichael made another appearance on the stage in 2011, playing
two characters in David Hare’s <em>Plent</em>y
at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. </p>
<p>Away from the stage she starred as receptionist Sal in the 2011
film <em>Tinker Tailor Solider Spy</em>. </p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana admits she's

Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star