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Let's get it on: why Marvin scores in the bedroom


The soulful pleadings of Marvin Gaye and the gathering crescendo of Ravel's Bolero are the true sounds of seduction, a new study has confirmed. But there is no place for "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the bedroom.

Soul legend Gaye's reputation as the "boudoir king" is justified by the mood-enhancing combination of earthy vocals and lush, circular melodies, argues Dr Daniel Müllensiefen, music psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Dr Müllensiefen analysed the results of a Spotify survey of 2,000 music fans, which identified the songs most likely to form the playlist for an amorous encounter. Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" and "Let's Get It On" were the songs most likely to help a couple get "in the mood".

Ravel's Bolero proved one of the most popular accompaniments in the bedroom, along with the entire soundtrack to the Eighties film Dirty Dancing - a sign that women are more likely to control the soundtrack in the bedroom.

"The tracks that get us in the mood all possess the same qualities including a greater dynamic range, more use of the high chest voice, more raspiness in the voice and less use of vocal vibrato," said Dr Müllensiefen, co-director of the Masters programme in Music, Mind and Brain at Goldsmiths, University of London. "These specific attributes are strongly evident in the Marvin Gaye tracks 'Sexual Healing' and 'Let's Get It On'."

Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" topped the list of songs least likely to become a bedroom soundtrack. "Anything that is distracting or demands attention, or has elements of the unexpected is not so good for romance," said Dr Müllensiefen.

"'Bohemian Rhapsody' has too many different parts and breaks. It breaks the concentration. These unexpected turning points do create strong emotional feelings, however, which can be positive in other contexts. "

Dr Müllensiefen said the bedroom popularity of Bolero makes sense: "It has the perfect structure – it's 17 minutes long...and it builds in dynamics to a huge crescendo."