Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" Is The Most Iconic Song Ever Written

September 24, 2015

In a recent study conducted by the University of London, computer scientist and musician Dr. Mick Grierson dissected through 50 iconic songs to find any patterns in lyrics, beat, and melody to discover what exactly made them so iconic, as well as narrow down the #1 iconic song on this list.

To first assemble this list, Dr. Grierson examined seven "greatest songs of all time" lists from major music publications including Rolling Stone, VH1, NME, and Q magazine, as well as lists produced by newspapers.

He then took the fifty tracks and ran them through analytical software to analyze their key, beats per minute, chord variety, lyrical content, timbral variety, and sonic variance. He used these variables to determine which hit songs scored the highest in this iconic "cocktail." Some of the songs that received high scores include "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses, and "Stairway To Heaven" by Led Zeppelin.

"We looked at a range of measures for each song and compared them to see if there were similarities in these recordings which occur in other songs," said Grierson. "We found the most significant thing these songs have in common is that most of them use sound in a very varied, dynamic way when compared to other records. This makes the sound of the record exciting, holding the listener's attention." Grierson found that nearly 80% of these songs were in the keys of A, E, C, or G. Some of the words he found that appear regularly on rock songs include "baby, feel, love, and nah," while the most consecutively repeated words in the same song included: "generation, hallelujah, every breath, and Queen."

Another parameter Grierson used was by analyzing the spectral flux, which is how the power of a note to the next varies. Some of the artists that scored high in this regard included Michael JacksonThe Sex Pistols, and Jimi Hendrix

But the one song that came out on top above all others was Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The song's four-chord riffs, its average tempo at 125BPM, and unique use of lyrics helped it stand apart from the rest of the iconic songs.

Despite his findings, Dr. Grierson says that "ultimately there is no ''formula" for this, other than to make it sound as diverse, different, and exciting as possible... you just have to make something that sounds great."

Here is the full list of iconic songs that scored according Grierson's criteria:

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

(source: DailyMail)