Most Catchy Songs of All Time: Songs You Just Can’t Get Out Of Your Head

As a company who hires out a recording studio in London to established and potential artists, we are extremely passionate about music. It’s because of this that we wanted to share news of a music experiment that was carried out in a museum in Manchester throughout 2014. We found it fascinating, and we hope you do too!

The experiment

Last year, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, UK carried out a year-long study in which they aimed to discover the catchiest songs of all time. Those taking part in the study were directed to a special website in which they were asked to take part in an online game called Hooked on Music. This game contained clips from 1,000 hit songs from the last 70 years – including the top selling 40 tracks from each decade since 1940.

The game included four modes:

  • Recognise that Tune – where users had to hum along with the track – continuing when the sound dropped out and gauging if they were still in time when it started again.
  • What’s the Hook – where they had to listen to two different clips from the same song and choose which was catchier.
  • Time Trial – this was where those taking part had to recognise as many songs as possible in just three minutes.
  • In a Row – they had to recognise as many songs in a row as they could.

The game collected data from over 12,000 people, and there were some surprising and unsurprising results.

We have put together a list of the top 5 from the results – with some added information about each song.

  1. Spice Girls – Wannabe

The Spice Girls first massive hit ‘Wannabe’ came in at number one, with users taking as a little as 2.29 seconds to recognise the song.

Wannabe was the debut song for the girl band, released in July 1996. It topped the UK singles chart for a massive seven weeks and won several awards at numerous music ceremonies.

The song is an up-tempo dance-pop tune which addresses the value of female friendship over relationships. It became an iconic song for female empowerment in the 1990’s and was a massive hit for children and women especially.


  1. Lou Bega – Mambo No. 5

This annoyingly catchy song from Lou Bega came in at number two on the list, with it taking just 2.48 seconds to be recognised.

His cover of the hit song was released in 1999 and became a massive hit in several different countries – including going straight to number one in the UK and Australia. The song even came in at number three in the USA, giving Lou his only ever top 40 hit in America.

  1. Survivor – Eye of the Tiger

It didn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this 1980’s hit featured so high on the list. It earned its place as the third catchiest song ever, by it taking only 2.62 seconds for it to be identified.

The song was released in 1982, and was a single from the third album of American rock band Survivor. It was written for the third Rocky movie, in which it was the theme tune. It held the top spot in the USA charts for an impressive seven weeks!

  1. Lady Gaga – Just Dance

It took only 2.66 seconds for users to guess that they were listening to Lady Gaga’s Just Dance – the debut single for the talented singer.

Released in 2008, the song is said to be influenced by dance and R&B music. Described by Gaga as her ‘happy song,’ it topped the charts all over the world – including USA, UK, Australia, Canada and Ireland.

  1. ABBA – SOS

No list of the catchiest songs ever produced would have felt authentic to us without the inclusion of Abba. True to form, they came in at number 5 with it taking a mere 2.73 seconds to guess their tune.

SOS was the third song from their 1975 album, and marked a huge turnaround for the band. It started a run of 18 top 10 hits for the band, and was their first top 10 hit since Waterloo.

We hope that these songs don’t get caught in your head too much after this post – but we can’t guarantee it!

If you’re looking for a mixing or recording studio in London to produce your own catchy songs – we have you covered.

Here at Soho Sonic, we specialise in sound design and music recording in London. Located just four minutes away from Oxford Circus tube station, our studio accommodates budding artists, talented musicians and established record labels.

If you have any questions, or you would like to book some studio time, please contact us on 020 7193 4467 and a member of our friendly team will be happy to help you out.