Ever wondered why chart music sounds the same? There might be a secret reason for it

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Max Martin, a Swedish record producer, songwriter and retired singer, has written or co-written 24 Billboard Hot 100 number-one songs. He was worked with the likes of Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne and Britney Spears to create some of the world’s biggest hits – but there may be a secret behind the success of the songs he gets involved with.

According to Variety, Mr Martin was worth about $660 million (£475m) in 2018.

With The Hollywood Reporter claiming single sales of over 735m in 2019, Mr Martin has quickly become one of the world’s most sought after producers.

Just some of the hits he has worked on are Bad Blood by Ms Swift, I Kissed a Girl by Ms Perry, Blinding Lights by The Weeknd and even So What by Pink.

Paul Lamere, a blogger, refers to songs with similar beats as “cantograms” – which he claims are identical in the likes of Tik Tok by Kesha, Paparazzi by Lady Gaga and Baby by Justin Bieber.

There are, however, songs like Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin that have no correlation with this – showing that not all songs use the same formula.

Research conducted by the University of Bristol has resulted in the creation of a “hit potential equation” which can be used to predict a top five hit with 60 percent accuracy.

Things such as tempo, volume and harmonic complexity are analysed to determine how a song will perform on the charts.

Researchers ran songs from the last 50 years of the Official UK Singles charts to come up with the formula that distinguishes a hit and something that does not climb the charts.

The so-called “hit potential equation” looks like this: (w1 x f1) + (w2 x f2) + (w3 x f3) + (w4 x f4)

In a nutshell, the “w” stands for “weights” – meaning musical features like tempo, time signature, song duration and how energetic it is.

These have changed throughout different eras, such as the 1980s when low tempo ballads were more likely to be a hit.

Once the algorithm figures out the “weights”, you just need to test out your proposed song with these exact features and work out whether they match to the current trends to get a hit prediction score.

Currently, the equation suggests that a good song should be harmonically simple, slightly longer than three minutes, upbeat and loud.

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