Most popular Pub songs

October 30, 2015

Why the whole bar sings along

Paul McCartney leads athletes and audience members in what amounted to one massive sing-a-long to the Beatles song

“We looked at various aspects from their melodic aspects, the range, the intervals between notes - I thought that maybe if [the intervals] weren’t as far apart it would be easier to sing, [but] that wasn’t influential, ” she says. “We looked at the aspect of the lyrics and how relevant they were in the context of a pub.”

Pawley found that pub-goers most enjoyed crooning high-energy songs sung by male vocalists with high chest voices and fewer warbles (these qualities describe something known as an anthemic vocal performance). All the popular songs spent at least four weeks on the UK music charts. Crowds that engaged in sing-a-longs were normally younger and the later it was, the more likely it was they would sing.

“The later on in the evening, the more people sang along and we largely relate that to alcohol, ” she says.

While Pawley thought that songs with nonsense words such as “Hey Jude, ” with its "nah, nah, nah, nah" would be more popular, she found nonsense words didn’t add a song’s appeal. (“Hey Jude” united the world in a sing-a-long during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, which Pawley says was “just brilliant.” She believes the song was a hit with an international crowd because non-English speakers don’t need to understand nah to enjoy it.)

People gravitated toward songs with some cultural significance. Even if “YMCA” isn’t on a personal favorite, people know the words and it’s a mainstay at festive events.

“Songs have kind of a tradition about them and very new songs haven’t necessarily built a culture.”

She hopes to conduct similar research in the United States. She suspects the songs might have different titles, but will share the same musical properties.

The article will be published in the journal Music Perception later this year.

Top 10 pub songs in England:

1. "We Are the Champions, " Queen (1977)

2. "Y.M.C.A., " The Village People (1978)

3. "Fat Lip, " Sum 41 (2001)

4. "The Final Countdown, " Europe (1986)

5. "Monster, " by The Automatic (2006)

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