The 20 catchiest songs of all time, according to science

A study conducted by the Museum of Science and Industry in the UK assessed songs based on how fast it took for people to recognise them.

Can you guess which topped the list? Sorry, but for the rest of the day you’ll be humming these earworms. What did they miss?

20. “Candle in The Wind” by Elton John – Probably one of the biggest tearjerkers ever recorded, it was written in 1973, in honour of Marilyn Monroe, and rewritten in 1997 as a tribute to Princess Diana.

19. “Rivers of Babylon” by Boney M – Originally a Rastafarian song, it was popularised by disco darlings Boney M. in 1978.

18. “Devil in Disguise” by Elvis Presley – A country classic, through and through, about a girl – naturally – an “angel” who soon reveals her true colours. 

17. “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears – Who hasn’t done the school-age Britney dance, singing into your shampoo bottle, when alone in the shower? 

16. “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club – Those hooks! The harmonica licks in the chorus! Boy George sure struck gold with this one. 

15. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson – A go-to for every wedding DJ since its release. If you want to get everyone on the dancefloor...

14. “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive – Never intended to be a single, it became the first rock song with stuttering vocals to hit No 1.

13. “It’s Now or Never” by Elvis Presley – This single was definitely in your parents’ record collections. Originally an Italian song, Elvis recorded his version in 1960.

12. “MMMBop” By Hanson – How is it that this song is over 20 years old? Way to make us feel mega old, Hanson.

11. “POKER FACE” by Lady Gaga – Apparently, it has nought to do with her card skills. “You know his song is actually about when I was making love to this guy that I was dating a long time ago. I was thinking about chicks every time we had sex,” the singer confessed.

10. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith– Aerosmith’s first No 1 song featured in the movie Armageddon, which starred Steven Tyler’s daughter, Liv Tyler.

9. “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League – The lyrics were originally inspired by an article in a teen girl’s magazine.

8. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston – Bring on the turbo wallow!

7. “Beat It” by Michael Jackson – Telling the story of two warring street gang, “Beat It” went on to win multiple awards for the King of Pop.

6. “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison – The driving beat, twanging guitar and jarring time signature make this a classic even before Roy starts singing.

5. “SOS” by ABBA – The Swedish foursome’s 1975 pop smash “SOS”, about wanting to get on the same page in one’s relationship, is an earworm if ever we’ve heard one.

4. “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga – When you want to get silly, wear down your shoes on the dancefloor, and forget about your problems, this is the song you want to hear. (Trust us, we’re speaking from experience.)

3. “Eye of The Tiger” by Survivor – Everyone’s favourite pre-game anthem, recycled in various video games, spin classes and footy matches.

2. “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega – Everyone needs a bit of Monica in their life ... The song is basically a roll call of Bega’s past paramours. “I dated a lot of pretty nice ladies when I was younger,” he said. “These names of my past, you know, just came to me and I wrote it down, got the melody and the rest is history.”

1. “Wannabe” by The Spice Girls – This classic 90s hit (and sweet slice of girl power pop) snagged the title for catchiest song ever, with people taking only 2.3 seconds to recognise it. Though you may shout out the lyrics at family weddings, according to Mel C and Geri Halliwell, it’s about “enjoying sex whilst on ecstasy”.

Which of these songs do you think is catchiest? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.

First appeared on Stuff.co.nz.