Spotify partnered with Jacob Jolij, Professor in Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Groningen, to analyze the type of music that elicits certain emotions, from happiness and excitement to sadness and anger.

According to the research, a song’s key, along with the tempo, rhythm and occasionally, the lyrics all play a role in triggering an emotional response — factors all of which aren’t too surprising. The study lists 7 songs that exemplify the range of emotions, and you can find the full analysis on the Spotify blog:

Happiness – Katy Perry, Birthday: up tempo, strong rhythm, positive lyrics, major key

Sadness – OneRepublic, Something I Need: slower tempo, negative lyrics. The blog post states that sad songs are in minor key, but “Something I Need” is actually in major key.

Optimism – American Authors, Best Day of My Life: similar to happy songs, but lyrics play a more important role in “build[ing] optimism rather than purely improving mood.”

Anger – David Guetta, Bad: up tempo, strong rhythm, minor key

Overcoming fear – Coldplay, Magic: slow, relaxing, major chords for positive emotions, coupled with lyrics that address negative thoughts

Excitement – Avicii, Wake Me Up: similar to happy songs, but more upbeat

Nostalgia – John Legend, All of Me: mostly based on lyrics that may evoke connections to other senses

Although an interesting study (but a bit common sense), Spotify doesn’t detail the process that led to the analysis, nor does it mention whether a group of test subjects actually listened to these songs and reported such emotions. And as crucial for any music-listening setting, the research fails to mention the impact of context — what mood is the listener already in, if he/she is familiar with/likes the artist, where he/she is listening to these songs, etc. Given these external factors, it doesn’t seem like these 7 songs are necessarily the most emotional songs out there. What are your thoughts?

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