There is something about a hit dance song when it triggers an unstoppable need to tap your foot, bob your headroom side to side, and sway to the rhythm in a manner that’s the trending body moves at the present.
These types of beat worthy songs even get some teenagers in some extremist country get arrested when they post themselves on social media swaying to the beat which is banned in their state.
Neuroscientists in Denmark have discovered in a study that danceable songs just have the right quantity of breaks and gaps in their beat.
Maria Witek, the group’s leader said that people all over the world seem to have a common agreement on what dance songs become hits: “Not the ones that have very little complexity and not the ones that had very, very high complexity, but the patterns that had a sort of a balance between predictability and complexity.”
When we hear a new dance tune, as it evolves, we expect a certain beat to repeat itself over and over again in the song. But if we do hear that beat, and there are gaps and diversions in between which makes it intriguing and unpredictable, but pleasant-sounding, here comes a hit song which has a bright future on the Billboard charts.
Pharrell’s song, Happy, says Witek, is an example of the layering of predictable beats balanced with the unpredictable and inviting gaps afforded by the piano, the drums, the clapping, and even Pharrell’s own vocals.
If you’re going to watch Happy’s music video, there is a certain positive vibe about it as you see people from all walks of life dancing to its very likable tune. It has even run up nearly 4 million views.
But this song isn’t the only one with the monopoly of inventing a danceable series of beats. Dance forms like Hip hop, disco, funk, and rhythm and blues through the likes of artists like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Ray Charles strike the balance between predictability and complexity when it comes to song structure.
But have you noticed that some artists just keep on churning one dance hit after another?
This actually happens because music producers commission them, in collaboration with composers and choreographers to produce the next hit dance song on the top ten in the Billboards charts. After they have proven themselves worthy after churning out a hit dance song or two, the producers are convinced that their style and beat have become loved by the fans and they just have to tweak their next couple of dance songs to that same beat with some creative gaps in between to make them unique enough to be classified as a separate song.
This collaboration among creative artists (singer, composer, and choreographer) is influenced in part by the singer’s style and taste, and also for the resulting song’s commercial suitability. There is also a tendency to control the dance song’s mood to the current trend.
As such, it is also important for dancers, who will interpret the dance song, to have a say in its beat and its structure. As of late, this added collaboration with dancers is being encouraged in order to come up with hit dance songs.
Elwood Johnson is a DJ who specializes in developing and producing “old” sounds such as disco. He also has his own bar where most of his produced music is played.