Study Suggests “Every Breath You Take” Is the Perfect Song for Every Time of Day
The biggest hit by The Police somehow transcends all traditional streaming patterns
Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark recently released a study that suggests “Every Breath You Take,” a 1983 hit song by The Police, is the best song to listen to at any point during the day.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but let’s get a few issues out of the way: Yes, the song is about a possessive lover, and songwriter Sting has called it both “nasty” and “really rather evil.” The track is often misunderstood, which is why it’s sometimes used as a wedding song. Also, anyone under 40 may recognize the tune more as the basis for Puff Daddy’s hip-hop eulogy “I’ll Be Watching You,” which pretty liberally lifts the chorus — and almost everything else — for a tribute to the late Biggie Smalls.
But thankfully, we’re not talking about lyrical inspiration here. In the aforementioned study (“Diurnal fluctuations in music preference”) published by The Royal Society, researchers analyzed streaming data for nearly four million songs to identify potential patterns (tempo, loudness, danceability, etc.) to the types of music we listen to throughout a 24-hour day. The researchers then narrowed down those patterns to five blocks of time and figured out what kind of songs dominated those various day, afternoon and evening slots.
There weren’t a lot of surprises: We like slower songs in the morning and dance songs at night. However, in trying to find a song that would work within the different patterns for each block of time, the researchers landed on “Every Breath You Take.”
“It’s a very in-the-middle type of song,” lead researcher Ole Adrian Heggli told NPR. “It’s a medium tempo. It’s a bit groovy, but not too much groovy. It doesn’t have any loud surprises. And it’s all over just a very pleasant, perhaps even a bit bland song.”
The worst part? This creepy track may serve as a blueprint for musicians who want to create a hit that’ll work at any moment. As Heggli notes: “[For songs] you should really aim for something that’s more or less in the middle of the pack. Something that’s not too high in tempo but also not too low, and something that’s danceable but maybe not too danceable, either.”
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