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Anatomy Of A Dance Hit: Why We Love To Boogie With Pharrell
NPR ^ | May 30, 2014 | Michaeleen Doucleff

Posted on 05/31/2014 5:38:06 PM PDT by nickcarraway

There's no doubt Pharrell's "Happy" is the biggest hit of the year so far. It spent 15 weeks at the top of the Billboard 100 and inspired hundreds of fan videos on YouTube.

Just a few weeks ago, six Iranian teenagers got arrested for posting a video of themselves dancing to the catchy song.

So what is it about "Happy" that triggers a nearly uncontrollable need to tap your foot, bob your head or move to the rhythm in some way?

Pharrell Williams. The Record Pharrell Williams On Juxtaposition And Seeing Sounds Rick Blaine, the sentimental tough guy in Casablanca, pined for "As Time Goes By." Shots - Health News Play It Again And Again, Sam It may be more about what's missing from the song than what's there.

Last month neuroscientists at Aarhus University in Denmark published a study showing that danceable grooves have just the right amount of gaps or breaks in the beats. Your brain wants to fill in those gaps with body movement, says the study's lead author, Maria Witek.

"Gaps in the rhythmic structure, gaps in the sort of underlying beat of the music — that sort of provides us with an opportunity to physically inhabit those gaps and fill in those gaps with our own bodies," she says.

A few years ago, Witek set out to figure out which songs got people onto the dance floor.

She created an online survey and gave people drum patterns to listen to. Some had really simple rhythms with regular beats. Others had extremely complex rhythms, with lots of gaps where you'd expect beats to be. Finally there were drumming patterns that fell in the middle of those two extremes. They have a regular, predictable beat, but also some pauses or gaps.

Witek says that people all over the world agreed on which drum patterns made them most want to dance: "Not the ones that have very little complexity and not the ones that had very, very high complexity," she says, "but the patterns that had a sort of a balance between predictability and complexity."

These rhythms offer enough regularity so that we can perceive the underlying beat, Witek and her team reported in the journal PLOS ONE. But they also need enough gaps or breaks to invite participants to synchronize to the music.

Jelle van de Wall/YouTube So which popular songs on the radio today have this optimal amount of complexity?

"I think the recent single by Pharrell, 'Happy,' is a very good example," Witek says.

The song is layered with predictable beats and complex, syncopated ones. The drums, the piano, the clapping and even Pharrell's voice create inviting gaps, she says.

But Pharrell isn't the only one who knows about this trick. Classic dance tunes in disco, funk, hip-hop and rhythm and blues also hit this sweet spot of syncopation, Witek says.

"Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder — those guys have a lot of tracks which seem to have this balance between predictability and complexity when it comes to the rhythmic structure," she says.

And don't forget about Ray Charles. His 1950s hit "I've Got a Woman" made everybody want to hit the dance floor.

But it's not just a song's syncopation that gets you to go from tapping your foot in your chair to standing up and full-out dancing. It's also the song's layers of rhythm, says neuroscientist Daniel Levitin at McGill University.

"In 'I've Got a Woman,' the drums are keeping a very steady rhythm. The piano is syncopated and the vocals are exquisitely nuanced in time," Levitin says. "It's very difficult to sing along with him [Ray Charles] exactly the way he does it."

So we don't sing with Charles. Instead we want to move with him.

"The more rhythmically complex the music is ... the easier it is to engage different body parts," Levitin says, "because they can be synchronizing with different aspects of the music."

So you're swinging your shoulders with the snare drums. You're bobbing your head with the piano. "And you might be wiggling your hips in half-time or something like that," he says.

Before you know it, you're up out of your chair and doing the twist.


TOPICS: Music/Entertainment
KEYWORDS: dance; music; science

1 posted on 05/31/2014 5:38:06 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

We DO???


2 posted on 05/31/2014 5:40:52 PM PDT by a fool in paradise (The new witchhunt: "Do you NOW, . . . or have you EVER , . . supported traditional marriage?")
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To: nickcarraway
"Happy" is a great commercial jingle.

But thats it.

3 posted on 05/31/2014 5:41:10 PM PDT by skeeter
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To: onedoug

ping


4 posted on 05/31/2014 5:42:15 PM PDT by windcliff
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To: nickcarraway

It's a black thing.

5 posted on 05/31/2014 5:51:08 PM PDT by ClearCase_guy (Fegelein! Fegelein! Fegelein!)
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To: ClearCase_guy

Not so....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5J8iMxkP68


6 posted on 05/31/2014 5:55:33 PM PDT by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both.)
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To: nickcarraway

It should have won the Oscar, much better than that song from frozen.

i love it, it’s like a throw back song to the 80s or something.


7 posted on 05/31/2014 5:58:33 PM PDT by jocon307
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To: nickcarraway

Broken record.


8 posted on 05/31/2014 5:59:42 PM PDT by Third Person
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To: nickcarraway

It is a catchy tune. It has a retro vibe that makes me think of the song “Crazy” from a few years ago.


9 posted on 05/31/2014 6:06:41 PM PDT by Yardstick
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To: BenLurkin

That was cute.


10 posted on 05/31/2014 6:09:05 PM PDT by Excellence (Marine mom since April 11, 2014)
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To: nickcarraway

I’ve never heard it before, but it’s catchy.


11 posted on 05/31/2014 6:09:44 PM PDT by Excellence (Marine mom since April 11, 2014)
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To: jocon307

I think it throws back to the ‘60s and Motown.


12 posted on 05/31/2014 6:13:37 PM PDT by Yardstick
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To: nickcarraway
The more rhythmically complex the music is ... the easier it is to engage different body parts, ... because they can be synchronizing with different aspects of the music.

This is the secret of afro-cuban and samba rhythms.

13 posted on 05/31/2014 6:15:42 PM PDT by Kennard
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To: nickcarraway
There's an interesting video on youtube called “Happy Muslims”.It's British muslims dancing to the tune.A really fun video...IMO at least.Many of the comments are supportive but some are from people saying,in essence,that all those who participated are going to hell.
14 posted on 05/31/2014 6:15:52 PM PDT by Gay State Conservative (Rat Party Policy:Lie,Deny,Refuse To Comply)
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To: nickcarraway

I HATE that song. And I hated it the very first time I heard it. Juvenile and gay.


15 posted on 05/31/2014 6:19:47 PM PDT by Doctor 2Brains
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To: Yardstick
It's got a very pleasant Stevie Wonder/ Earth Wind & Fire arrangement about it. And it has a really, really joyful feel. I think that's why so many people (and I) find it so appealing.

It's a damn rare thing to feel joyful these days.

16 posted on 05/31/2014 6:32:04 PM PDT by 60Gunner (Fight with your head high, or grovel with your head low.)
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To: nickcarraway

There’s no doubt Pharrell’s “Happy” is the biggest hit of the year so far

If you say so.
Never heard of Pharrell or the song..........
I would be willing to bet that ignorance is bliss in this case.....


17 posted on 05/31/2014 6:44:31 PM PDT by 48th SPS
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To: 48th SPS

It ain’t that pretty at all.


18 posted on 05/31/2014 6:46:08 PM PDT by Ueriah
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To: nickcarraway

It’s got a nice beat and you can dance to it.


19 posted on 05/31/2014 6:47:20 PM PDT by dfwgator
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To: nickcarraway

Of course, Pharrell also sang on the other huge song of the year, “Get Lucky”, which introduced this generation to the greatness that is Nile Rodgers.


20 posted on 05/31/2014 6:48:41 PM PDT by dfwgator
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To: 60Gunner

Agree on all points. This is the kind of stuff we need more of.


21 posted on 05/31/2014 6:52:46 PM PDT by Yardstick
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Tomorrow is June!

IT'S GO TIME!
Less than $4.9k to go!!

22 posted on 05/31/2014 6:53:03 PM PDT by RedMDer (May we always be happy and may our enemies always know it. - Sarah Palin, 10-18-2010)
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To: 48th SPS

You should give it a listen...you might be surprised.


23 posted on 05/31/2014 6:55:42 PM PDT by Yardstick
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To: nickcarraway

I think that about the tenth time I heard it I realized it’s not about someone who is happy, but rather someone who is profoundly depressed desperately trying to convince himself he’s happy.


24 posted on 05/31/2014 7:00:37 PM PDT by Eepsy
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To: nickcarraway

That song is destined to be a standard.


25 posted on 05/31/2014 7:18:29 PM PDT by Albion Wilde ("The commenters are plenty but the thinkers are few." -- Walid Shoebat)
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google “pharell GQ tea party” if you want to see what an ignorant schmuck he is in reality.


26 posted on 05/31/2014 7:18:53 PM PDT by Captainpaintball (Immigration without assimilation is the death of a nation)
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To: jocon307
It should have won the Oscar, much better than that song from frozen. i love it, it’s like a throw back song to the 80s or something.

I disagree. "Frozen" is an inspiring song. Something I'd like to tell my sons. Sarah Bareilles album with that song is full of really good songs.

27 posted on 05/31/2014 7:26:44 PM PDT by raybbr (Obamacare needs a death panel.)
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To: Captainpaintball

Yes he support the Hildabeast for President and consider Tea Party Members as RACIST. That is enough for me to consider him a douche bag no matter how HAPPY is song is.


28 posted on 05/31/2014 7:51:37 PM PDT by Patriot Babe
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To: Doctor 2Brains
Juvenile and gay.

Thank you for your thoughtful and nuanced review.

29 posted on 05/31/2014 8:01:50 PM PDT by Half Vast Conspiracy (Settled science.)
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To: nickcarraway

Pharrell who? What song?


30 posted on 05/31/2014 8:43:00 PM PDT by TBP (Obama lies, Granny dies.)
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To: dfwgator

So you give it a 78? :—)


31 posted on 05/31/2014 9:26:22 PM PDT by capydick (''Life's tough.......it's even tougher if you're stupid.'')
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To: BenLurkin
Great vid. Thanks for posting. This is the first time I've heard the much-hyped song. Sure is nice to hear something that is fun and uplifting and doesn't encourage rape, murder, mayhem, etc.

I always enjoy complex songs with many layers, attacks, pauses, rests, key changes, crescendos, etc. They always keep you guessing. One of the best in recent years is the the Opening Titles song to "John Adams" by Rob Lane. Very martial music. Sends chills down my spine every time.

32 posted on 05/31/2014 9:30:58 PM PDT by ProtectOurFreedom
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To: 60Gunner
It's a damn rare thing to feel joyful these days.

Absolutely. That's why it is such a nice surprise to see this particular song be such a big hit. Maybe people are getting a wee bit tired of twenty years of rap garbage.

33 posted on 05/31/2014 9:33:28 PM PDT by ProtectOurFreedom
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To: jocon307
It should have won the Oscar, much better than that song from frozen.

Fighting words to my 8-year-old daughter and her gang of friends who belt out "Let it go" in its entirety at least once a day.

34 posted on 05/31/2014 11:25:54 PM PDT by Dagnabitt (Amnesty is Treason. Its agents are Traitors.)
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To: Dagnabitt

LOL, I’m sure! My own daughter (who is grown up) says “Let it Go” grows on you, for your sake I hope that’s right!


35 posted on 06/01/2014 12:39:42 AM PDT by jocon307
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To: Dagnabitt

To my grand daughters also. I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard that plus Do You Want To Build A Snowman.


36 posted on 06/01/2014 1:47:05 AM PDT by MagnoliaB
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To: Gay State Conservative
There's an interesting video on youtube called “Happy Muslims”.It's British muslims dancing to the tune.A really fun video...IMO at least.Many of the comments are supportive but some are from people saying,in essence,that all those who are going to hell.

(P)resident Obama has already bookmarked that video for use in the event there is another terrorist attack anywhere in the world.

37 posted on 06/01/2014 1:59:58 PM PDT by a fool in paradise (The new witchhunt: "Do you NOW, . . . or have you EVER , . . supported traditional marriage?")
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To: BenLurkin; Yardstick
Here is the Lancaster PA version:

Happy - Lancaster PA

I have to admit that this song makes me break out in a great big smile and makes me want to dance every time I hear it.

That and I have triplet great nieces and their parents, who refer to them as the “Minions” put together a Despicable Me themed dance party to celebrate their 6th birthdays along with their 7 year old older sister who has her birthday a week later. They rented a fire hall, made some of the food themselves including Minion cookies and a Minion themed birthday cake and also ordered many, many pizzas and had a friend of theirs who is a professional DJ, DJ the party. Each kid got to invite 3 of their friends from school so along with all their cousins and the neighbor’s kids and their step sister and two of their cousins who are half black, and my oldest great niece’s very best friend who is Japanese; there were probably about 30 kids in all.

I got such a kick out of watching all these little kids dancing and having fun; dancing from everything from the chicken dance and the hokey pokey and YMCA and the Pennsylvania Polka and the Electric Slide and the more recent Cha Cha Slide and even an Elvis song, and the theme song from Frozen, Let It Go and other songs from that movie. But the very best part was at the very end of the party, watching all the little kids and all the adults, including me and the parents and the grandparents all dance to Happy. : ), It was great fun : ),

38 posted on 06/01/2014 3:14:42 PM PDT by MD Expat in PA
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To: dfwgator
Of course, Pharrell also sang on the other huge song of the year, “Get Lucky”, which introduced this generation to the greatness that is Nile Rodgers.

Chic – “Good Times”. Another song played at just about every wedding I’ve ever been to since the early 80’s along with “I Will Survive”. LOL!

I agree that while “Good Times” was considered a big “disco” hit at the time, Rodgers is a great funk guitarist - much more funk than disco.

My eldest great niece who is 20 years old loves and is a huge fan of Daft Punk and has gained an appreciation of the classic funk of the 70’s as a result.

39 posted on 06/01/2014 4:08:00 PM PDT by MD Expat in PA
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To: MD Expat in PA

Yep, sounds like fun alright!


40 posted on 06/01/2014 6:36:57 PM PDT by Yardstick
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