The top 5 happiest and saddest songs, revealed by new research

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pharrell Williams's Happy topped the list of the most joyous songs

Pharrell Williams's Happy really is the world's happiest song, according to new research. AFP
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The happiest and saddest songs have been revealed, thanks to research into listener habits.

Pharrell Williams’s 2013 hit Happy is apparently the world’s most joyful song, while Nirvana’s 1991 track Something in the Way was found to be the saddest. There was a renewed interest in the latter this year when it was used as a soundtrack to The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, causing it to enter the charts for the first time in 31 years.

Researchers from data company HappyOrNot enlisted the help of Durham University music expert Annaliese Micallef Grimaud to establish which of the year’s most-streamed songs were considered to be the happiest and saddest.

They then looked at other criteria such as vocal pitch to establish which songs best conveyed the intended emotion.

The top five songs that brought the most joy after Happy were Hey Ya! by OutKast, Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper, Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen and Feeling Good by Nina Simone.

The songs deemed to be the saddest after Something in the Way were REM’s Everybody Hurts, Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton, Nutshell by Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam’s Black.

“It’s no secret that music can profoundly affect how we feel, or that musicians can seek to express their feelings at a certain time or about a certain topic through their work,” said HappyOrNot chief executive Miika Makitalo.

Micallef Grimaud said certain musical formulas can be used by artists to provoke an emotion.

“In my research, I explore how people, irrespective of their musical knowledge (if any), think different emotions should sound like in music,” she said.

“The formulas give us a good indication of which songs are most expressing sadness and joy.”

The top five happiest songs

1. Happy — Pharrell Williams

2. Hey Ya! —OutKast

3. Girls Just Want to Have Fun — Cyndi Lauper

4. Don’t Stop Me Now — Queen

5. Feeling Good — Nina Simone

The top five saddest songs

1. Something in the Way — Nirvana

2. Everybody Hurts — REM

3. Tears in Heaven — Eric Clapton

4. Nutshell — Alice In Chains

5. Black — Pearl Jam

Updated: December 12, 2022, 12:33 PM