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A composite sketch of David Bowie, one of many artists analyzed in The Pudding study ; Photo: The Pudding


You don’t have to scan the radio long to notice that a majority of pop songs are repetitive. If you’ve ever wondered just how repetitive, though, you’re in luck. The Pudding, a weekly journal of visual essays created an algorithm to measure the redundancy of your favorite (or least favorite) pop songs.

Researchers from The Pudding took 15,000 songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1958 and 2017, and filtered the lyrics through a “Lempel-Ziv” algorithm. It sounds like a mouthful, but the science behind it is quite common. It is the same technology that powers gifs, pngs, and archive formats like zip, gzip, and rar. Essentially what it does is measure the compressibility of a song, meaning it will scan the song’s lyrics and compress the repetitive words down into one.

For example, once the algorithm recognizes matching text it’ll leave a marker and then combine those markers into one depending on how often the words are used, thus reducing the lyrics down to original words and phrases. As it turns out the most repetitive song in pop over the past 50 years is Daft Punk‘s “Around the World.” They were able to compress the song down a whopping 98%.

Of the years analyzed, 2014 is the most repetitive year on record. The most redundant artist in that span is Rihanna. No surprise there. Others include Beyonce, Britney Spears, One Direction and Madonna to name a few, which shows that how repetitive an artist is has little to do with their overall success.The Pudding has included a search option just in case you were interested in finding out where your favorite pop artist ranks.

To that end, here’s Michel Gondry depiction of the most repetitive song in the past 50 years from 1997: