This Song Was Carefully Engineered To Make Babies Happy

Calming a crying baby is like trying to defuse a bomb. Imagine Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker,” checking to see if the baby’s diaper is clean, trying to give it a bottle, and gently rocking it side-to-side, hoping to stop the screams. If all else fails, try this: a song scientifically engineered to make babies happy. “The Happy Song,” developed in 2016, may even work on you.

You’d think a whole happy baby Spotify playlist would already exist… but apparently not. Caspar Addyman, an expert in child development at Goldsmiths University of London, and Lauren Stewart, a musical psychologist at the same university, were asked by U.K. baby food manufacturer Cow & Gate to come up with “a song scientifically proven to make babies happy.”

They dug into research to find sounds babies like, and discovered, as reported by The Conversation, “The top ten sounds included ‘boo!’ (66%), raspberries (57%), sneezing (51%), animal sounds (23%) and baby laughter (28%). We also know babies respond better to ‘plosive’ vocal sounds like ‘pa’ and ‘ba’ compared to ‘sonorant’ sounds like ‘la’.”

The next step was to actually get someone who knows how to make music. The team enlisted the help of composer Imogen Heap (surely you know her song “Hide And Seek”), who is also a mother of an 18-month-old. Heap took the happy noises gathered from the research and applied a few more findings from the team’s research to create her melody. The resulting tune is upbeat, features female vocals, is in a major key, has a simple and repetitive melody, and includes surprising musical devices like drum rolls, key changes, and rising pitch glides.

But Does it Work?

Ask the babies. “We assembled about 20 of the babies in one room and played them the song altogether. […] When ‘The Happy Song’ played, we were met by a sea of entranced little faces,” writes Dr. Addyman for The Conversation.

“This final bit wasn’t the most scientific as tests go but it definitely convinced me that we had a hit on our hands. Now that we have a song that is both new and highly baby friendly, Lauren [Stewart] and I have a range of follow-up studies planned. We are planning to use the song in a range of experiments looking at how parents introduce their babies to music and hope to look more in-depth at babies’ physiological responses to happy music.”

Listen To “The Happy Song”

It’s engineered to make babies happy — but you might find yourself singing along, too.


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