The Secret Science of Pop

The Secret Science of Pop


“Musically, the Beatles weren’t that important.” That’s the headline finding of this pop-in-a-test-tube documentary. The Fab Four don’t sit high on a plot of aggression, you see.

There’s something to be said for an outsider’s perspective, but is an evolutionary biologist who’s not a music fan the man to do it? Yes, says Professor Armand Leroi, who applies algorithms to the question of pop success.

Producer Trevor Horn is not convinced, and queers Leroi’s pitch with a few choice observations. The Kinks’ Dave Davies turns up to add heft and legitimacy, too.

The rise of the machine in music is one thing, and it’s interesting to hear what constitutes the average song. But writing the perfect pop formula proves unsurprisingly elusive. I’d have had more time for Leroi’s conclusions if he’d got the lyrics to Kraftwerk’s Autobahn right.


Evolutionary biologist Professor Armand Leroi gathers a team of scientists and researchers to analyse more than 50 years of UK chart music. When the results are in, Armand teams up with producer Trevor Horn. Using machine-learning techniques, they try to take a song by unsigned artist Nike Jemiyo and turn it into a potential chart-topper.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Armand Leroi
Contributor Trevor Horn
Contributor Nike Jemiyo
Director Tom Hewitson
Executive Producer Steve Crabtree
Producer Tom Hewitson
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