‘Turn it up!’ vs. ‘Turn it off!’

Music lovers from across the UK will be reluctantly heading back to work following Glastonbury this weekend, with traffic jams on the cards. A new study of more than 2,000 people nationwide by Town Hall Symphony Hall Birmingham looked into people’s car music loves and hates, asking people to name the song that is guaranteed to have the whole car singing along, then the song they would least like to hear whilst stuck in a traffic jam. 

For the first time, Symphony Hall can now reveal the UK’s definitive ‘marmite’ Top 5 for 2017, based on the positions in the Top 20s denoting the levels of love or hate for a song. 

At the top of the list, the most divisive song was Pharell Williams’ ‘Happy’ – the only song to feature in the Top 10 of both lists: No. 6 in the ‘love’ list; No. 8 in the ‘hate’ list. The shine is rubbed off Bohemian Rhapsody’s crown as it also appeared in the Top 20 ‘hate’ list, which was also the case for ‘Summer Holiday’. The Proclaimer’s ‘500 miles’ and Disney’s ‘Let it Go’ were loved and hated in relatively equal measure.

The UK’s definitive ‘marmite’ Top 5 for 2017, according to British public

SongArtistPosition in 'love' listPosition in 'hate' list
1‘Happy’Pharrell Williams68
2‘Bohemian Rhapsody’Queen116
3‘Summer Holiday’Cliff Richard218
4‘500 miles’The Proclaimers812
5‘Let it go’From Disney's Frozen1415

The number of different tastes in one car, let alone a city or a nation, varies massively. Everyone has songs that spark different reactions from other people – good and bad – stemming from that fact that people often have strong feelings and opinions when it comes to music. The debate about ‘good’ music, as opposed to ‘bad’, doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon.

Nick Reed

Topping the ‘love’ list, and earning the crown as nation’s No. 1 ‘karaoke car pool’ song, was (perhaps unsurprisingly) ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which was the choice of 1 in every 12 people surveyed. Some way behind came Sir Cliff’s ‘Summer Holiday’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Don’t stop me now’ (Queen, again), and ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’. 

At the other end of the scale, the ‘hate’ list was crowned by ‘The Birdy Song’, again by some way. ‘The Crazy Frog’ followed, then Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’, ‘Barbie Girl’, and ‘Agadoo’. 

Interestingly, there were a number of overlaps – songs that appeared in both Top 20 lists, suggesting that if they were to be played on a car trip this weekend, an argument may follow. 

The fact there was such an overlap in both lists, and which songs, was a surprise. We are constantly listening to our audience’s thoughts – their likes and dislikes inside and outside of the concert hall – which informs what we put on. I hope people travel safely this weekend, their journeys are not too arduous and whatever they listen to helps the journey go a bit quicker.

Nick Reed