Have you ever wondered why certain songs always give you goose-bumps, or make you cry? Experts say that your background and personal experiences have a huge effect on which songs you find emotional. But researchers discovered that certain songs are almost guaranteed to bring on the tears from just about everybody.
Take a song like Adele’s Grammy-winning hit “Someone Like You.” British researchers discovered there’s an actual formula for songs that makes people cry. Almost all of them include heartfelt lyrics, a powerhouse voice, and surprises – like abruptly going from soft to loud, or unexpectedly jumping an octave. But there’s one crucial key: A musical device called an appoggiatura, it’s a type of musical note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant chord, one that creates tension in the listener. And when the regular melody returns, the tension is resolved, and the listener gets a little chill. And if you jam enough of those dissonant notes together, you create a mini-rollercoaster of tension and relaxation – which causes your heart to race and you start to sweat.
And depending on the context, you interpret that as positive or negative, happy or sad.
And either way, it makes you want to listen to the song again and again. Why? Because emotionally intense music releases the feel-good brain chemical dopamine into your brain – similar to the effects of food, drugs, and falling in love. And the more emotions a song provokes, the more you crave another hit of the song.