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Hit Me Baby One More Time

Chart-topping hits share a common ingredient.

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Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” the dance hit “Uptown Funk,” and most other chart-topping tracks share at least one ingredient: repetitive lyrics.

A study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology explored the power of repetition by comparing all No. 1 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 list from 1958 to 2012 with tracks that never broke past No. 90. Researchers observed that the simpler and more repetitive a song’s lyrics were, the better its chance of reaching the top spot.

Such songs were also more likely to have debuted in the Top 40, and they climbed the chart faster than less repetitive ones.

This finding supports the theory of processing fluency, which suggests that the easier a message is to digest, the more positively people will react to it. Musicians aren’t the only ones in on the secret: Similar strategies are used in advertising, through slogans that saturate commercials, and even in comedy—stand-ups often loop to the same punch line throughout a set.

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