The Secret Science Of Pop

Confirmed for BBC Four on 28 February at 9pm to 10pm

Ep 1/1

Tuesday 28 February



Evolutionary biologist, Professor Armand Leroi, believes data science can transform the pop world. Gathering together a team of scientists and researchers to analyse over 50 years of UK chart music, Armand asks the question: can algorithms find the secret to pop success?

Utilising his findings, Armand teams up with hit producer Trevor Horn. Using machine-learning techniques, Armand and Trevor try to take a song by unsigned artist Niké Jemiyo and turn it into a potential chart-topper.

Further delving into UK chart history, Armand takes a scientific look at pop evolution. He hunts for the major revolutions in his chart data, seeking out the artists who transformed the musical landscape. The outcomes are fascinating and surprising - though fans of the ‘Fab Four’ may not be pleased with the results. As Armand puts it, the hallmark of the Beatles is ‘average’!

Finally, by teaming up with BBC Research and Development, Armand finds out if his algorithms can discover the stars of the future. Can he predict which of thousands of demo tracks uploaded to the BBC Introducing is most likely to be a hit, without listening to a note?

This is a clash of science and culture in a unique experiment with no guarantee of success. How will the artists react to the scientist intruding on their turf? And will Armand succeed in finding the secret science of pop?