A unique collaboration between a Grammy award-winning musician and developmental psychologists from Goldsmiths college (part of the University of London) has created The Happy Song—a scientifically tested brand song for C&G baby club released today and designed specifically to make babies happy.
The aim was to promote the C&G baby club online community with a piece of content that would have as wide a reach and as great a share-ability as possible, according to the agency behind it, BETC London. BETC has worked with the Cow & Gate brand for a number of years creating ads including "Supergroup" in which 90 toddlers messing around in a recording studio turns into a performance of 80s hit "Come on Eileen".
"Babies love music. But we also wanted to create something with a genuine and positive effect that would also help their families. So we wanted to have scientific backing to know for sure that what we were doing was right," says the agency’s Executive Creative Director Rosie Bardales.
Working closely with C&G baby club, the BETC team surveyed British parents to gauge the kinds of sounds that most made their babies laugh. These included "boo," an airplane flying sound, sneezing, animal sounds and baby laughter.
But the challenge was identifying, then creating music out of the ones the babies most liked. So the agency turned for help to award-winning singer-songwriter/composer Imogen Heap, who is known for sampling everyday sounds in her music, psychologists Caspar Addyman and Lauren Stewart, and music consultancy Felt Music.
"Surprisingly little research had been done on babies’ musical preferences and positive enjoyment, with the focus instead more often on what they don’t like or what best holds their attention—which tends to be their mother’s voice," says Stewart.
"But what we know from the work we’ve done is that babies absorb music from the world around them and understand how melodies and rhythms work very early on, and that particular aspects of musical structure influence their emotional response—repetition is appreciated as it allows them to predict what will come next and that creates a particularly positive emotion, for example."
Heap produced four short tracks exploring different musical devices and performance cues. These were then tested at Goldsmiths’ "infant laboratory" with babies’ movements, facial expressions and heart rate as they listened to the music closely monitored.
The psychologists advised Heap on the need to balance simplicity with a need to create anticipation and surprise, making recommendations on melody and rhythmic flow as well as tempo, chords and pitch to prioritize elements that would put babies in the most positive mood.
The choice of a 4/4 tempo, for example, was because it is the most popular and easy to dance to. Heap chose to compose the song in the key of E flat, meanwhile, as it was the key her own baby sang a melody in on the first studio session.
"Initially, we thought the faster the melody, the better the babies’ enjoyment," says Addyman. "But a slightly slower pace worked best because of the need to balance simplicity—because babies’ short attention spans—with their enjoyment of a slightly more complex composition."
It was important to allow the infants—and their parents, who the team hopes will learn and sing the song back to them—time to process what they were hearing, he adds.
A final track was then produced and further tested with 56 infants. The finished song features interactive lyrics, musical motifs and appealing sounds, some of which are everyday sounds parents participating in the research uploaded to the C&G baby club site.
BETC London asked director Michael J. Ferns and production company Pretzel to shoot the music video. The video and a making of film were then launched on C&G baby club and its social channels as well as soundofhappy.com.
The track is also available on SoundCloud and Spotify. BETC London will continue its partnership with Spotify by creating personalized baby music play lists launching later this week.