"Uptown Funk," by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, is quickly proving to be the most popular song of the year so far. The BBC reported that the song has been No. 1 in the U.S., Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and Canada. The music video has been watched 115 million times on Vevo, and in the UK the hit broke records by becoming the first song to have two million streams in a week, which is a million more than any of the other contenders. Whether you think the song is good or bad, you can’t deny that it’s pretty darn catchy, and some may even say that Ronson has this hit-making business down to a science.

It’s All In The Background Vocals

In a study published late last year, researchers from the USC and Bocconi University in Italy analyzed 1,029 Billboard chart hits and found one salient similarity: the use of backup singers.

"Using background vocals in your song increases your chances of reaching the top of the charts,” explained Dr. Joseph Nunes, a researcher on the study, in a press release.

The team concluded that nearly every hit song at the top of the charts included background vocals, and nearly every hit unable to surpass the number 90 spot excluded background vocals. The two most common combinations of core instruments and vocals to appear in No.1 songs were: 1) background vocals paired with a synthesizer and clean guitar, and 2) background vocals paired with a synthesizer and distorted electric guitar. "Uptown Funk," unsurprisingly, has all of the above.

Another factor that may have been in favor for the hit is its eccentric use of musical instruments.

“Our results suggest songs that do not follow conventional instrumentation have the best chance of becoming No. 1 hits," Nunes said. "The average song has three to five instruments, but songs that feature a surprisingly low or high number of instruments — at specific points in time — tended to stand out." Uptown Funk's use of guitars, bass, drums, synthesizers, and horns may be just what the song needed to give it such a unique and irresistible sound.

In a recent interview with BBC Radio 1, “musical genius” Chilly Gonzales explained that the buildup before the chorus — a trifecta of background singers, instruments, and structure — is what makes the song win over listeners.

"I would like to point out the masterful build up towards the song's money shot, which is the phrase, 'Don't believe me, just watch,'" said Gonzales on the radio show, BBC reported. He added that “the off beats in the buildup to the phrase 'Don't believe me, just watch'" help to emphasize the key phrase and make the song that much more powerful.

Playground Techniques

Mark Ronson explains that Uptown Funk took nearly seven months to complete, and for what the song lacks in chord diversity it makes up for in musical instruments. However, as 2014 has shown a song doesn’t really need much musical ingenuity to become an international hit. Simply repeating a catchy line over and over will suffice. In 1Live Pop Masterclass with Gonzales, the musical mastermind explains how many pop stars use “playground chanting techniques” to keep their songs both inside our heads and the Billboard charts. Usually a song is devised of chords — that is, a group of musical notes which create a melody when played together. Sometimes a singer will omit the use of chords and instead stress the dominant single note meolody using something similar to a playground chant. Like the children’s songs "London Bridge is Falling Down" and "Ring Around the Rosey," the chorus to last year’s hits "Shake It Off" and "Fancy" are composed of single note chants rather than multiple note chords. Combine this easy-to-sing-along chanting with repetition, and you have a hit single.

Cool Factor

"There are always exceptions and reasons other than the choice and number of instruments for a song's popularity," Nunes explained. "For example, the star power of Rihanna may overcome any effect of instrumentation." It’s true that often audiences will embrace a song simply because they adore those singing it. Take Bang Bang, for example. The song lacks strong background vocals, has little instrumental diversity, and doesn’t quite have the same “playground charm” as "Fancy" and "Shake It Off." Still, it dominated the charts for weeks at a time, which may be down to its use of not one but three female superstars: Jessie J, Nicki Minaj, and Ariana Grande.