Martin Kaminski is a resident in internal medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a clinical fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School
Peter Kaminski is an advanced heart failure hospitalist and clinical instructor at UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco
Over the last decade, it has become widely accepted that chest compressions during Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) should be done to the beat of the Bee Gees’ 1977 hit, “Stayin’ Alive”, to help save lives. The United Kingdom's Resuscitation Council advises that chest compressions during CPR should be between 100 to 120 beats per minute based on the consensus of the 2015 International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation. Meanwhile, “Stayin’ Alive” clocks in at 104 beats per minute. Case closed some would say. But the real question is, can we do better? The tools of medicine are constantly evolving. Furthermore, we question whether a song approaching its 41st year remains at the forefront of medical science. As both a senior millennial (MK, 35 years old) and a slightly less senior millennial (PK, 30 years old) we feel that “the times they are a changin’.” Therefore, we embarked on a serious, rigorous search for the best song to which to perform CPR.
You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
To begin our search, we began with the source of all semi-serious scientific knowledge, the Internet. With the criterion of looking for songs running 100 to 120 beats per minute (bpm), we used three different resources. The first was GetSongBPM.com, a Berlin-based website that claims to be the largest repository of songs by beats per minute in the world with over 6 million entries. Considering the top 100 most viewed songs of each bpm starting at 100 bpm, then 101 bpm, and so on until 120bpm, we looked at 2100 songs specifically based on whether the titles were pertinent to CPR - as “Stayin’ Alive” is effective in part due to its apropos title. As a result, a song like “Heaven Can Wait” (106 bpm) by Iron Maiden was deemed appropriate. In contrast, a song like “Die Young” (105 bpm) by Black Sabbath was deemed very, very inappropriate. Sadly, this also meant excluding Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” (109 bpm) which is also reportedly used by medical responders. Table 1 (below) lists some songs deemed to be wholly inappropriate.
Most song titles were merely irrelevant.
Using this method resulted in a list of 85 songs. One included song, “Eye of The Tiger” did not meet title criterion, but was included as it was sung by the very appropriately titled band, 'Survivor'.
Get Down On It
Additionally, in order to ensure completeness, Rolling Stone magazine’s 2011 list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” was reviewed and 5 songs were found, of which 3 were new to our list.
Lastly, the New York Presbyterian Hospital’s “Songs to do CPR to” list on Spotify was examined. Containing 47 songs, 8 songs were found, of which 4 were new to our list.
Thus 92 songs were deemed appropriate. Subsequently, on second internal review of the list by the “less senior” millennial author, 26 songs were removed for having titles that the second author found either vague, overly religious, only tangentially appropriate for CPR, or confusing with mostly sexual undertones. This left 67 songs. For example, a song removed during second internal review was “You Oughta Know” (105bpm) by Alanis Morrisette. The first author argued that people performing CPR oughta know how to perform CPR. The second felt this was ambiguous as to whether proper CPR was being administered.
Next, 12 songs were eliminated based on both authors' lack of familiarity with them. Heavy metal songs were particularly hit hard at this point. At one point, MK’s astute partner suggested that perhaps the authors were not “cool enough” to be familiar with said eliminated songs. This was naturally dismissed out of hand. The authors are both very cool.
Lastly, the remaining 54 song titles and artists were searched on YouTube and ranked from greatest to least number of views on that platform. (See table 2 - below - for the top 10.) Interestingly, “Stayin’ Alive” remains current in fifth place. While songs number three (“Never Gonna Give You Up” (113 bpm) by Rick Astley) and number two (“The Final Countdown” (117bpm) by Europe) were not surprises, the number one song surely was.
Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)
Surprisingly, “It’s My Life” (120bpm) by Bon Jovi - with over 775 million views on Youtube - was determined to be the current, state-of-the art song for CPR chest compression timing. Having re-examined the lyrics and inserted our thoughts, however, we agree that it does fit today’s needs.*
My heart is like an open highway. (Here Bon Jovi promotes good heart health)
Like Frankie said I did it my way. (Okay, we admit we were stumped as to how this was relevant)
I just wanna live while I’m alive. (The ultimate purpose of CPR.)
It’s my life. (Agreed.)
*Just kidding, despite all this, we both recommend “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley.
Table 1. Examples of Inappropriate Songs For CPR
- “Float On” - Modest Mouse (100bpm)
- “Sexual Healing” - Marvin Gaye (100bpm)
- “He Ain’t Worth Missing - Toby Keith (101bpm)
- “Die Young” - Black Sabbath (105bpm)
- “The Sound of Silence” - Simon and Garfunkel (108bpm)
- “Another One Bites the Dust” - Queen (109bpm)
- “Highway to Hell” - AC/DC (112bpm)\
- “Fade to Black” - Metallica (116bpm)
- “Bad Medicine” - Bon Jovi (118bpm)
Table 2. The Perfect Songs for CPR - ranked in Order of YouTube Views
- “It’s My Life” - Bon Jovi (120bpm) 775 million views
- “The Final Countdown” - Europe (117bpm) 676 million views
- “Never Gonna Give You Up” - Rick Astley (113bpm) 596 million view
- “Eye of the Tiger” - Survivor (108bpm) 526 million view
- “Stayin’ Alive” - Bee Gees (104bpm) 465 million views
- “Hero” - Mariah Carey (119bpm) 226 million views
- “More Than a Feeling” - Boston (108bpm) 147 million views
- “Rock Your Body” - Justin Timberlake (100bpm) 122 million views
- “This Is How We Do It” - Montell Jordan (103bpm) 106 million views
- “Jump” - Kriss Kross (101bpm) 102 million views