Get Out Of My Head! The Good Thing About Earworms

November 7, 2012  |  


You know how it goes – you’re driving home from work and the radio plays the same 10 songs every hour and before long you know all of them by heart. A new song by *insert moderately talented singer/rapper name here* debuts on the countdown. Initially you hate it. Then you get home and you hear it blasting from your roommate’s sound system. By the end of the night you find yourself singing this song in the shower and downloading it from iTunes. How did that happen? How did your eardrums get high-jacked?


Sounds gross, right? But earworms are those annoyingly catchy songs that seep into your brain and hide out in your emotional nervous system until something triggers it and you’re singing it all over again. Basically, the musical equivalent of shingles (talk about going viral). All you can do is treat the symptoms – which usually means singing it over and over until you can’t sing it no more.

What is it about these pesky songs that makes them, well, so damn pesky? For me it’s that they are rarely about anything thought provoking or deep. I never just hum “Mississippi Goshdang” by Nina Simone, or “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday. No.  I always seem to have the most ratchet, most saccharine, most asinine music that plays in my head, nonstop.  Lloyd’s ‘Street Love’ and Trey Songz’ “Gotta Go” reggae remix got me through graduate school. So did Lil Boosie’s “Independent” and Gucci Mane’s “Freaky Gurl.” For some reason or another, I just could not shake these songs, no matter how hard I tried. It’s not that I don’t have better music, but rather that I didn’t feel like listening to the good stuff (read:serious) all the time.

Right now I’m fighting diligently to keep Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire” from overtaking me every time it comes on the radio. Actually it’s not my favorite song in the world, but being a lover of shouting at the top of my lungs with passion makes it hard to not want to belt out this tune while driving/folding laundry/cooking food. Before that it was Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake,” which I also didn’t like at first but after enough listens I was tootin’ and bootin’ it like everybody else, every time I heard it. And before that it was Big Sean’s “A$$.” It’s a daily struggle to keep those earworms from having me recite every song on the Top 40 list.

The “Macarenas” and “Mambo Number 5s” and “2 Legit 2 Quits” and the “Umbrellas” are the songs that stick with you like bad credit. It can feel like that scene from the Denzel Washington thriller “Fallen,” where the evil spirit jumps from person to person, and the possessed all inexplicably sing the same song. Deep down though, part of me thinks we all that escape, myself included. If I had listened to too much melancholy soul music during grad school I would have been depressed out of my mind. Sometimes fun is necessary, and that includes fun music too.


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