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The Annoyance of Earworms

Different kinds of earworms and how they can be annoying in certain circumstances

By Jamie LammersPublished 3 years ago 3 min read

Don’t you just hate it when a song gets stuck inside your head and you can’t control it no matter what you do? Admittedly, sometimes, you get that rare song that you like being stuck in your head, the kind that you constantly sing the chorus to out loud and annoy everyone within earshot after about an hour. For me, that’s songs like “Smells like Teen Spirit” or “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2,” heck, I don’t even mind “Yellow Submarine” looping in my head whenever I so much as hear its title. However, most of the time, earworms aren’t forgiving like that. Most of the time, they come into your head with absolutely no warning, digging into your brain and slowly becoming louder than thunder in your own thoughts. From there, the only way that you can bring balance between your brain, which is insistent on keeping the song in your head, and yourself, who never wanted the song to be stuck there in the first place, is to listen to it or sing through the whole thing. I’ve had plenty of moments where I’ve sung the melody of a song to myself because I can barely remember the words to it and I’m doing something that prevents me from listening to music. This is particularly aggravating during chemistry labs or hour-long exam periods, as not only are you doing something that actively prevents you from pulling out your phone and putting on Turnover’s “Super Natural” in the background, you are actively doing something where you would rather be doing anything else.

For me, it’s not even these kinds of earworms that drive me up the wall the most. Since quarantine started, I’ve been working on my songwriting, and if you have any experience in making music at all, you’ll know that sometimes, an idea comes to you at the exact worst time. I hate it when an idea for an awesome-sounding melody comes into my head and I have to constantly sing it to myself because I can’t pull out my phone and record it at that very moment. I’m in the middle of a test, I don’t want to wake my college roommate up in the middle of the night, I’m in the shower, or I don’t have my phone with me in the first place. These earworms are the absolute worst because during these moments, I am so desperate to keep the melody in my head that I force myself to keep singing the melody until I can record it. Sometimes, I’ll even write lyrics and note notations on any blank piece of paper that happens to be near me so that I can have a prayer of remembering the melody that I want to save in an hour’s time. Earworms of popular songs are annoying, sure, but at least those earworms don’t run the risk of the disappearance of the entire song once you forget they’re there. Well, I suppose except in The Case of the Missing Hit, that podcast episode from Reply All. Have you guys heard that one? If not, you should definitely check it out.

If you have any tips for getting rid of earworms that annoy you to no end, let me know because I'm sure there's at least one person out there that could use that advice to get a random song out of their head. If someone's reading this and currently has a song like "Dancing Queen" by ABBA stuck in their head and they don't want it there, my tip is to either sing or listen to the full thing. However, if anyone else has any other tips, I would be really interested in hearing them.

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