Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

No Cure for Songs Stuck in Your Head
Strange News - AP | Mon Oct 20, 9:48 AM ET | By RACHEL KIPP, Associated Press Writer

Posted on 10/20/2003 10:54:35 AM PDT by Fierce Allegiance

ALBANY, N.Y. - Unexpected and insidious, the earworm slinks its way into the brain and refuses to leave. Symptoms vary, although high levels of annoyance and frustration are common. There are numerous potential treatments, but no cure.

"Earworm" is the term coined by University of Cincinnati marketing professor James Kellaris for the usually unwelcome songs that get stuck in people's heads. Since beginning his research in 2000, Kellaris has heard from people all over the world requesting help, sharing anecdotes and offering solutions.

"I quickly learned that virtually everybody experiences earworms at one time or another," he said. "I think because it's experienced privately and not often a topic of conversation, maybe people really long for some social comparison. They want to know if other people experience what they experience."

Kellaris, whose most pervasive personal earworm (Byzantine chants) likely has something to do with his wife's job as a church choir director, has been interested in the topic of earworms for decades. As a musician who now studies how marketers reach the public, he began wondering how widespread stuck songs really are, and began doing small surveys in 2000.

Last year, he surveyed about 500 students, faculty and staff on campus asking about the type, frequency and duration of earworms, and possible causes and cures. Among the songs respondents picked as most likely to become stuck were: "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," the Chili's restaurant "baby back ribs" jingle and "Who Let the Dogs Out."

But the choice that topped the so-called "playlist from hell" was "Other," meaning the majority of those surveyed chose a unique song of their own as the most probable earworm. That led Kellaris to conclude that stuck songs are highly idiosyncratic.

"There are certain tunes that we would describe as catchy that are more likely to become one, but just about anything can become an earworm," he said.

The study, presented at conferences of the Society for Consumer Psychology in 2001 and 2003, showed:

_Women report more irritation and frustration as a result of earworms.

_People who are constantly exposed to music suffer them more frequently.

_There may be a connection between earworms and a person's level of neurosis.

"People with higher neuroticism scores tend to react to the onset of an earworm by saying 'Oh no, here it goes again, I wonder how long this is going to last,'" Kellaris said. "That fretting about it, I think, exacerbates it."

The atmosphere is ripe for earworms at Last Vestige, a music store just west of downtown Albany. As customers flipped through compact discs and records with markers displaying such subjects as "Elvis the Pelvis" and "Beatles Cash-in Copycats," employees Jim Kaufman and Charles Monroe ruminated on recent bouts with earworms.

"Top 40 pop, usually — stuff you wouldn't catch yourself listening to at home," said Kaufman, who named Jennifer Lopez's "Jenny From the Block" as a past stuck song. "Or stuff you're ashamed to admit listening to at home."

Both men said they get rid of earworms either by trying to ignore them or by playing a tune they enjoy. Monroe said an earworm "usually happens when I only hear the song for like a second, like if I go to the laundromat and I'm kind of in and out."

Kellaris heard similar stories after news of his study reached the public. He got hundreds of e-mails from the Philippines, South Africa, Norway, the United Kingdom, Germany, Argentina and all over North America. Among the messages:

_A company that provided background music for retail stores wanted to know how to avoid using music prone to becoming an earworm.

_Sufferers of a psychiatric condition where patients hear music when none is playing sent queries and case histories hoping Kellaris had found a way to cure or treat the disorder. The professor said the two are unrelated.

_Personal stories about earworms haunting individuals for weeks, months or years.

_Suggestions of how to cure an earworm, including chewing on a cinnamon stick, passing the earworm on to someone else or erasing the offending song by singing the theme from "Gilligan's Island."

For marketers, earworms can be a "double-edged sword," helpful if consumers look upon a memorable jingle favorably but with the potential to breed negativity toward a brand if the stuck song is viewed as annoying or unwelcome, said Larry Compeau, a marketing professor at Clarkson University and executive officer of the Society for Consumer Psychology.

"I think the trick with earworms or with any kind of piece of music in advertising is to make sure the music is going to trigger the kinds of emotions or feelings you want the consumer to experience," he said.

Studying when earworms are most likely to occur is next up for Kellaris.

He said one theory is that stuck songs are "the brain's attempt to resolve missing information," and that retrieving the forgotten lyrics of a song will provide closure that "unsticks" an earworm.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: earworm; song; songs
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-20 ... 441-460461-480481-500 ... 561-573 next last
To: eddie willers; PoorMuttly
Don't start something you can't finish...

My folks were always putting him down

(Down, down)

The said that he came from

The wrong side of town

(Wrong side of town)

They'd told me he was bad

But I know he was sad

That's why I fell for the leader of the pack

461 posted on 10/20/2003 3:18:37 PM PDT by Harmless Teddy Bear (It's none of your business what I do in the woods nosy Humans!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 458 | View Replies]

To: spodefly
The Dachshund Version

Hot dogs-Armour hot dogs
What kind of kids beat armour hot dogs?
Fat dogs, skinny dogs,
Dogs that piss on rocks,
Tough dogs, sissy dogs,
Even dogs with chicken pox, Love hot dogs-armor hot dogs
The dogs kids love to beat.

Our next door neighbor's kids sang that whenever I put the hounds o-u-t-side.

462 posted on 10/20/2003 3:24:09 PM PDT by kaylar
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 271 | View Replies]

To: Harmless Teddy Bear
Before I cry "Uncle":
"I hear a neighbor tellin my father
He said a girl name of Patches was found
Floating face down in that dirty old river
That flows by the coal yards in Old Shanty Town

Patches oh what can I do
I swear I'll always love you
It may not be right But I'll join you tonight
Patches I'm coming to you."

Double suicide teen death.....HA!
463 posted on 10/20/2003 3:29:30 PM PDT by eddie willers
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 461 | View Replies]

To: Harmless Teddy Bear
That's also why "Billy-Jo McAllister Jumped Off The Talahachee Bridge."

Wouldn't you ?!!
464 posted on 10/20/2003 3:30:21 PM PDT by PoorMuttly (In MY neighborhood..the Early Bird meets the Cat !)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 461 | View Replies]

To: kaylar
Just got back from the store...Thought of this thread because the store was inflicting Jackson Browne's Stay a Little Longer. JB is a pretty good artist, but on that song, he sounds like Olive Oyl, all high pitched, nasal-y and whiney. I swear that song is a few minutes longer each time I am forced to hear it.

But there is no worse song than Sheryl Crow's All I Wanna Do.

465 posted on 10/20/2003 3:30:34 PM PDT by kaylar
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 462 | View Replies]

To: Dscott_FR
Michael Martin Murphy, "Wildfire".

A particularly haunting and beautiful piece, has a very special meaning for me since my wife passed so young.

The only solution is to stick the CD into the player, best done while driving a long distance, put it on REPEAT, and play it till you get utterly sick of it.
466 posted on 10/20/2003 3:32:27 PM PDT by djf
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 430 | View Replies]

To: weegee
In the same vein, there is a Rhino album (Rerun Rock) of "original" recordings of tv themes in the style of hit songs. It is not entirely successful in its efforts:

A similar project which *is* quite successful in its artistry is a series of playful albums by Delos International, which normally produces "serious" classical albums. I own their "Heigh-Ho! Mozart" and "Mozart TV" albums, and they're great. The first is 16 "Favorite Disney tunes in the style of Great Classical Composers", the second is 15 "Favorite TV tunes" (i.e., TV series theme songs) done the same way.

They're a real hoot, but done with enough skill and virtuosity that they're amazing. It's fun to listen to them without reading the track list first -- it's often surprisingly difficult to recognize TV jingles when they're performed in a manner outside their usual context. Then when you finally do recognize them, it's like a bomb going off in your head. It's also fascinating to see what a vast difference musical style can make to what is nominally the same melody, and how even the most insipid ditty can become something glorious if handled with artistry.

Besides being a lot of fun, these albums (and several others in the same vein by Delos) are practically a painless class in musical appreciation.

Excerpt from the liner notes:

Mr. Ed - in the style of Joaquin Rodrigo

Grant Gershon: The "Rodrigo" is right up there with I Love Lucy as -- on the surface -- the most unlikely combination of TV theme with composer invoked... to fashion Mr. Ed into a Rodrigo style guitar concerto! And yet, when I actually heard what Donald had done with it, it made perfect sense. It has a terrific amount of charm and wit. It invokes the Spanish style of guitar playing with fabulous integrity, and is a great display for the talents of Scott Tennant.

Donald Fraser: Mr. Ed is wonderful. It's done with tremendous fun and with character. At first, the tune suggested a bassoon. But you try out various things. Then someone rings up and suggests a guitar concerto! So it's a combination of the practical and the inspirational -- a balance.

The most ambitious piece on "Mozart TV" is a Mozart-styled piano concerto using Hill Street Blues for the first movement, M*A*S*H ("Suicide is Painless") as the slow movement, and The Brady Bunch as the Rondo/third movement.

Grant Gershon: The Brady Bunch is the perfect wedding of a goofy tune and a lighthearted form. The rondo movement of a Mozart piano concerto is always playful, always has a lot of wit and panache. The Brady Bunch tune is intrinsically Mozartian in a way: it's quite diatonic, and it's got a strong rhythmic flavor to it. It works very convincingly as a movement of a Mozart piano concerto.

Complete Contents

  1. Friends (I'll Be There for You) in the style of Vivaldi
  2. The X-Files in the style of Hovhaness
  3. The Brady Bunch in the style of Mozart
  4. M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless) in the style of Mozart
  5. Hill Street Blues in the style of Mozart
  6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (Love Is All Around) in the style of Satie
  7. Cheers (Where Everybody Knows Your Name) in the style of J. Ireland
  8. Mr. Ed in the style of Rodrigo
  9. Bewitched in the style of Debussy
  10. Jeopardy (Think Music) in the style of Handel
  11. Star Trek: Voyager in the style of R. Strauss
  12. Taxi (Angela's Theme) in the style of Villa-Lobos
  13. I Love Lucy in the style of Purcell
  14. Green Acres in the style of Joplin
  15. The Jetsons in the style of Britten

Complete Contents

467 posted on 10/20/2003 3:32:33 PM PDT by Ichneumon
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 419 | View Replies]

To: kaylar
...worse than "The Year of the Cat?"

468 posted on 10/20/2003 3:34:25 PM PDT by PoorMuttly (Bert is behind it all)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 465 | View Replies]

To: eddie willers
Time to move in for the kill...

I swear I left her by the river
I swear I left her safe and sound
I need to make it to the river
And leave this old Nebraska town

I think about my life gone by
How it's done me wrong
There's no escape for me this time
All of my rescues are gone, long gone

Girl dead. Guy on death row(or killed himself. One of the two)
469 posted on 10/20/2003 3:34:41 PM PDT by Harmless Teddy Bear (It's none of your business what I do in the woods nosy Humans!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 463 | View Replies]

To: kaylar
How about "Somebody's Baby"
470 posted on 10/20/2003 3:35:52 PM PDT by JimDingle (Give Dingle a Jingle)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 465 | View Replies]

To: Dscott_FR
Another bad one is:

"I could lie awake just to hear you breathing,
watch you smile while you are sleeping,
while you're far away and dreaming..."

"Even when I dream of you,
The sweetest dream could never do,
cause I miss ya babe,
and I don't wanna miss a thing"


471 posted on 10/20/2003 3:37:58 PM PDT by djf
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 430 | View Replies]

To: PoorMuttly
Oh I might. ;)
472 posted on 10/20/2003 3:39:58 PM PDT by Harmless Teddy Bear (It's none of your business what I do in the woods nosy Humans!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 464 | View Replies]

To: djf; All
The only solution is to stick the CD into the player, best done while driving a long distance, put it on REPEAT, and play it till you get utterly sick of it.

Here's the cure: I don't know why it works, but I've found that whenever there's a song stuck in your head, listening to the same song actually play on the stereo or radio, from start to finish, will clear your head. It seems like we get these "song loops" because our brains are trying to reach the end of the song and instead get "stuck" repeating a portion of it, and listening to the song actually play through and *end* finishes the mental obsession.

473 posted on 10/20/2003 3:40:03 PM PDT by Ichneumon
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 466 | View Replies]

To: LibWhacker
The worst song ever...
474 posted on 10/20/2003 3:40:31 PM PDT by stands2reason ("What you see at fight club is a generation of men raised by women." -- Chuck Palahniuk)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 405 | View Replies]

To: PoorMuttly
Year of the Cat is High Art compared to Moonshadow. Ever hear that one? It's a paean to mutilation :

If I had no eyes,
I'd never have to cry."

Etc , etc, etc, for about 4 minutes.

Just demands sick parody lines.

475 posted on 10/20/2003 3:41:01 PM PDT by kaylar
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 468 | View Replies]

To: Ichneumon
Probably true. Brain loops. There's a cognitive theorist named Edward De Bono who's done a lot of work in that area.
476 posted on 10/20/2003 3:42:56 PM PDT by djf
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 473 | View Replies]

To: Ichneumon
Other musicians (most notably jazz) have also been known to work up arrangements of songs. Dave Bruebeck did a whole album of Disney songs back in the 1950s and even Miles Davis covered "Someday My Prince Will Come". Davis also covered Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time and made a respectable song out of that.

I saw Clarence Gatemouth Brown this weekend at a free outdoor festival. He's 79 years old (and been recording for 56 years). He plays blues, country, cajun, zydeco, jazz, and swing (and guitar, fiddle, and manolin). In his performance, his songs made slight detours and musical references to "Pop Goes The Weasel" and "Georgia". Even his extended instrumental version of Unchained Melody is uniquely his.

I've also heard a good arrangement of Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are" as recorded by Frank Sinatra (and later Sam Butera).

By and large, today's "a-list" performers are nobodies. If the older practice of a "hit" being considered a "standard" (which everybody recorded) were still in effect, how many of these stars would be out classed and outsold by other artists doing their material? If a song is taken on the merits of the recording (and not the strength of the lyrics or musical hooks), would we still have the same "stars"?

477 posted on 10/20/2003 3:47:39 PM PDT by weegee
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 467 | View Replies]

To: Harmless Teddy Bear
Here comes a high hard one:
"Hungry as hell, no food to eat
And Joe said that he would sell his soul
For just a piece of meat.

Water enough to drink for two
Joe said to me, I'll take a swig
And then there's some for you.

Timothy, Timothy,
Joe was looking at you

Timothy, Timothy,
god what did we do?"

Gonna have to go a long way to top cannibalism.
478 posted on 10/20/2003 3:48:12 PM PDT by eddie willers
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 469 | View Replies]

To: Ichneumon
I was watching a Finnish Movie (on Japanese DVD): Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses (aka Leningrad Cowboys Go Mexico). I had a rhythm (and lyric) from a German song (that I don't even know!) get stuck in my head because it was "catchy" (the song was played by the Leningrad Cowboys in one scene). More importantly it stuck in my head because I knew a rock song that used that same rhythm (it was recorded by the Monks, some American GIs who were stationed in Germany in the 1960s). When I figured out where I knew that song (why it was so familiar), I was able to "move on" (this took me a couple of days).

Never know where your mind will go when it wanders...

479 posted on 10/20/2003 3:53:37 PM PDT by weegee
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 473 | View Replies]

To: kaylar
It's the lispy voice attachments that makes that song (YOTC)so cloying.

Moonshadow was just a symptom along the path of his selling his guitars, and putting on a turban. Perhaps we got lucky.

480 posted on 10/20/2003 3:55:44 PM PDT by PoorMuttly (Bert is behind it all)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 475 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-20 ... 441-460461-480481-500 ... 561-573 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson