It’s happened to you before. You’re going about your day, putting in your effort at the gym, going through the motions at work, catching the subway for your next adventure and you realize something: you’ve been humming the same song all day long. It’s “stuck” in your head.
Once you know it, you can’t unknow it. You can’t escape it. What started out innocently has overtaken all rational thoughts. You’re tired of humming Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson and Lady Gaga or whatever musician is stuck on repeat in your brain.
There’s good news, you’re not alone. Those songs that keep getting stuck? They have a name: earworms.
Last month, Billboard released their list of the top 100 choruses of the 21st century. Music matters to us…just like it does to you. So, we checked it out.
At the mere mention of some of the top choruses – “Call Me Maybe,” “Since U Been Gone,” “Mr. Brightside,” “Ride Wit Me,” and more – a flood of memories came rushing in. Along with some earworms that had been missing for some time.
I mean…come on. Who can forget the 2012 Olympic swimming montage featuring Carley Rae Jensen?
What is it about amazing songs – we’re looking at you Lady Gaga – that keep us coming back, even if we haven’t heard them in years? Why are some songs more persistent earworms than others?
We’re pretty committed to finding answers to some of life’s more common problems, especially when they’re based in science [LINK to Science of Sound article] so we get pretty excited when others are too.
That’s when we came across “The Earworm Project.”
According to a group of scientists who’ve been studying why certain songs get stuck in our heads for some time now, an earworm refers to:
The experience of having a tune or part of a tune stuck in your head. Often, a person experiencing the earworm has no idea why a tune has popped into their head and has little control over how long it continues.
Earworms are common – super common, actually. In fact, according to The Music, Mind and Brain Group, over 90% of the population experiences them at least once a week.
There’s good news here. While earworms may make it hard to focus on more important tasks, they’re not harmful.
While Lady Gaga dominates the top ten list of common earworms, other tunes have a spot of precedence as well. Check out the list of the top 10 most common earworms, listed below:
While earworms come in all shapes and sizes, it seems like some – hey Lady Gaga! – are more commonly reported among those that experience them.
Why is “Poker Face” more likely to bounce around your brain time after time, then say the song you just heard during your commute? Why is it harder to get rid of than others?
It starts with the recipe for the song itself. Songs that are most commonly reported among earworm “sufferers” are generally simple in structure, with a complexity associated with their pace. They are unique enough to stand on their own, but simple enough to recall without much effort (think: nursery rhymes).
Songs that have repetition combined with a catchy beat and easy to recall chorus are more likely to stick around than those that tell a story or those that follow a more unique pattern.
According to the earworm researchers, memories can trigger an earworm, even if you haven’t heard it recently. Being in a similar situation, in a specific place or with a certain person might bring an earworm back to the forefront.
We talk a lot about music as a motivator. [LINK to relevant article] What if you could use it to propel your next workout, in the form of an earworm?
While there’s no science behind it, it’s worth considering. If a certain song is used to motivate you during a training session, bringing it to the forefront during a similar experience – say a competition where music is not available – in the form of an earworm, might be valuable. According to the research, many people find earworms to be valuable and helpful as far as getting things done.
If you’re going to do your best to use earworms to your advantage, you might as well do it right. Even if it doesn’t work exactly as planned, you’ll get to enjoy some amazing music in the meantime and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Remember – music drives us to do more, no matter what format it comes in.
Make sure you have the equipment you need to make your listening efforts successful while doubling down on your time at the gym or on the road with the sport earbuds [LINK to 26 page] designed to do just that.
Music adds color and passion to life. It drives us to do great things and helps us exceed when nothing else can. When paired with the right equipment, the possibilities are endless.
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