Why you can’t get that song out of your head
Getting a song stuck in our heads happens to everyone, and whether it’s the latest Lady Gaga song, or that annoying advert jingle, not being able to shift a certain song can start to get annoying pretty quickly.
But why does it actually happen? That’s what a team of scientists from Goldsmiths University of London wanted to find out when they embarked on new research.
Recruiting a group of 3,000 people between 2010 and 2013, the participants were all asked to name the songs that got stuck in their head the most. The repetitive tunes, known as earworms, were then compared to songs that had performed similarly well in the U.K. music charts, but hadn’t been named as earworms.
The top three earworms were Lady Gaga's Bad Romance, Can't Get You Out Of My Head by Kylie Minogue and Journey’s Don't Stop Believing. Gaga’s Poker Face and Alejandro also made the top 10, with tracks by Maroon 5, Katy Perry Queen, Beyonce and Gotye also most getting stuck in people’s heads.
The songs that are rated as earworms were found to have repetitions, changes in melody like instrumental interlude and a rise and fall in pitch between phrases. Nursery rhymes taught to children have similar repetitions as they’re designed to easy to remember, noted researchers.
“Our findings show that you can, to some extent, predict which songs are going to get stuck in people's heads based on the song's melodic content,” said Dr. Kelly Jakubowski. “This could help aspiring song-writers or advertisers write a jingle everyone will remember for days or months afterwards.”
To rid yourself of an earworm, Dr. Jakubowski suggests listening to the offending song all the way through in order to help stop it from continuously looping in your brain, or distract yourself by thinking of or listening to different music.