11Jan, 2017


By Carmen Cillie

You switch on the radio and all of a sudden you hear: "so tell me what you want what you really really want" and if you're anything like me you change the station before you hear the rest. Now you're sitting behind your desk singing "if you wanna be my lover..." over and over again and your co-workers are silently (or not so silently) cursing your existence. This means that you, my friend, have fallen victim to the annoying and somewhat life threatening condition called Involuntary Musical Imagery (INMI) or in layman’s terms- an earworm. It happens to the best of us, but according to science the majority of the ‘us’ is women, stressed out peeps, and musicians. I can understand how musicians could be more prone since they live music, and women (it wouldn’t be a stereotype if it weren’t true) are generally more obsessive and neurotic, but I don’t know how stressed out people fit into the picture. There is also a higher propensity for songs to get stuck in your head simply because of their melodies and lyrics. Songs that get stuck in your noggin easily have the right kind and amount of repetition in the melodies, and aren’t overly complicated yet are complicated and intriguing enough that you fixate on completing the tune especially since you don’t know the second or third verse so you repeat it over and over. Typically like that episode of The Office where Andy is trying to remember the rest of the jingle “break me off a piece of that fancy feast” (actually, Kit-Kat bar).

The cure for earworms are similar to those for hiccups, as in everyone has a different opinion on the matter. I suppose it would depend on your mood and the way your brain is wired but the most effective method that I have found that works for me is listening to the song in its entirety while reading the lyrics, that way my brain focuses on the song and since I now know the lyrics to a degree I also don’t think of it as an unfinished task. Other methods that seem effective are listening to other songs that aren’t as catchy as the one stuck in your head, do a puzzle like unscrambling an anagram or completing a Sudoku puzzle, or keeping yourself busy by doing something else to take your mind off of it. Below are a few songs that always seem to get stuck in my head whenever I hear them. In advance, so sorry!

  1. Hanson- MMMBop (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHozn0YXAeE)
  2. Chumbawamba- Tubthumping
  3. Justin Bieber- Baby (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kffacxfA7G4)
  4. Baha Men- Who let the dogs out?
  5. Village People-YMCA (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS9OO0S5w2k)
  6. Drake-Hotline Bling (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxpDa-c-4Mc)
  7. Dexys Midnight Runners- Come on Eileen
  8. Rick Astley- Never gonna give you up (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ)
  9. Spice Girls- Wannabe (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJLIiF15wjQ)
  10. Meghan Trainor- Me Too (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDRORgoZxZU)





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Goldsmiths University of London