Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Annoying Earworm--or the Song You Must Turn Off

Dictionary Definition for Earworm: A song or tune that gets stuck in one's mind and repeats as if on a tape, also called cognitive itch, sticky tune.

We've all experienced the earworm phenomenon. And if you are over 40, I'm betting that the popular Coke song of the 70s song lodged itself in your brain for the long haul. That song always made me feel uncomfortable--giving me the same heebie jeebies as a doll with evil intentions. It was as innocuous as a folk song sung by a Flower Child on a mountain top, and yet it was as creepy as a cult incantation:

Question: What is your most recent earworm--or what is the one song you MUST turn off or your ears will bleed?

My current "sticky tune" is "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5. But I don't mind because I'm a Maroon 5 fan. In fact, the "whistle" intro is now my ringtone. So I don't mind that this song is in a loop in my head even as I am trying to concentrate on writing to you right now.

But we don't always get to choose our cognitive itch; it chooses us. Sometimes it's the theme of your preschool child's favorite TV program or a school's fight song. After writing that, I'm glad my earworm is Adam Levine and not Barney the Dinosaur.

There is one song, however, that I cannot stand to hear even once, and this is the backstory of how I came to hate it.

When I was a young teenager, I'm guessing about 14, the lady across the street from us was going through a divorce. In what I can only imagine was a broken-hearted, bleary-eyed stupor, she played one song over and over and over and over ... surely as loudly as her stereo would go. All day long, for WEEKS, the song drifted in through open windows and doors up and down our street. I felt like I was going to lose my teenage mind. Everyone was talking about it; nobody did anything about it.

At some point, the torture stopped. At least it stopped in real time. But whenever I hear the opening chords of this song, I am back in my driveway in cut-offs with my long stringy hair and disastrous attempts at make up. And I'm looking across the street at that plain white house with every window and door open, hearing this song blare from a mammoth stereo, gritting my teeth in frustration. To this day, when I hear the first few notes, I go to any length, scramble every way, knocking over hairspray bottles, tripping on cords, stepping on the dog, to shut it OFF.

This post officially makes Gordon Lightfoot the performer of my two least favorite songs in the universe: "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," and ... "Sundown." Oh, the torture!



I loved Gordon Lightfoot as a teen....BUT....went to see him about 3 years ago with a group of friends. I actually paid 45.00 for the tickets.....and we left at intermission....and would have left before then if we could have gotten out.....he was dropping lyrics so bad....that you could actually hear him singing the words Watermelon. I cringe with his songs now. My ear worm used to be the Coke song too....and I agree with you about the cultish feel.

Cindy Swanson said...

My former radio co-host, Darren Marlar, used to call this phenomenon "cranial melodic impactation." :)

I get this frequently!

BTW, so good to see you blogging again! Have you noticed how easy it is to put pictures from Pinterest on your blog? You just use the "embed" code.


Cindy @ Notes in the Key of Life

Mocha with Linda said...

LOL - you nailed it with both of those songs! There are a lot of songs that are like that for me. Yellow Submarine makes me want to jump off a building. And is I never hear "Bye Bye Miss American Pie" again, it will be too soon.

Oh and one that's on Christian radio right now, but mostly that's because it's theologically incorrect.

Thank you for dooming me to a day of fighting against these songs in my brain now that I've thought of them! Grrr. :-)

Susanne said...

I am waking up with the Imagination Movers opening song running through my head all the time. Aaargh.

This explains a bit why your dislike of Mr. Lightfoot. LOL. I actually like the Edmund Fitzgerald. It must be a Canuck thing. LOL.

Angela Nazworth said...

Too funny! The song that has haunted me since its debut is "Play that Funky Music White Boy." Hansen's "Umm-Bop also corrupted my brain waves from 1997ish until 2003... only to be replaced with James Blunt's creepy "You're Beautiful" It was ugly. And then there was that time when I woke up every morning with the song "Fruit Salad" (gotta love them Wiggles).

Currently, (in addition to ... white boy)I have this habit of getting every song with naughty lyrics but a good beat stuck in my head like Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night."

I do know a temporary cure for earworm ...force yourself to hum some bars of classical music or an innocuous movie soundtrack song (mine is Going the Distance from Rocky)that you like. The song will replace the earworm, but will then leave rather quickly ... and then you are cured until you next hear the earworm song on the radio.