Mmm, Earworms!

Please send me a cordless drill so I can put holes in my head to get this song out.

The other day M. was telling me about some song on the Internet entitled “Aaaaaaaaaaaaah.”  (I hope I have the number of A’s right.)  To show her Dad is not the old, out of tough doofus he in fact is, I pointed out that my generation had a song called “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.”  To prove it, I played it for her.

“Ha ha. I have you now.”

Well, you probably know where I’m going with this: “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” has been playing in my head nonstop since Saturday.  It’s in my head when I wake up and it’s still in my head when I go to bed.  I find myself singing the song and inserting new lyrics, usually about my pets:

Once there was this dog who

Had a little snoot that you just felt you had to kiss but

Then he rolled onto his back

And he

Wanted scratches on his belly

You couldn’t quite explain it, it’s just that he was handsome

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm…

Now it’s stuck in your head.  Best of luck getting it out!  Suffer with me!

At least “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” is a decent song.  A few weeks ago, “All She Wants To Do Is Dance” by Don Henley, the 80’s synth-rock hit that’s just the perfect lyrical combination of sex appeal and Central American political unrest, started playing on a loop in my head.  What was baffling about that one is I can’t remember hearing the song anywhere that would have caused it to get lodged in my brain.  In fact, I don’t remember hearing “All She Wants To Do Is Dance” in years and years; if they ever play it anymore, I’ve missed it.  I can only conclude that I heard some other Don Henley song, like “Boys of Summer,” and my brain decided “Hey, that’s pretty good, but you know what’s kind of like that but shitty?  Well, here it is!  On repeat for three days!”

This happens to me every week, I swear to God.  Some stupid ass song just gets lodged in there.  It happens to everyone.  Earlier this year Mrs. MAJ suddenly caught a serious earworm; “C is for Cookie,” the Sesame Street classic.  She couldn’t shake it for weeks, but at least it had an explanation; the song had been referenced on Jimmy Fallon.  But then llater she caught “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain, and we own none of her music and listen to no radio station that would play her.  Why is that?

Well, I’ve done some research and am displeased to inform you that there is really no explanation.  The phenomenon of earworms goes back way before recorded music was even a thing, in fact; there are references to infectious melodies at least as far back as the 19th century, though they weren’t called “earworms” until pretty recently.  (In fact, Stephen King is often credited for popularizing the term in English.)  Even prior to being called “Earworms” they were a known thing; Arthur C. Clarke wrote a story about a scientist that creates an earworm so perfect it puts him in a coma, and E.B. White wrote a short story in which Uruguay conquers the world by hypnotizing everyone with an earworm.

Allegedly, you can cure earworms by doing mentally taxing things, like a hard Sudoku puzzle.  My JOB is mentally taxing so why after working all day yesterday is “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” still in my head?

The other thing that I can’t understand is why some things earworm in and some don’t.  I read an article from… well, Science something or other, where they did a poll and concluded the most earwormy songs in recent history were “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga and (fittingly) “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” by Kylie Minogue.  I have never had either of those songs stuck in my head.  They’re both catchy songs but neither has ever infected my head.  What did infect my head a few years ago, though, was “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts.  I have no idea why.  I don’t even like that song, but it played in my head for two weeks.  But not right now cause MMM MMM MMM MMM ONCE THERE WAS THIS GIIIIRL WHOOOOO…..

You would think that the characteristics of an earworm would be a simple, catchy melody and being irritating, but if that’s true, “Mony Mony” should assault me ten times a year; it’s simple, catchy, and I hate that song with the nuclear fire of a thousand suns.  But it’s never earwormed me once.  On the other hand, I did once get “Brother Down” stuck in my head pretty badly earlier this year, and it is neither simplistic nor irritating.

Well, it got irritating after three goddamn days in my head.

What’s your earworm right now?  Post in comments.  Let’s see what comes up.

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