• Louise Carnachan

Earworms

Updated: Jul 8, 2020


When I wake up, I’ve always got a song in my head. Dream fragments or first thoughts prompt my brain’s search for lyrics. If I get only the melody and don’t know (or remember) the words, I’m left to wonder why the heck that song is rattling around. A piece of music may persist all day, or sometimes for weeks on end. One song may be interspersed with others. Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” seems to be in frequent play this week.

At the beginning of the pandemic, my song of choice was R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World” where the refrain concludes with, “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.” As time passed, the obvious, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by The Police took over. That moved aside for “Flowers on the Wall” by the Statler Brothers. For those who aren’t familiar, the chorus is:

Countin’ flowers on the wall, that don’t bother me at all

Playin’ solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one

Smokin’ cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo*

Now don’t tell me, I’ve nothing to do

(*Captain Kangaroo was a children’s TV program, 1955-92)

Earworms are also known as brainworms, sticky music, stuck song syndrome, and Involuntary Musical Imagery (academic name; songs probably aren’t fun either). Ninety-eight percent of us succumb to repetitious melodies, an affliction that’s equally gender distributed. The typical fragment length is fifteen to thirty seconds, which is probably why some say the cure is to run through the song to conclusion thereby eliminating the loop in your brain.

Earworms tend to last longer in women and bug them more (so to speak). If a brainworm has stuck with me as a result of learning music for a performance, its imposition irritates me more than my selected melodies (which are my life’s soundtrack). A few rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” will put a stop to any annoying musical interlude—by replacing it with another annoyance.

Does anyone else have a pandemic playlist? Or an earworm that won’t go away? Please comment in the box below.

Sending you appropriately physically distanced encouragement—and a reminder that we’ve still got each other. (“Still crazy after all these years, whoa still crazy after all these years.”)

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© 2020 Louise Carnachan.

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