Why You Can’t Get That Damn Song Out Of Your Head

Has this ever happened to you?  It’s Friday night and you’re at the hottest underground spot in [insert city name here].  Hot Since 82 is in the booth and, to no one’s surprise, killing it with one bomb after another. Then suddenly, BAM, he drops it, “Bigger Than Prince”.  This is one you know; the bass, the chorus.  It’s all so familiar.  

Flash forward, later that week and you’re in the car, in traffic, going to work.  In between sips of coffee and cigarette drags, a note pops into your head, then a bassline, then “Walk around….“.  You think nothing of it. In fact, the memories returning of your quality night on the town are, at first, pleasant; comforting, almost.  But then, it continues; at the client meeting, “Some people have problems…“; at your GFs grandmother’s post-church luncheon, “Talk about you on Youtube.  It’s not like you look good” and so on.  It is now relentless, ongoing, and maddening.  At this point, you can’t remember when the last time you got a good nights sleep was.  You haven’t eaten in a while and you ask yourself, WHY? Why can I not get this song out of my head?  Well kids, science seems to have found an explanation.

Ted-Ed, a division of TedTalks, has released an animated video explaining their concept of the “earworm” and its relationship to the cognitive process of internal audio repetition.  Essentially, an “earworm” is defined as a loop, specifically the repetitive patterns which we ingest over 90% of our weekly data input.  As the loops are most often triggered by recent and constant exposure to the song in question, it’s fair to say that our unceasing access to intermediality, and other forms of auditory sensation play a substantial part in the brains’ tendency to revisit them even when not directly present.

As this concept plays so significant in dance music, where tracks are constructed almost exclusively from beats and vocal hooks, loops and edits, the video seems especially relevant within our community. These earworms most often appear during menial, monotonous tasks, which require little focus, like sitting in traffic or engaging in small talk.  Even though this kind of imagery can be conjured up utilising inter-sensory stimuli, visual and olfactory included, it’s interesting that music is the only kind that occurs naturally and causes an inability to switch off, hopefully starting a conversation as to why, exactly, you can’t get that damn song out of your head.

Source: Ted-Ed