It all starts with a simple ‘kehndi hundi si’….and before you know it, you’re humming AP Dhillon’s Excuses in the shower, while cooking breakfast, driving to work and ALL. DAY. LONG. It’s a great vibe for a while….until it’s not anymore because the song refuses to leave your head. What you’re experiencing is an earworm— musical memories on loop. With reels and TikTok music taking over the world, being infected with an earworm is inevitable, here’s what you can do about it:
What Is An Earworm?
A 2016 study identified some key characteristics of an earworm which include a contour pattern of rising and falling in pitch like the opening riff of “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5, an uptempo beat, repeating lyrics, having common global melodic shapes and unusual intervals or repetitions.
The top nine songs labelled as earworms in the study were:
1) “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
2) “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” by Kylie Minogue
3) “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey
4) “Somebody that I Used to Know” by Gotye
5) “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5
6) “California Gurls” by Katy Perry
7) “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
8) “Alejandro” by Lady Gaga
9) “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga
How To Get Rid Of An Earworm?
1. Chew Gum
A study from the University of Reading in the UK found that chewing gum interferes with the brain’s auditory processing centres and helps dislodge cyclical thoughts by diverting attention away from the catchy melody or lyrics of an earworm. Chewing gum is similar to speaking inside your head which has been proven to interfere with short-term memory and auditory processing. Next time you’re scrolling through endless material girl reels, keep a pack of gum handy.
2. Play Wordle
Songs are more likely to get stuck in your head when you’re doing something that doesn’t require your full attention like doing the dishes or taking a shower. The best way to get rid of an earworm would be to engage in a more absorbing mental task. Try your hand at solving Wordle, crosswords, puzzles or anything that gets you to use all your cognitive bandwidth.
3. Listen To The Entire Song
Earworms are known to occur as a result of the Zeigarnik Effect, which postulates that people remember unfinished or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. This theory suggests that our brains can get stuck on a particular melody or lyric when we hear fragments of a song that we might not know well because our mind can’t finish the song and put it away. A cure for this would be to play the entire song and listen to it multiple times.
4. Find A Cure Tune
If listening to the earworm song doesn’t help erase it from your mind, try a cure tune that can be used as a musical distraction to neutralize it. A 2014 study surveying Finnish and British participants found that some of the common cure songs among the participants were Happy Birthday to you, God Save the Queen, Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, Kashmir by Led Zeppelin and Karma Chameleon by Culture Club.