It’s A Small Say World So
Why can’t I get that song out of my head?!
What do Doja Cat, Nicki Minaj and 300 audio-animatronic dolls have in common?
They all take starring roles in songs which, once they get in your head, are not so willing to get out. Say So exerts its new power through TikTok while It’s a Small World has been afflicting Disney riders since 1966.
‘Didn’t even notice, no punches left to roll with
You got to keep me focused, you want it? Say so (uh)
It’s a world of laughter
A world of tears
It’s a world of hopes
And a world of fears
I got dressed just to sit in the house
People with the least always doin’ the most
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all.’
Psychologists have a name for these stubborn song fragments that bounce around our brains: ‘earworms, ‘or ‘ohrwurms’ as the Germans first called the maniacal melodies. You might go in loving them, but make it stop!
A 2016 research team led by Kelly Jakubowski at Durham University asked 3,000 people which songs were most likely to get stuck in their heads. The songs with the stickiest pacing, melody shape and intervals were…
Top 9 Earworms
- ‘Bad Romance,’ Lady Gaga
- ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head,’ Kylie Minogue
- ‘Don’t Stop Believin,’ Journey
- ‘Somebody That I Used To Know,’ Gotye
- ‘Moves Like Jagger,’ Maroon 5
- ‘California Gurls, Katy Perry
- ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ Queen
- ‘Alejandro,’ Lady Gaga
- ‘Poker Face.’ Lady Gaga
Women and musicians are particularly prone to earworms. Researchers from Music, Mind & Brain @ Goldsmiths College find that 90% of people report getting earworms at least once a week. 15% of them find these burrowing melodies ‘disturbing’. In another study, 33% describe earworms as ‘unpleasant.’
Psychologists find that if you try to squelch or distract yourself from earworms, they get worse (cue, Freud.) Researchers in the University of Reading discovered that when people tried to distract themselves from their earworms, they lasted an average of 40 minutes. When they didn’t try to do anything, the pesky melodies lasted just 22 minutes.
One thing that did seem particularly effective at squelching said earworms? Chewing gum.
Or, as researchers Beaman, Powell and Rapley wrote in their Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Abstract: ‘Experiment 1 shows that interfering with articulatory motor programming by chewing gum reduces both the number of voluntary and the number of involuntary—unwanted—musical thoughts.’
So, if you’re one of those people who find earworms disturbing or unpleasant, keep a few sticks or balls of your favourite gum on hand for battle.
Header: James Sutton
Photo 2: Jose Aragones