Songs stuck in your head
January 12, 2005 10:38 AM   Subscribe

How do you get rid of earworms (a song that keeps repeating in your head throughout the day)?
posted by lorbus to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sing aloud as many earworms as you can think of, without stopping. Your brain will get overwhelmed and the mishmash of tunes will cancel each other out and you'll be left in peace.
posted by Specklet at 10:40 AM on January 12, 2005

The only cure is a more potent song virus.

This doesn't solve the problem, but does add variety.

I have never known any earworm to withstand "It's a Small World After All."

Sing it with me...

It's a world of laughter
A world of tears
It's a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There's so much that we share
That it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all

posted by enrevanche at 10:42 AM on January 12, 2005

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). One of the physiological side effects is memory loss.

Or, do what most people do to forget. Drink alcohol.
posted by purephase at 10:49 AM on January 12, 2005

Listen to the whole song. That will kill the bug.
posted by ColdChef at 10:53 AM on January 12, 2005

If I download my earworm song, I would have that stupid American Idol chick on my computer, which is an unacceptable solution. Why her, God? Why her?
posted by goatdog at 10:54 AM on January 12, 2005

I've found that as I've increased my musical knowledge, this doesn't really happen to me anymore. I feel like it might be because I can "play" the entire song in my head and mentally picture all the different parts at once, so I don't get one bit looping over and over. Or maybe it's that when I have a song in my head, I grab my guitar and play it.

So I'd say play the song if you can, otherwise I'd go with listening to the whole thing.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:57 AM on January 12, 2005

there a great song that drives all other songs outta your head without getting stuck in your head itself. it's the perfect cure! it doesn't rhyme or have much of a tune.

unfortunately...uh...i can't remember it. probably because it doesn't rhyme or have much of a tune. all i know is that it includes the line "a penguin in antartica!" and may have something to do with national geographic. good luck!
posted by equipoise at 11:05 AM on January 12, 2005

Listening to the whole song is the only real cure I've come across. Even then, you can't just have it on in the background, you've got to pay attention to it so that it fills in the gaps.
posted by Hildago at 11:12 AM on January 12, 2005

[derail /]

There was a great old Fritz Leiber story about a rhythm-virus; it emerged from a slightly pot-infused East Village jam session, and swept around the world, manifested as a brief melody, a drum riff, and a particular splattering of paint. In the story, the meme (this was before the term "meme" had been coinced -- Lieber always was ahead of his time...) spreads quickly around the world and threatens to Destroy Civilization As We Know It.

Fortunately, the accidental creators are able to create a counter-virus that spreads just as rapidly and immediately innoculates the listener against the potent effect of the original virus.
posted by lodurr at 11:13 AM on January 12, 2005

I usually sing the first few lines of New Kids On The Block's "Hanging Tough" - that'll get anything out of your head.
posted by pwb503 at 11:18 AM on January 12, 2005

Meow meow meow meow
Meow meow meow meow
Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow


There. It should be gone now.
posted by matildaben at 11:25 AM on January 12, 2005

My thoughts reading this thread went something like this, "Oh, yeah, that sucks. Kind of like those couple a weeks a few months ago when you had that song stuck in your head and you heard it over and over and oh, no, you should stop thinking about it, because if you think about it any more you'll remember what song it was and then you'll try to discover a little something to make me sweeter, oh, baby, refrain from breaking my heart." And now I'll have to kill myself.

And what got that particular song stuck in my head the first time is watching an old Scrubs episode where they show how that song is like a virus, and it gets passed along from staff member to staff member.

But I do agree that generally, listening to the entire song helps.
posted by amarynth at 11:32 AM on January 12, 2005

A friend once recommended "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" to dislodge the earworm. Which is great because it's catchy, but I have no emotional attachment to the song so it fades fairly quickly. But it generally only works if I also first get through (even mentally) the original song in its entirety.
posted by occhiblu at 11:35 AM on January 12, 2005

Leo Kottke says to imagine the song melody backwards. I can't do that in my head, though.
posted by crunchburger at 11:36 AM on January 12, 2005

I was told by a wise fellow to sing "Staying Alive" by the BeeGees to get rid of any earworm.

Said fellow was also the only person I was acquainted with that actually knew the lyrics to that song.

Think about it, can you sing the entire first verse of that song?
posted by achmorrison at 11:38 AM on January 12, 2005

I'm having a blast trying all your methods!
Now I've got a mashup of It's a Small World with Don't Cry For Me Argentina going....Oh, and the alcohol is working.
Many thanks.
posted by lorbus at 11:48 AM on January 12, 2005

a k10k newspost provides the answer
posted by juv3nal at 11:51 AM on January 12, 2005

The favorite earworm killer in my family is Sheena Easton's Morning Train. Be careful - it can turn from predator to prey if not used cautiously.
posted by Wolfie at 11:58 AM on January 12, 2005

One thing that usually works for me is humming or vocalizing the "do-do-dooooo-do" melody from Suzanne Vega's "Toms Diner' over and over in my head.

It's engaging enough to drive everything else out, but you can make it go away pretty quickly, too. Or at least I can.
posted by jammer at 12:29 PM on January 12, 2005

I knew, before I viewed this thread, that it would be infested with the dreaded ear worms, and indeed it is. Yet I was strangely compelled to click... I've been told to sing I'm a Little TeaPot. I can't sing it without the actions, and my co-workers are giving me strange looks. But it's a bit a distraction from the dreariness of this office. Thanks, AskMe!
posted by raedyn at 1:04 PM on January 12, 2005

I remember reading at some point that the perfect earworm killer is "The Girl from Ipanema"--it's catchy enough to quickly replace whatever's driving you insane, but strangely enough the melody evaporates from your head much more quickly than most songs.

I can't for the life of me remember where I heard this, though. It seems rather Nick Hornbyish.
posted by bcwinters at 1:43 PM on January 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

Oh, Wolfie, I hate you.

Personally, the Badger Badger Badger song works, but since it still makes me laugh, YMMV.

You're welcome.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:48 PM on January 12, 2005

The Girl From Ipanema or The A Team theme music.

[As an aside, I'm sure it was a MeFite that once said that you'll always get people joining in if you whistle TATTM in a lift. You could try whistling TATTM & then trying to whistle the Indiana Jones theme just after. I can't do it...]
posted by i_cola at 2:15 PM on January 12, 2005

The best way to kill an earworm, or any sort of pervasive thought, is to count backwards from 100 (or another suitably large number) by 7s. Singing the entire song merely establishes its place in your psyche, leading to further insanity.
posted by LimePi at 5:17 PM on January 12, 2005

This doesn't happen to me very often but when it does, it's some random song for no reason. (As opposed to hearing a song on the radio and having it echo in there.)
And - I've always wondered if this is weird to me or if it happens to everyone - it always turns out to be my subconscious telling me something. Whenever I stop and figure out why that particular bit of that particular song is stuck in my head, it goes away.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:53 PM on January 12, 2005

For me, standing in the crowd at Rick's Cafe and singing the Marsellaise works every time.
posted by ronin21 at 6:48 PM on January 12, 2005

"Kashmir", by Led Zeppelin. Instant fix.
posted by maschnitz at 6:49 PM on January 12, 2005

Get more sleep.

Seriously. I tend to get songs in my head far more frequently when I haven't had a good night's sleep.
posted by codger at 10:40 PM on January 12, 2005

My usual earworm-killer is the White Stripes' Seven Nation Army. Or, really, even just the bass line.
posted by webmutant at 1:26 AM on January 13, 2005

Snake! It's a snake!

(badger badger badger badger badger....)

posted by jaded at 6:23 AM on January 13, 2005

CunningLinguist, I've noticed the same thing. I think Freud (or some close Freud disciple) actually did claim that earworms are a way to see into your subconscious.
posted by occhiblu at 10:41 AM on January 13, 2005

Cool. It's not just me.
(Usually it's a lame thing, but sometimes it functions as a reminder of something important I've forgotten to do. Those times are kind of amazing and leave me in awe of how little I understand the brain.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:18 PM on January 13, 2005

"Down on the Corner" by CCR.
posted by softlord at 5:04 PM on January 13, 2005

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