Your earworm expungers
December 16, 2015 3:27 PM   Subscribe

It's Christmastime, which means stress and endless exposure to certain pieces of music. Consequently, I am dealing with dire earworms. What are your go-to earworm overrides, fellow earworm sufferers?

I know this is a symptom of my anxiety, and rest assured, I have professional assistance to manage my illness. But sometimes a really persistent earworm needs an override with a different song.

My old reliable used to be The Joker. Sure, I don't love Steve Miller, but after 24-48 hours of a single line from Jingle Bell Rock or Rockin' around the Christmas Tree, I can tolerate humming "I'm a picker, I'm a grinner" over and over for a few more hours if it drives the carol out of my head. Eventually Steve subsides along with my anxiety, and I've survived another earworm assault. Sadly, though, Steve isn't having the same impact he used to, and I'm looking for help.

I know I'm not alone in this, because pop culture says so and because the Steve Miller Cure came from another friend. MeFites, please share what you use as an override when Mariah just won't stop singing "I don't care about the presents/Underneath the Christmas tree" and it's 2 AM or, worse, the middle of my workday. (Links are appreciated, so I can just go straight to it, but I can, if circumstances require, Google.)
posted by gingerest to Grab Bag (47 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have found that this overrides absolutely everything, but it's up to you if you consider it an improvement. Hot Butter - Popcorn.
posted by Gneisskate at 3:33 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've found that the override is to play/listen to the song that is stuck in mental loop, because actually hearing it satisfies whatever it was in my brain that got hung up on it and it can then wander off onto something else.
posted by anonymisc at 3:43 PM on December 16, 2015 [10 favorites]

Anything in 3/4. I suggest Carter USM.
posted by pompomtom at 3:46 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm like anonymisc, actually listening to the full version is the only way to get the earworm out, and it seems to usually prevent anything new from getting stuck in my head.
posted by jabes at 3:50 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been mainlining They Might Be Giants songs lately, to learn the lyrics as a way to keep myself entertained at work, but it's also served to keep the Xmas onslaught at bay.

If nothing else, check out the MeFi Music "Flood" covers.

If that's not your bag, there's always two songs I think of as the nuclear options, and I always preface mentioning them with the following disclaimer:

Some musical memes are so toxic and persistent that the mere mention of them can get them stuck in your head, without even having to hear them.

You have been warned.

I'd Do Anything For Love by Meatloaf

I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing by Aerosmith
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:54 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wendy's Training Video - Hot Drinks

This song is a special type of hell though. Can't say I didn't warn you!!
posted by yueliang at 4:03 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Get the Hamilton cast album. I can guarantee you won't have any other songs in your head for at least the next few weeks.
posted by matildaben at 4:15 PM on December 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

Andrew WK's McLaughlin Groove (skip to 1:45 to get the short earworm-eating ear worm)

If that doesn't work, Viking Kittens should do it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:22 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Read something out loud to yourself, long enough to let the other thing go. Poetry. Frost; Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening.
posted by Oyéah at 4:29 PM on December 16, 2015

I like martial music. There's something about march time which overrides everything else.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:31 PM on December 16, 2015

A recently published study suggests that you should chew gum.
posted by svenx at 4:31 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

My personal go to is Slushy's "Pocket".

I also often use "Alley Cat" or "Solfeggio". Or I should say it just happens.
posted by kendrak at 4:32 PM on December 16, 2015

Is non-Christmas-ness your only criteria for a tolerable earworm? There is a whole universe of children's earworms out there for you, if so. I'm particularly thinking about "The Song that Never Ends". (Beware, the wiki page linked has printed lyrics for several kid earworms.)
posted by snorkmaiden at 4:35 PM on December 16, 2015

I've found that the override is to play/listen to the song that is stuck in mental loop

2nd - it takes me about two days of repeat plays to get it out of my system.

I did try your proposed method once, and it kind of worked in that it replaced the original ear worm with something less offensive to my taste, and then faded away with repeat listens of that.

(Goldsmiths does research on this; relevant paper - looks at typical characteristics of hooky songs, coping methods, etc.)

If you like Steve Miller, Grateful Dead's Touch of Grey might work.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:37 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm an earworm sufferer, and listening to the whole song usually just lodges the earworm further in my head.

I heard long ago that Rio is good at dislodging earworms without replacing them, and it often works for me.

I find Lorde to be catchy without getting earwormy, so I have a feeling she's a good earworm slayer too. Here's Tennis Court, but any of her songs (or all, in succession) would work.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:46 PM on December 16, 2015

Research suggests chewing gum.
posted by CKmtl at 5:02 PM on December 16, 2015

Thanks, all, I am going through the options one at a time.
Hahaha, snorkmaiden, at other times of year, Shari Lewis and Lambchop haunt my nights when my anxiety reaches the redline. That song truly never ends.
posted by gingerest at 5:12 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

For most earworms, I bust out TMBG's Birdhouse In Your Soul.

For really strong ones, I have to play an album that I like that sticks in my head. For whatever reason, Modest Mouse, Broken Bells, and The Black Keys work for that.
posted by sarcasticah at 5:14 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's a small world after all
posted by aniola at 5:17 PM on December 16, 2015

I got your fix right here: Peaceful Easy Feeling - Eagles. Never fails me or anyone else I've ever suggested it to.
posted by Sternmeyer at 5:23 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is my antidote to treacly Christmas music.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:26 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

This is the optimal time to get yourself acquainted with some classical music via some self-selected binge-listening. ALL Schubert's symphonies. All five Beethoven Piano Concertos. All four Brahms Symphonies. Debussy's AND Ravel's string quartet. All of Mozart's violin sonatas (pro tip...). Go on, you'll know better what's down your alley. The idea is to cover the assorted little drummer people in your mind with some (maybe old, but certified) quality noise.
posted by Namlit at 5:30 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

My mother always taught me to sing both verses of the Oscar Meyer wiener song, but ONLY ONCE. It does work, though probably because I spend the next half hour trying actively to prevent the wiener song becoming an earworm of its own.
posted by theweasel at 5:49 PM on December 16, 2015

Unfortunately the best cure I know is to replace with more fun (and more interesting) earworms. But what works best is tracking down interesting and catchy world music... if I don't know the language, it's easier for the earworm to subside (after it takes over from the crappy song I'm trying to forget).

Lately my go-to has been music by a couple of great Icelandic bands. The first is Retro Stefson, a group of young kids who play some really catchy, really wide-ranging music (sometimes African-inspired, sometimes really electronic). Their most catchy songs are their earlier tunes which almost have a 70s groove to them.

Papa Paulo III, and here's a cool live version.

Kimba (Wait until the chorus kicks in... you'll know when it gets to the catchy part.)

Mama Angola, and here is a great version where they play it with a bunch of kids in a classroom (starts at about 2:00).


Here's one more band, 1860, which plays cute folksy pop tunes.

Snæfellsnes, a song about wanting to go camping out in western Iceland. It's a great live song too.

Orðsending að austan

Íðilfagur, which is a newer song and definitely one of their catchiest (their newer tunes tend to use a lot more English, or English and Icelandic mixed).

Just a few fun ideas for you!
posted by Old Man McKay at 5:50 PM on December 16, 2015 [7 favorites]

Mine isn't a song, it's a technique. (1) Listen to the offending song all the way through. (2) Listen to the next, related song all the way through (for me that's usually the next song on the same album, but in this case you want something audibly similar but not the same). (3) Listen to a completely different song, in another genre entirely.

This works about 60 or 70% of the time, which is way more effective than singing "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows" at the top of the lungs, which is my wife's usual override method.
posted by fedward at 6:07 PM on December 16, 2015

The 90s "Always Coca Cola" jingle does this for me!
posted by deadcrow at 6:23 PM on December 16, 2015

Lola by the Kinks
Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)
Chasing Pirates (Nora Jones)
Mayor of Simpleton (XTC)
For Once in My Life (Stevie Wonder)

all help me.
posted by Prof Iterole at 6:27 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

BLF Jr and I have just been listening to Tim Hecker's Ravedeath 1972 repeatedly. May not do it for you, but really compelling synth drone is kinda like mental Scotch-Brite for me. Also my toddler falls asleep to "In the Fog" pretty much every time.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 7:03 PM on December 16, 2015

For some reason Drive My Car will get rid of pretty much anything for me.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:04 PM on December 16, 2015

Big Black Grinder or Heartbeat. 20 years of this and I don't even recall the sensation of an ear worm.
posted by bdc34 at 7:37 PM on December 16, 2015

Horns usually cleanse the aural palate for me. I usually go for the opening of TMBG's "The Statue Got Me High," or, if I must fight fire with fire, there's Paul Simon's monstrously hooky "Call Me Al."

But I usually do as anonymisc does and just listen to the song to exorcise the demon. Just tonight, after half-hearing it today, I gave "Give Me Your Hand (Best Song Ever)" a couple of listens, and my auditory sense is again at ease. That said, I had to engage in some unspeakable acts of music in order to cleanse myself of "Shut Up and Dance" this past summer. It just ain't right.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:48 PM on December 16, 2015

Manamana has never failed me.
posted by a hat out of hell at 9:14 PM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

"Private Dancer" by Tina Turner is a trick some people swear by.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:57 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Bohemian Rhapsody always does it for me
posted by nonspecialist at 1:39 AM on December 17, 2015

Seconding Private Dancer by Tina Turner. I was skeptical, but it is effective for me. Although, it works best by singing it out loud!
posted by fourpotatoes at 6:19 AM on December 17, 2015

Non-musical solution: If I want get rid of music repeating in my head ad nauseam, I listen to an audio book. There's nothing like having someone else's voice piped into my ears to get ride of any and all lyrics. As a bonus, listen to someone with an accent different from your and have your internal voice get stuck in their accent! I imagine some other spoken word format would work, too: stand up comedy, podcasts, poetry, etc.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:25 AM on December 17, 2015

My go to song is "MacArthur Park"

"Someone left the cake out in the raaaaain....."

And if I get sick of that, I switch it to the Weird Al version, Jurassic Park:

"Someone turned the gate off in the raaaaain...."

"ooooh nooooooooooooo!"
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:01 AM on December 17, 2015

My boyfriend swears that this is the reason Regina Spektor's "Fidelity" exists.
posted by dust.wind.dude at 8:08 AM on December 17, 2015

I always make sure to listen to music all the way through because it's when I stop the song early that I get an Earworm.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:36 AM on December 17, 2015

In my experience, ABBA exorcises anything.

And the Empire March from Star Wars exorcises ABBA.
posted by Pallas Athena at 10:43 AM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I remember a similar question being posted a while ago and somebody suggested "Low Rider". I don't play it, just focus on singing along with it in my head, including the trumpet part. It really helps.

The trick is to find a song that doesn't get stuck in your head after you get the earworm out - Low Rider is compelling enough to get the other song out, but not so compelling it gets stuck in my head itself.
posted by zug at 12:26 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just remembered, as it came up on my playlist: "O-o-h Child" by the Five Stairsteps (featured near the end of Guardians of the Galaxy) sticks hard enough in my head to kill off most other earworms. Of course, then you're stuck with it, but some earworms are better than others, y'know? (Similarly, "Kyrie" by Mr. Mister does the same. I'm just thinking about it and it's trying to overrule the music actually going into my earholes right now.)
posted by dust.wind.dude at 8:09 AM on December 18, 2015

There's an app (OK, site) for that

Just keep clicking New Song until you hit one you don't mind living with.
posted by timepiece at 9:52 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sour Girl, Stone Temple Pilots
posted by Fig at 7:38 PM on December 18, 2015

The Katamari Damacy theme.

Rock Lobster
Spanish Flea
Girl from Ipanema
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:37 PM on December 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

If none of those work, thinking of Yakety Sax should work. If that doesn't do it (god help you) then this could be your ultimate weapon
posted by ambulocetus at 10:40 AM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Bridge on the River Kwai theme.
posted by klausness at 6:42 AM on January 10, 2016

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