I Just Can’t Get You Out of My Head

July 29, 2012

There is a super catchy pop song that has been running circles in my brain for the past two months.  I’ll give you one guess…

You guessed it.

So I watched all of the different iterations, learned the words to the first verse and the chorus, figured it out (functionally) on the guitar, and it’s still stuck in my head.  Every time someone says, “that’s crazy!” or something of the like, I start singing or humming the song.  I always thought that if you overplayed something, or learned the words, the song would become unstuck from your head (clearly not the case here) which got me thinking…

What happens in our brains to produce a tune in our heads?  What keeps the tune there?

I have a client who sings the same phrase over and over again, sometimes regardless of other music being played, and always regardless of anything else going on.  A staff member at this facility told me that this client, B. has not stopped singing this phrase for three months.  Holy Moses.  Why is this happening?  It’s not an identifiable song, and she has advanced dementia.  For some reason, this phrase just keeps going on and on like a broken record.  Hi-| Ho-Oh-Hi | Ho-Oh-Hi | Ho… in 3/4 starting with the first “Ho” as the down beat.  The melody is simple and not rhythmically consistent. We have all come to the conclusion that she is not singing “Hi-Ho” from Snow White, but it may have started as that song once upon a time.

I had another client, years ago, who would always hum “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” despite it usually not being Christmastime.  That was her go-to song for some reason, and I always wondered why that was the one that popped into her mind when so much else was gone.

Anyway, I was wondering why songs get stuck in our heads, and a whole lot of very obvious information cropped up when I Googled.

I would try to recreate the information I read, but I think it’s easier for us all if I just link to an article that seems valid.

One of the worst parts of this phenomenon, is that sometimes a song gets stuck in our heads that we don’t even like!  Occasionally, for me, this becomes a sign that I secretly do like the song, and eventually I have to make my peace with that (the song “Stronger” by Britney Spears – early 2000’s – comes to mind).  Another frustrating part is when you want to hum the melody to a song – take, for example, Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used To Know” – but the melody is unpredictable at times and hard to remember.  Then, you’re singing this song that you don’t really know, but can’t get out of your head.  AHHHHHHH!!!

Anyway, all of this got me thinking about something further.  I wonder if we get more annoyed that a song is in our heads if we are simultaneously worried about annoying others with our constant melodies.  I sing all day, so having an “earworm” is a regular part of my day (many of you are probably dealing with this as well), and I’m not usually annoyed that its there unless someone else is around.  Ahh, projection.

My conclusion is that we can’t fight the earworm, and if you can’t beat ’em…


One Response to “I Just Can’t Get You Out of My Head”

  1. Michelle, MT-BC said

    I find it fascinating what people’s fall back songs are. I usually have some song in my head and don’t usually mind it. I’m not sure I have a specific fall back song that comes when I finally free myself of any current earworm,at least not one I’ve noticed, but I had a collegue who if she didn’t have a specific song stuck in her mind then the one that would perpetually show up was “how much is that doggie in the window” and it used to drive her nuts. As soon as she’d get over a persistent ear worm then that one would replace it.

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