Earworms: Menacing Annoyance or Happy Accidents? | Project-Nerd

I was thinking the other day about songs and jingles that crawl into your head and usually don’t leave until forced out. There are so many it’s overwhelming. It doesn’t matter if the song is good or not – what matters is how catchy it is for your brain to remember. I’ve included a few links to video/sound clips – click them if you dare!

I was a big fan of the original Muppet Show; when I was a kid, I’d lunge for the TV at 6:30 on Saturday nights to tune it. Usually, in my excitement I’d be a little early, and catch the last song of the Lawrence Welk show. This was their sign-off song, performed every week, and it has stuck with me, occasionally surfacing at the most unpredictable of times. Mercifully, the song’s only a minute long, but the earworm lasts a lifetime, apparently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1LAjZiuoE4

One TV show theme song that ALWAYS got me was the theme music for the X-Men animated series, airing in the 1990s.I didn’t watch the show much; after one or two episodes, I came to the conclusion that the animation was terrible (worse by today’s standards) the stories were silly, and the dialogue was poor. That stupid theme song though – it wasn’t compelling or a great piece of music, but just catching a second or two while channel-surfing was enough to get it stuck in my head for a week! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAkL2-vh2Sk

So far, I’ve only talked about bad earworms – the kind you’d rather not be saddled with. There are also good earworms – songs that you love and that stick with you for a long time. According to UK daily paper The Sun, a poll of Brits concluded the top earworm was “I’m Gonna Be” by the Proclaimers. Frankly, I can’t argue: not only is that song wonderful, but the entire album – Sunshine on Leith – is pretty great. Have a listen to “I’m Gonna Be”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbNlMtqrYS0

One song I feel the bizarre need to hear every once in a while is a classic of the Disco era, “Jungle Boogie”. Performed originally by Kool & the Gang, this song is, well, wacky. Not strong on lyrics but incredibly catchy regardless, it creeps into my head at random intervals, and the only way to shake it is to listen to the whole song. During a phase of trying to stay relevant during a down period, the Muppets filmed several music videos, with their characters performing the songs. Here’s “Jungle Boogie” a la the Muppets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4Bq69HfR0Y

Another great song, one that’s had a ton of relatively recent airplay in feature-length films, is Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Unlike many earworms, this is one I don’t mind being stuck with for a while. And what better way to feature it than to come full circle with the version filmed, again, by the Muppets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgbNymZ7vqY

It’s clear that the Muppets were a seminal influence in my life, and one that I’m proud to admit to. They are responsible for no small number of earworms, and if you really want to, do a YouTube search of Muppet music videos. If you’re a fan like I am, you won’t be disappointed. Speaking of the Muppets and earworms, how about a taste of the original Muppet Show opening theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ9yAV8uQ7g

Some earworms are good, some bad, but they all share an indefinable quality of being catchy and persistent – sometimes pleasant, sometimes annoying, but always unforgettable.

One thought on “Earworms

  1. Listening to the songs in this post was fun!

    Except for “Bohemian Rhapsody”, I don’t think I’d heard any of the songs (I listened to very little radio for *years*, so that’s not much of a surprise). More of a surprise, perhaps – not sure I’ve ever had an earworm experience.

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