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Scientific Explanation of Catchy Songs

by in Other
Listening to Music

Stop humming something under your nose there! Seriously, why do we all do that? The song you may hear only once in your life may stuck in your head for days. This is not a coincidence but a special psychological trick. Naturally, we have a special sensitivity to musical pieces and just like for every person, our brain works for music memory to capture some of the most contagious tunes.

The most amazing fact is that the song can be completely meaningless, which means it carries no message but it will be on the list of top hits as the one that is the catchiest. Why? Let’s find out!

The Implicit Impact of the Melodies

Germans were the first ones to have a special term for this event – ”Ohrwurm” which is basically an “earworm” that has been “stuck” like some melody and does not want to leave a person’s head. Such tunes are goaled on making us remember them.

And we can hear them everywhere: from short running jingles appealing to customers in commercials and promoting some products to popular songs with captivating lyrics that have become top hits once having appeared in mass-media. The famous “We Are the Champions” by Queens can fairly be named one of the catchiest songs of all times, a song to sing along in every troublesome situation.

Also, not only songs can be catchy, but slogans, separate word expressions and even poems can hook some special parts of the brain and make us walk around humming or reciting some piece of music or poetry. “Have a Coke and a Smile” is a famous catch-phrase that has survived through the decades and is still popular among younger generation. Singing and smiling people in the commercial definitely did their job.


Let’s muse about what is that trigger that encaptivates us into the arms of musical addiction.

  • First of all, its easiness. A songwriter Eve Nelson once said about the hit song “Call Me Maybe” by Jepsen that even a child at the age of five can sing it because it is so easy to remember. And to make your song or jingle be “contagious” enough only a few commonly used words are needed… So, call me maybe? (lyrics from the song);
  • Rhythm. Has it ever happened to you that you were tapping along with a song that you liked at most? Even if the other parts were not that significant, a rhythmical part can be so strong and virtuously created that you have no other chance but to beat the rhythm the whole day;
  • Tones. Remember Al Bundy, the main character of the series “Married… with Children” that has been on air in the 80-90s? In one episode, he was struggling to recall the song that couldn’t get out of his head, the song turned out to be Anna by the Beatles and he was singing each and every one only three last notes of the tune he could remember;
  • Repetition. As we were told at school, repetition is extremely effective in learning new material and it proves itself. Hearing similar patterns will make their work for sure. Besides, it makes our brain proceed with the gotten information and transfer it from the short-running memory to the long-running one which increases your chances for remembering the material greatly;
  • Pitches. The scientists have defined that in the chorus higher pitches and especially higher voices of males will have more impact on being remembered than others. That is why we can recall the highest points of refrains and the wildest moments in songs better;
  • They appeal to humans’ life situations. Let’s agree, a song about watering flowers would not exist for long if people did not feel it somehow close to them. But to sing along “Show Must Go On” for any cause is no more something unusual and does not require any special occasion. Every person has this appeal that the show truly must go on.

How to Get Rid of that Stuck Song Syndrome in Our Heads

Throwing Away Stuff

Tip 1. Try to sing the song to the end to get rid of it. The feeling of incompletion of the song may annoy even more and the earworm will become your “best friend” for the next few days (if one is fortunate). But after having sung it to yourself to the end, you cease the temptation to begin it again and try to concentrate on other things.

Tip 2. Replace it with another one. Not the best advice but maybe next song will not be that catchy? Who knows. Listen to classical music, it may help to get distracted from intentionally created commercial jingles, however, to be honest, classics can also be hard to shake of your head, which is actually not that bad if to compare it with some commercial of cereals for children or another advert of people dancing in weird fruit costumes and singing a song of a cucumber.

Tip 3. What to do if this parasite refuses to leave? Forget about it. It requires a gigantic amount of self-control but can be accomplished with the help of awareness of your inner will. Scientists have stated that we have a so called “slave system” which is situated in the short-term human memory and is responsible for remembering sounds and signals for a short period of time, however, another “inner” memory can last for longer and is the place for where the earworms land. Do not be a slave to the earworm, beat them and live without annoying songs in your head or… enjoy it.

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