The River's Badge

Friday, November 13, 2015

Earworms Revisited


Presciently, the Wall Street Journal recently published an article regarding the dreaded earworm. I say "presciently" because I've been plagued by one for oh, about, four weeks now. Thus, I was excited to read the story, hoping it would unlock the secret to banishing my parasite once and for all.

Alas, the only relatable statement I found was, "Songs with earworm potential appear to share certain features: A repeating pattern of ups and downs in pitch, and an irregular musical interval. “It’s like your brain picks up on that unusual element and wants to hear it again.” Okay, check. But how do I exterminate it?

I also learned:

"People who sing and listen to music more often tend to have longer, more-frequent earworms. And people with obsessive-compulsive tendencies are apt to have them more often and to find them more intrusive. Most earworms actually aren’t unpleasant, surveys show...Some earworms are just fragments of a song that repeat like a broken record. That may be because working memory holds only limited amounts of auditory information at one time, some experts say. Another possible explanation is that when the mind hits a part of a song it can’t remember, it loops back rather than moving on."

Check, and check.

  • I don't actually listen to music, which may contribute to my current malady. If I listened to music more, I'd probably be able to replace my earworm with something slightly less, or at least equal to, my current torture. I do, however, sing, albeit generally only inside my head, but it still counts.

  • I am unaware of any OCD afflictions, but I am rather schedule-enslaved; although I always considered that a positive. It certainly has kept me timely all these years.

  • Fragments of a song...yes. That's because I don't know the lyrics beyond the first two lines. I think perhaps had I known the words to this song, I could have avoided this torture all together. But one can't know the words to every song, and if they did, they'd be considered a freak, and that's a whole other set of issues.

How to rid oneself of an earworm, they say?

"Listen to the actual song—all the way to the end. ‘Some people say that’s the only way to achieve closure,’ says Kelly Jakubowski, a Goldsmiths, University of London psychologist."

This is untrue. I've tried it. Several times. It doesn't work.

"Distract yourself with a task that requires attention."

Oh, come on.

"Imagine a different song to drown the first one.‘The Girl from Ipanema’ has legendary earworm-chasing capacity."

Yea, thanks. I hate that song. But even though I hate it and even though "you" (the reporter) suggested it, I got nothin'. It does not commence repeat-play inside my skull.

"Chew gum. In a study, the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology in April, researchers at the University of Reading in England, 98 volunteers listened to ‘Play Hard’ by David Guetta and ‘Payphone’ by Maroon 5 and then hit a key if they heard either in their heads. Those who chewed gum reported one-third fewer earworms—possibly because the action ties up the same mental pathways used in imagining music, the researchers surmised."

That's so dumb, I'm not even going to experiment with it.

Bottom line is, nobody knows how to get rid of an earworm. Especially me. The truth is, I'm not one of the apparently ten million people who have "Billie Jean" ribboning through their brains. I've heard of Maroon 5, but I couldn't, on threat of waterboarding, name even one of their songs. I do know "The Girl From Ipanema", but that's just because I think there might have been a commercial once that used the song..."Tall and tan and young and lovely"....I'm conjecturing it was an ad for suntan lotion. Or pantyhose.

If I was to guess, I'd say it all started because my husband DVR'd the movie, "Con-Air" and lo and behold, Trisha Yearwood started singing during an early (poignant) scene, and I remembered that sometime back in the nineties. I'd heard that song, but I'd forgotten about it (I have lots of decades-old songs lodged in my cranium, so I can't instantly recall all of them). But my apparently OCD mind wanted to recall it, perhaps to recapture my long-lost youth. Freud would say the song has some subliminal meaning to me, but all I remember is that both Trisha and LeAnn Rimes recorded it, and there was some kind of dust-up in the country music rags about who sang it best (it was Trisha - always Trisha). Other than that, I couldn't give a damn about this song as it might relate to my life at the time -- as if I could even remember my life at that time.

This song will never cease to be my earworm. In fact, it's playing inside my brain right now. It's my cross to bear. I comfort myself with the knowledge that things could be worse.

All I can do is foist it on you, my loyal readers. That may seem cruel, but I'm pretty desperate. Maybe if you shoulder it, my burden will be lifted.

(It pains me to even play this song again.)



















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