Typically you might be hearing Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t get you out of my head” or the Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody“.
Scientists have now worked out why songs like these tend to stick in your mind. It’s because they share similarities with nursery rhymes such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Researchers at Goldsmith’s College at the University of London have analysed 100 of the most annoyingly persistent songs from the last 50 years as named by 3,000 people.
The ear worm chart was dominated by Lady Gaga (well not for me as I’ve never listened to any of her pretentious output).
They compared the ear worm tracks with 14,000 other songs including songs by Britney Spears (Toxix) and Madness (One step beyond) and found that they haunted people through a mixture of the banal and the unusual. So the trick is to write songs that are generic enough to be easily recognised and too distinctive to be ignored.
A quick rhythm and more jarring leaps between notes were two other factors. For example the riff to Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water or In the Mood by Glen Miller.
The researchers think that their findings might be useful to advertisers who want tunes to stick in your mind long after you first heard them.
Well maybe. In the meantime here are the top most annoying earworms:
- Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
- Can’t get you out of my mind by Kylie Minogue
- Somebody that I used to know by Gotye
- Moves like Jagger by Maroon 5
- California Girls by Katy Perry
- Alejandro by Lady Gaga
- Poker Face by Lady Gaga
So you’ve been warned. Ignore these tunes unless you want an earworm!