I went to the gym yesterday (no applause necessary). As I was stretching, a ballroom dance class was starting.
All good. Except the song they were playing (at decibel levels no ballroom class should ever have to endure) was “The Rainbow Connection” (Yup, the Muppet song) sung by Karen Carpenter (or a very good impersonator).
You’re not old enough to recognize Karen Carpenter’s name. She was a singer with a very sweet voice. Whoever was singing last night could have given the entire gym diabetes.
Which got me thinking about earworms.
Just so we’re clear, an earworm is a song that gets stuck in your head and (no matter how many eviction notices you serve) refuses to leave.
Earworms are almost never songs you love.
Earworms all had sad childhoods which causes them to act out to get attention.
Earworms always get attention.
One reason people get earworms is that they’ve heard the song recently and/or repeatedly. This is an obvious and boring reason.
Dreams can trigger earworms. I find this enormously interesting, but I can’t figure out how to change the earworm radio station.
Another earworm trigger is stress. Sometimes if you hear a song during a stressful time it will pop up at other stressful times. (This is not necessarily helpful.)
Music is (ahem) a “multi-sensory stimulus.” We not only hear music, we see video or movie clips, we remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the music, we might even know what the music looks like or how to play it.
Music is also tied to emotion. Play “Brian’s Song” for any of us Of A Certain Age and we’ll spontaneously burst into tears. (This is not necessarily helpful.)
Then there is the evolution thing. As a species, we need to remember things and it was much easier for the Neanderthals to remember all 50 states if they learned the “Fifty Nifty U-nited States” song the way I did in 7th grade. (Hey, don’t make fun. I can still list all 50 states in alphabetical order.)
To this day, medical students learn “the leg bone is connected to the (uh) knee bone.” When they examine patients, doctors are often singing those songs in their heads. It’s when they sing out loud that you really need to worry.
Hoping you avoid earworms today.