Article: Brain Itch Songs

By | January 31, 2009

Beyonce has finally infiltrated my house. My kids and my wife are all singing “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Nonstop. Every day. It’s the answer to every question and the response to every statement. It’s worse than waterboarding. I’d leave, but I know they’d follow me.

There are songs you wish you could forget but can’t. They’re like a virus that won’t leave your system no matter how hard you try. You’re in the shower, and before you can stop yourself “Y.M.C.A.” pops out of your mouth. You catch yourself chanting, “Who let the dogs out?” in the car. You respond to a friend’s recent troubles with “I get knocked down but get up again.”

You try to erase these unwelcome melodies by thinking about something else. Nothing. You sing them ten times really loud and fast, hoping to push them out of your head. No luck. They won’t leave you. You’re afraid to go out at night. You used to be so much cooler than this.

Go easy on yourself. You’re not to blame. There’s a name for the affliction, and it’s called “brain itch.” And the type of song that causes the brain itch? That’s an “earworm.” Dr James Kellaris of the University of Cincinnati has studied the phenomenon (for real). It seems the combination of repetitive words and unchanging melody makes for the perfect earworm. We’re helpless against its power.

Here are the all-time itchiest of the brain-itch tunes. You can rest easy knowing that it’s not really you singing that song. It’s that earworm dug into your mind, like in the movie “Scanners.” At least now no one can blame you when your friends ask what you want for lunch and you say, “I want my baby back, baby back.”

THERE’S MORE: See our gallery of all 10 of the worst brain itch songs.


HANSON: “MMMBOP”
Produced by the Dust Brothers (the dudes who brought us some of Beck’s, the Beastie Boys’, and Tone Loc’s best work), this tune from the Tulsa brothers’ major label debut was originally written as a ballad. Definitely not the tune to seduce a date.

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