The tyranny of catchy tunes


It’s 4:45am and the alarm has just gone off. My arm flails blindly in the darkness, searching for the snooze button but hits the cancel button instead. Sh*t!

“Oh well.  I’ll just lie here for another 5 minutes,” I tell myself.  As I start drifting off again, my inner voice screams at me, “You know, this is a little bit dangerous…”

And that is how I wake up singing Roxette’s “Dangerous”.  Every. Single. Day.

Roxette Dangerous
Roxette – the source of many an earworm

If you have ever had a song stuck in your head, you will understand how annoying it can be.  Now imagine, if you will, those who seem to have music playing in a giant endless loop. I am one such person and can physically feel the grip on my sanity slipping as my brain flits from one catchy melody to the next.  

This is a safe space and so I have no shame in admitting this.  I suffer from Chronic Earwormitis (the official technical term for the condition*).   

“What the hell is Chronic Earwormitis?” I hear you ask.  “How does it come about? And more importantly, how do you cure it?”  36-and-a-bit years of searching for the answers has made me somewhat of an expert on the matter.

What is Chronic Earwormitis?

According to Google, an earworm can be defined as “a catchy song or tune that runs continually through a person’s mind.”  

This, of course, is an understatement.  It is a tune so catchy that it worms its way into your brain and sets up permanent residence.  Thus the name, Chronic Earwormitis.

You can tell by someones expression that the earworm has been churning for a while

The severity of the earworm infection varies.  Sometimes it’s a short passage, or even just a couple of notes which play in a continuous loop.  This tends to happen when I don’t know the lyrics of the song, or can’t for the life of me remember how the song goes after a certain point.

Other times, a song plays in its entirety.  All the way back in 2002, I became obsessed with the Vanessa Carlton hit single “A Thousand Miles”.  After the entire 4 minutes 28 seconds wedged itself in deep, I didn’t sleep for three whole days.

The jury is still out on whether the “snippet” or “full-version” is worse.

How do Earworms come about?

Unfortunately, much like an in-law at your front door, earworms usually arrive spontaneously and without warning.  Just this morning I was in a meeting with a lawyer who was trying to explain “party costs” to me. His exact words at the end of the explanation were, “so, essentially, the winner takes it all.”

A few years ago, I sat opposite a colleague of the same age who also suffered from Chronic Earwormitis.  We discovered that if two suffers are in close proximity, catchy tunes get passed back and forth with alarming frequency.  It became so bad that simply seeing or hearing a combination of words would trigger an episode. Printing documents at the office became forever associated with Cyndi Lauper.  

True colours
Dammit, Cyndi!

Chatting about work stuff is a minefield.  Like discussing a clients’ Thailand itinerary which includes one night in Bangkok.  Or an agent telling you that she needs something so urgently that it’s an emergencyMost of the travel industry works on a system called Amadeus.  Even eating lunch became hazardous.  

rich bitch

Sometimes you’re infected on purpose because you and your friends apparently hate each other

Sunshine reggae

On rare occasions, a song will even pop into my head as the answer to a question.  Like informing Mrs Megamalist that I’m taking the dogs for a walk, she asks me where to and I burst into song, proclaiming that we’re Walking back to happiness”.

And, of course, the Christmas season is an absolute bloody nightmare

Boney M

How to get rid of an earworm

Anyone who suffers from Chronic Earwormitis is pretty much always searching for relief.  Like any Millennial worth their salt, I turned to the internet as my first began my search for a cure.

The most helpful piece of advice I could find was to do something rhythmic, such as walking or chewing gum.  According to an article on USA Today, anything done with a regular beat will, in theory, offset the beat of the earworm and “hey presto”, you’re cured.  Unfortunately in my case, my mind simply speeds up or slows down the tempo of the song to match the rhythm of my walking, gum chewing, pot stirring, ball bouncing, or even breathing.

The same article suggests listening to the song that’s stuck helps bring closure (it doesn’t – it tends to just remind of the bits I had forgotten, thereby making it stronger).  Playing a different piece of music is supposed help break the loops too (this also doesn’t work for me – apparently my mind is stronger than my hearing).

This little light


Like any disease, it’s best to treat the cause and not the symptom.  That’s why, should you work with someone with the same affliction, your best choice is to find another job and hope that none of your new colleagues is infected with this terrible condition.  In the case both you and your spouse are sufferers, a swift divorce is your only viable option.

For me, I can confirm with certainty that writing this article was definitely not the way to go.  Save for death, I guess there is no cure.  All I can say to my subconscious – and everything that triggers it – is “thank you for the music”.

*Not really.  I made that up.  But I feel like it should be a thing.

6 thoughts on “The tyranny of catchy tunes

  1. theflatbattery says:

    i hate you! no all the songs you mentioned are playing in my head, total cacophonyality! Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye. . . there’s a lovely bunch of coconuts, sitting in a tree. . . .the lion sleeps tonight . . on my blue suede shoes. . . in bar in Tolito, across from the depot. . . just another brick in the wall. .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sam Grindlay says:

    hmmm some of those screenshots seem familiar…!?! MEGALOLZ – I leave the office today with Abba-esque song going through my mind… changing the words really helps! Thank you for leaving it’s such a pleasure – thanks for all the toil and pressure… you can live without I say with all honesty… the weekend will be, two days with my family…

    Liked by 2 people

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