You’re driving in your car, and you come to a red light. Your radio is off, but while you sit waiting for the green a song you heard two weeks ago begins to play an infinite four bar loop in your head. No matter what you do to try and distract yourself, that song refuses to give you peace. Nine hours later, and “Who Let the Dogs Out” is all you can think about.
Ted-Ed, the condensed, animation guided nephew of TedTalks, recently released an informative and colorful video explaining the science behind “earworms,” the inescapable music loops that plague 90% of people every week. This explanation comes especially relevant to us dance music enthusiasts, where the beats and vocal hooks used in most of our tracks are made overly catchy and repetitive by definition. These earworms most often rear their head during tasks that require very little focus, like when brushing your teeth or waiting through commercial breaks on TV. While modern science still remains unclear as to the precise biological reason for this phenomenon, it’s clear that these songs come to us in the form of vivid mental imagery. Even though this kind of imagery can be conjured up utilizing memory from all your senses, visual and olfactory included, it’s undoubtedly puzzling that music is the only kind that occurs naturally and causes an inability to turn it off or think of something else.
Ted-Ed seeks to blame our modern technology, in part, for the earworm concept. As the loops are most often triggered by recent and constant exposure to the song in question, it’s fair to say that our unceasing access to movies, television, online videos, advertisements, and other forms of auditory media play a substantial part in our brains’ tendency to revisit them even when they are not directly present. However, although we may have more devices to listen to the same thing over and over, earworms are not new to this generation of ears. Pointing to references from Mark Twain and others, it’s clear that this auditory phenomenon is something intrinsically present in our psychological, human makeup.
While we still don’t know the reasoning behind earworms, it’s a fascinating concept and one that’s all too relevant to us in the EDM community. Check out the Ted-Ed in the player above.