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There’s a worm in my ear!

January 6th, 2008 by Bill Corbett · 69 Comments

I’m very susceptible to earworms. At times I’ve been driven nearly beserk by a song that won’t leave my brain. Like an African wildebeest infected with Turning Disease, I feel the blackness engulfing me.

Guess that sounds a tad grim, sorry. However…

My wife and I have two young children. And while they’ve mostly brought bright, shining joy into our lives, they’ve also brought children’s music — a genre which is sinister in its earworminess. So I’ve been pleased by our two and a half year-old daughter’s love of non-kid’s music.

But kids also cherish a good earworm. In fact, they have a natural radar which seeks them out… in music meant for children or for other types of beings. Here’s my daughter’s favorite song, which combines (1) her love / obsession with dogs and (2) her affection for music that drives her father mad:

The song is “Chihuahua” by Swiss singer D.J. Bobo — who is, oddly, not a bespectacled talking gorilla. If you’ve never heard the song before, then you probably live in the U.S.A. It’s been a monster hit just about everywhere else on the planet. [Sidebar: thank goodness we live in a nation where only dignified music like "My Humps" makes it up the charts.]

Though the song is more likely about the Mexican state Chihuahua than the wee dog breed, it has apparently been embraced by the world. And nobody has embraced it more fully than my sweet, innocent daughter… not knowing that she’s contributing to her father’s wildebeest-like demise.

What worms songs have lodged themselves in your ears? How did you get them out?

(Or are they…shudder!….still there?)

Tags: RiffTrax

69 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Matt B on Jan 6, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Ahem.

    If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.
    If you’re not into yoga, if you have half-a-brain.
    If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape.
    I’m the lady you’ve looked for, write to me, and escape.

    And generally, I can only wedge them out by listening to something even worse, which is why Air Supply is currently telling me that I’m all out of love.

  • 2 Courtney on Jan 6, 2008 at 11:52 am

    When news of Britney Spears basically flipping her shit and holding her kids hostage in a standoff with the police broke at my office, I spent the whole day with her songs flooding my brain and could think of nothing else. It hurt Bill. It hurt.

    Also, I’ve had “Dirty White Boy” by Foreigner in my head since I was nine years old. It won’t leave. Not a day goes by where that song doesn’t play an incessant loop in my head.

  • 3 Courtney on Jan 6, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Air Supply keeps telling me that I’m making love out of nothing at all. They send such mixed signals.

  • 4 doggans on Jan 6, 2008 at 11:59 am

    I’ve been spending the past week editing videos and slideshows for this conference. I’ve been sharing the video editing room with a group of editors, editing various other videos for the conference. One such editor spent the week working on a video of various staff and other people dancing to “Thriller”. Because he would constantly go back and tweak little parts, I now permanently have portions of “Thriller” stuck in my head. Not the whole song, just little two-to-three second snippets.

  • 5 Rufus T. on Jan 6, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    I work as a concierge at the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando Florida. That means I spend my entire day listening to music and dealing with annoying guests. A couple of days ago they played “Owner of Lonely Heart”. I’m not exactly sure why that song chose to rent space in my brain. But it’s there and there’s not a whole hell of alot I can do about it.

  • 6 SarahCanuck on Jan 6, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    I always am attacked by approximately 15 seconds of a song. Or, even worse, songs that I don’t really know all the words to, so it ends up being one line followed by “something something” or a hum vaguely following the tune. My grandmother has taught me several fragments of songs from 60 years ago, so this is somewhat frustrating.
    At the moment –
    “Oh! Gravityy, why can’t weee, seem to keep it togetherrr, dun dun dun something-eee, why can’t weee, seem to keep it together”
    Also, a fragment of the Queen of the Night’s song from The Magic Flute. Something about doer ist ur steesh, Sarastro dahanaha shmeltzen . . .
    Or every time I watch the Anaheim Ducks play, and they mention Scott or Rob Niedermayer, I can’t help but burst into, “Ohhh I wish I was an Oscar Meyer wiener”

  • 7 Bill Corbett on Jan 6, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Here’s some strong medicine. WARNING: it may cure you, or it may kill you…

  • 8 dax on Jan 6, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    I had “Feels so good” by Chuck Mangione in my head for 16 days in a row. Worse than that, I didn’t know who it was by or how the whole song went, so I just had the first few minutes repeating endlessly for those 16 days. Worse than that, by the last few days I had me (poorly) humming “Feels so good” stuck in my head. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feels_So_Good_%28song%29

  • 9 Matt B on Jan 6, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks Bill. My brain did a lateral and Kevin’s rendition of “Heat of the Moment” is now stuck in there. That’s ever so much better.

  • 10 Libby on Jan 6, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    My 5th grade students are big fans of crappy top 40 songs. Lately, this little gem has been in my brain…

    “Under my umb-er-ella, ella, ella, ay, ay, ay, under my um-ber-ella, ella, ella, ay, ay, ay….”

    Damn Rihanna…

    (and don’t get me started on the frightening phenomenon that is “Souja Boy”)

  • 11 CireDark on Jan 6, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    The trick is to oversaturate your brain with music you enjoy.

    For me, this means long sessions of Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, and KMFDM.

    It helps to also get songs stuck in your head where the lyrics are damn near indecipherable. What the hell are the lyrics to “Jesus Built my Hotrod” anyway?

  • 12 meg on Jan 6, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Peter Allen’s “I Go To Rio.”

    Ohmyohmeeoh, make it stop. Please.

  • 13 Cpt. Clark Terrell on Jan 6, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    My worst earworm was when Chekov and I were on Ceti Alpha VI looking for good testing grounds for Project Genesis. Then we were forced to get those damn earworms that made us reveal a bunch of vital information to some genetically-enhanced ruffians. I never got it removed and it wound up killing me.

  • 14 Rufus T. on Jan 6, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Thank you Bill. That did the trick. However my friend happend to hear a little bit of the clip. Now he’s in a coma. On a side note, I’ve never seen that host segment before. Thank you.

  • 15 Bill Corbett on Jan 6, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Yikes. That’s brutal, meg.

  • 16 Jeff on Jan 6, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Two months ago at work, I managed to get Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss” stuck in my head right until the end of my shift. Not a very pleasant experience. The following day, i got Avril Lavgine’s “Girlfriend” stuck in my head, which was barely an improvement.

    The occasional Gwen Stefani song gets stuck in my head, which has me praying for the pain to stop.

  • 17 Edgewriter on Jan 6, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    In my experience being earworm meat my whole life, I can say that you can usually get rid of an earworm by finishing the song in your head.

    The earworm, known by the scientific name of Audioligochaeta, only has an attention span of 10 seconds so if you sing more than that or especially finish the song in your head, it will lose interest and wander away.

    The worst kind of earworm is one that picks a song you have never heard the ending to, or that you barely know.

    To learn more about the earworm and how to get rid of them you can see my full article on edgewriter.wordpress.com.

  • 18 A treatise on the deadly Earworm « Edgewriter on Jan 6, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    [...] of all, thanks to Bill Corbett’s article on the Rifftrax Blog for prompting me to write on this deadly [...]

  • 19 wakachiwaka on Jan 6, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    The worst are tunes that I half-hear on the radio and kind of like, but no artist or title is announced so I can’t go out and find it. Here’s a piano riff from the late Eighties that got stuck permanently in my brainpan – can anyone identify this thing for me?

  • 20 Robyn on Jan 6, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    I got a particularly bad earworm shortly after the new MST3K.com was announced – a big deal was made about how “The Bots Are Back!!” Somehow, this resulted in hearing “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels in my head, but with a slight modification:

    The Bots are back and you’re gonna be in trouble -
    Hey naaaah, hey naaaaah, the Bots are back!
    When you see ‘em coming you better cut out on the double -
    Hey naaaaah, hey naaaah, the Bots are back!

    And it would just go like that OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

    …And I think talking about it is bringing it back. Dammit.

  • 21 CireDark on Jan 6, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    ZOMG LOLZ!
    I C WUT U DID THAR!
    I GET JOKES!

  • 22 Brian O. on Jan 6, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    This may help, or hinder the recovery process:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=GFGzGfym-7Y

    If not, take two of these and call me in the morning:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=vdX_OBUeHb4

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=BmbsSw81Uww

    The doktor has spoken.

  • 23 Eddie Colton on Jan 6, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Does this work?

  • 24 Eddie Colton on Jan 6, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Guess not. Well, here.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6_jjPW982o

    Damn you, Schumacher. And Bill, you shall not be spared.

    Incidentally, Bill. What character do you want to be on my Batman & Robin poster? You can also request not to be on it, which will be denied.

  • 25 Brian O. on Jan 6, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Okay, who borked the blog?

  • 26 Eddie Colton on Jan 6, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Could be worse though. Could be this version.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_iXec1Drcc

  • 27 Cibernetico 2 on Jan 6, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    ahem. I believe it goes a little something like this:

    [i]Ding ding donga dong dong ding dong
    Dingy dingy son of a gun
    Half my time I tell you baby
    Never am I all for sure
    Why why why why why baby
    Sicky sicky from within
    Everytime I stick my finger on in ya
    Youre a wild wild little town bitch
    Now how bout ding a dang dong dong dong ling long
    Dingy a dingy dong a down[/i]

    and so forth

    and yes I knew it by heart

  • 28 Cibernetico 2 on Jan 6, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Ever since my sister got me watching the show “Rob and Big” I’ve had this old chestnut in my head

    People let me tell you ’bout my best friend,
    He’s a warm hearted person who’ll love me till the end.
    People let me tell you ’bout my best friend,
    He’s a one boy cuddly toy, my up, my down, my pride and joy.

    People let me tell you ’bout him he’s so much fun
    Whether we’re talkin’ man to man or whether we’re talking son to son.
    Cause he’s my best friend.
    Yes he’s my best friend.

  • 29 Cpt. Clark Terrell on Jan 6, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Whoa! You just broke my sarcasmometer! Off the scale!!!

  • 30 Neb on Jan 6, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    I don’t need earworms. I have my husband, who works retail and is forced to listen to bad music all day…and then bring it home to me in the form of little chunks of songs that he hums, whistles, or sings over and over and over and over…etc. Sometimes he makes up new lyrics to the songs, usually referring to our animals. Occasionally it’s a song with which I am familiar…and then the dread malady is passed to me and I’m forced to think of Gilbert & Sullivan tunes to chase the pain away.

    All seriousness aside, the song that haunts me most often is “Pants”, sung by Joel and the ‘bots (and Frank, sort of.) There’s nothing like a good march to stick in your head and parade around in tight formation until it wears a path in your brain.

    Pants!

  • 31 Kelly on Jan 7, 2008 at 12:12 am

    I’ve got one song that I use more as a weapon for when friends are irritating me to no end.

    With arms wide open….
    Under the sunlight….
    welcome to this place, I’ll show you everything….

    and really, anything by creed will do.

    Or, when all else fails, I will survive. It may be fun at the beginning, but it just gets stuck and hangs there in your brain, waiting until you’re weakened to kill you with one mighty blow.

  • 32 Kelly on Jan 7, 2008 at 12:12 am

    I will survive, as in the disco tune.

  • 33 Josh Powers on Jan 7, 2008 at 12:26 am

    When I worked at a movie theater, we had a “Sticker Prints” booth right next to the concession stand. The tune never left my head for the whole summer. I still have an overwhelming sense of dread whenever I hear it. I think post-traumatic stress has allowed me to keep it blocked since. Useful disorder, dontchyathink?

  • 34 SarahCanuck on Jan 7, 2008 at 1:49 am

    I think I shall now blame this blog post for causing aggravated awareness of earworms – tonight’s version is the ever-classic Silly Song With Larry entitled ‘Gated Community’
    “Can I have my ballll, can you get my ballll, I kicked it into the treee. And my ball bounced up, and my ball dropped innn to the gated community”

  • 35 wurwolf on Jan 7, 2008 at 4:57 am

    Yes. “Shnappi, Das Kleine Krokodil”. THANKS, Mike Nelson.

    Also, every song that has been mentioned in this thread thus far, now playing on a continuous earworm playlist (on shuffle) in my head. THANKS, everyone.

  • 36 Meredith on Jan 7, 2008 at 6:33 am

    It usually happens to me with songs I like, which is better than a lot of the other comments I’ve read. I’ve had various songs from Sweeny Todd as earworms since I saw the movie. Buying the soundtrack, as it turned out, didn’t help much. So for the past week and a half I’ve had my own personal soundtrack of murder and cannibalism.

  • 37 CireDark on Jan 7, 2008 at 6:38 am

    I realize it looks that way, but no. Not sarcasm. Those LOLZ were genuine. I actually thought your little joke was pretty clever.

  • 38 Bill Corbett on Jan 7, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Yeah, I’m not sure that it has much to do with the quality of the song. Some tunes just get into your head, and stay there, whether they’re good or bad.

  • 39 Bill Corbett on Jan 7, 2008 at 7:34 am

    “Incidentally, Bill. What character do you want to be on my Batman & Robin poster?”

    Your choice. As long as my costume doesn’t have nipples.

  • 40 Brian O. on Jan 7, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Oh yeah, other annoying songs that won’t leave my brain: Mr. Roboto, Pac Man Fever, and TARAKO TARAKO TARAKO *weeps*

  • 41 Brian O. on Jan 7, 2008 at 8:50 am

    BTW, why is the text green after #4? Have the worms gotten to my optic nerves?

  • 42 Cee on Jan 7, 2008 at 9:14 am

    “Row Row Row Your Boat”
    Working with infants and toddlers, it is requested that I sing this song 209742957u904790259025720 times a dayand then some. It’s gotten to the point where I find myself humming it without even realizing it. I think I’m a lost cause.

  • 43 wurwolf on Jan 7, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Also on an endless loop in my head, just today, is the Kazhakstan national anthem from Borat.

  • 44 Tempus Fugit on Jan 7, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Since Apple plays the ad every 30 seconds, I cannot get that damn Feist song out of my head.

  • 45 Brian O. on Jan 7, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Is it that annoying country song they insist on playing on “new music” stations? “One two three four, hit her with a two by four, five six seven eight, this whole song I really hate.”

  • 46 Brian O. on Jan 7, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Back in 93 I worked the concession stand at Cirque Du Soleil, and they insisted on selling the soundtrack in the same tent. So not only did I have to hear the music from the main tent, but then again when the show let out for intermission, and after the show ended.

    I only kept a smidgen of sanity by muttering “This is the part of Sprockets where we dance.” over and over again.

  • 47 Tempus Fugit on Jan 7, 2008 at 11:05 am

    I believe it is, although I wouldn’t classify it as “country”. I wouldn’t have as much a problem with the song if I didn’t hear it constantly. Plus, all my female friends love it to death.

    It’s kind of like how that Regina Spektor song was some months back.

  • 48 Cpt. Clark Terrell on Jan 7, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Oh. Ok. Glad you liked it. :)

  • 49 StanleyBeagle on Jan 7, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Ah yes, DJ Bobo. I would like to pause and question Switzerland’s neutrality for exporting the “Deej”. I was unaware his insidious influence had spread to small children. This must be part of his plan. If you feel like gettin’ your Bobo on, you should know that his last few albums have had themes (pause for shudder). Including, of course, Pirates of Dance and Vampires are Alive to name but two.

    Noooooooo…

  • 50 dignan on Jan 7, 2008 at 11:51 am

    You can get any song that is currently stuck in your head unstuck by singing the title refrain of “Only Wanna Be With You” by Hootie and the Blowfish. Of course, then you’ve got “Only Wanna Be With You” stuck in your head in its place. There’s no known cure for that yet.

  • 51 SoCal G-Gal on Jan 7, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    “La, la, la, la. La, la, la,la. Elmo’s World.
    La, la, la, la. La, la, la,la. Elmo’s World!
    (unintelligable, possibly words)
    Thaaaaat’s Elmooooo’s Wooooooooorld!”
    Every. Single. Morning.
    And even the ones who cannot speak yet* manage to sing this one…ad naseum!

    *toddlers

  • 52 Onil on Jan 7, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    The only way to defeat Hootie and his Blowfish is with some Drops of Jupiter by Train.

  • 53 Natureboy (Ken) on Jan 7, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    I am suffering from the worse earworm imaginable……I have a constant loop of Terry Jacks – Seasons in the Sun……and Dr. Phil will not take my calls. Can you help me at all Bill?

  • 54 Dallas on Jan 7, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    At the moment I am on hour three of having part of Britney Spears’s latest “song” “Piece of Me” stuck in my head. For those who aren’t familiar with it, imagine a bored Chili’’s waitress singing the following over a karaoke drum machine:

    I’m Mrs. Lifestyles-of-the-Rich-and-Famous
    (You want a piece of me?)
    I’m Mrs. Oh-My-God-That-Britney’s-Shameless
    (You want a piece of me?)
    I’m Mrs. Extra-Extra-This-Just-In
    (You want a piece of me?)
    I’m Mrs. She’s-Too-Big-Now-She’s-Too-Thin
    (You want a piece of me?)

    Britney, if you’re reading this, I would just like to say, no I don’t want a piece of you. Thanks anyway.

  • 55 Darth Chimay on Jan 7, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    So, with this song, has Switzerland ended almost two centuries of neutrality?

  • 56 Bill Corbett on Jan 7, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Maybe. All the fine chocolate and beautifully-engineered watches in the world will not make up for this song.

  • 57 Brian O. on Jan 7, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    She’s too tough and stringy and fatty, raw corned beef tastes better.

  • 58 Minnesota on Jan 7, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Good Read Edgewriter :)

  • 59 Minnesota on Jan 7, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    I usually get songs that I like stuck in my head, but the occasional bad song gets wedged in there too. For instance I’ve been getting that ipod touch song stuck in my head alot (”my music is…”) and the Chevy song can be very annoying as well (”this is our country…”)

  • 60 ShutterBun on Jan 8, 2008 at 3:24 am

    It’s been 24 hours since I read your reply to Matt B, Courtney, and all I can say is that I will hunt you down and punish you severely for having revived that previously vanquished Air Supply worm back into its unholy existence inside my brain. May Lou Bega haunt your psyche for a thousand years.

  • 61 Edgewriter on Jan 8, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Then the only choice would be Uma Thurman. At least your face would be an improvement.

    Er . . . wait, that came out wrong. Crap, why did I break my backspace button?

  • 62 Edgewriter on Jan 8, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Thanks, I do hope Bill doesn’t think I am trying to hijack the blog.

    It just gave me a good idea for an article.

  • 63 Brian O. on Jan 9, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Ah, another good cure is to listen to the Subgenius Hour of Slack (http:www.subgenius.com), from their “Ears of Dobbs” page. The best doktorbands can easily cure anyone of endless pop and mall music loops.

  • 64 norgavue on Jan 9, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Hmmmm this is about chocolate rain and a half….. The good thing with a crappy connection is that due to the video not playing all the way through I only bashed about 2 inches into my skull rather than the whole way before i came to my senses pulled the plug.

  • 65 Justin Case on Jan 9, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    In the eighties Kylie Minogue showed the world just how much she hated it by releasing a cover version of “The Locomotion”. This weapon’s grade irritating earworm burrowed into my skull and reverberated there untill I wanted to stick my head under a drill press.
    I deal with earworms with a visualization technique that involves imagining myself repeatedly shooting the offending musician(s) with a shotgun. The trick is to focus on the sound of the blasts and set up a rhythm that blots out the sound of the earworm while picturing the physical destruction of the source of the noise to provide a further distraction and catharsis. I find that this proccess usually alleviates earworm pain even if it can’t get rid of it.
    I developed this technique to deal with Milli Vanilli and New Kids on the Block. Celine Dion is more resistant because that damn heart of hers won’t stop going on, and on, and on, and on, and on(apparently even after the rest of her vital organs fail, dry up, and turn to dust, like in that Poe story).
    If you get the bad earworm on the ropes, I recomend trying to replace it with a good earworm. The loudest heavy metal song you can stand works best, but good hard rock will suffice. I hope this helps other sufferers of earworm infestations. Peace.

  • 66 Troy and Jessica Thompson on Jan 12, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    A little known fact about earworms, revealed in some research my wife and I unearthed: partial earworms can migrate and join up with others of the same species.

    I’ll arrive home from work, and my wife will greet me innocently. Then, she’ll say “you know what song I’ve had running through my mind all day?” And every time, I fall for it and ask, “No, what?”

    Then, she sings/hums/projects the song fragment that’s been torturing her all day, and I’ll sing along–then it’s too late! There’s a very high probability that I know the part she has forgotten; the earworm fragment instantly migrates to me, where it joins up with another fragment and starts to burrow in for the rest of the night!

    Then I take it to work the next morning and unleash it on some unsuspecting lacky at the coffee machine…

  • 67 Geena on Jan 19, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    I’ve currently got “Sausalito Summernights” by Diesel stuck in my head.

  • 68 ginbot on Mar 16, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    That was a NIN’s song right? Before Trent reverse sold-out (i.e. gave the milk away).

  • 69 ginbot on Mar 16, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    There was also Pants! 2: Toga the Line. When Kevin couldn’t start a toga party, so had the pants party instead.

    But, it reminds me of when I made a cassette back in ‘95 interjected with MST3K clips off of crappy ftp sites. One such is where Crow, Tom, and Mike do a theme song (ok, crow does Mike’s theme song).

    Toooooom Servooooo!