Song Stuck in My Head: HELP!

Dear Robin:

I have a Miley Cyrus song stuck in my head and I am worried that this might be the end for me…what are your thoughts?

P.S. I fucking hate Miley Cyrus

P.P.S. I guess that wasn’t technically and advice question, but it is serious nonetheless.  Thank you in advance for your response.

Going Crazy

white people

Dear Going Crazy:

As you know, I freaked out a bit Thursday morning last week when I opened your email, because my brain has been torturing me for weeks with the same song, “Wrecking Ball”.


I too am not a huge Miley Cyrus fan, but you can’t deny that is a great song, especially the cover you linked to on YouTube, far better than the original

What you have is referred to by several terms, including “phonological loop,” “earworm” or “cognitive itch.”


There are many good interneticle (new word!) articles on this subject so I won’t bore you with the science behind the problem.  Here are some good links: and and

The other song driving me crazy right now is Katy Perry’s “Roar.”  I have a very strong dislike of Katy Perry that is based purely on jealousy, her generally lousy music and her choice of clothing most days.  But I LOVE this song, I think because it really describes how I’m feeling lately about taking control of my life.

When I woke up this morning, this song buzzing around in my brain was the first thing I experienced – it’s as if it was playing on my alarm clock radio except the radio is in my head, which sounds crazy.  And I’m not crazy.  Really.  I can prove it because I recently had to do just that in court to avoid an involuntary hold.  I’m fine. Really.


Also, “Roar” is catchy as herpes.  The video is so awful that it’s actually great.  Here, have a click:

Noted scary writer Edgar Alan Poe discussed this phenomenon in his short story “The Imp of the Perverse” (1845):

“It is quite a common thing to be thus annoyed with the ringing in our ears, or rather in our memories, of the (burden) of some ordinary song, or some unimpressive snatches from an opera. Nor will we be the less tormented if the song in itself be good, or the opera air meritorious.”

Dude could write.  Let’s paraphrase:

lots of people get songs stuck in their heads even if the song sucks ass.

meow mix

Poet Denise Baer also spoke of this phenomenon when she said “When you wake up with a song stuck in your head, it means an angel sang you to sleep.”

Gag.  I hate people who talk like that: upbeat, positive and sappy with religious references thrown in for good measure.  Since I woke up with Katy Perry stuck in my head, that angel was Lucifer and I take no comfort knowing that I slept with the Devil.  Again.


So what to do?  If this problem is really bad (for example, I noticed your email came in at 3:02 a.m, which indicates you may have insomnia caused by or at least worsened by your earworm) you may want to talk to your doctor.  I did, and mine gave me some practical advice which I promptly ignored (stop listening to music).  Another option is OCD medication, as studies have shown that people with OCD are more likely to suffer from serious bouts of earworm.  

Interesting fact: while women and men suffer from this problem in roughly equal numbers, women’s bouts of earworm tend to be more intense and last longer. 


Another choice is engaging in activity that does not involve much cognitive effort, such as exercising, driving or blogging.

I have also heard you can break the cycle by thinking of another song, but for me that usually results in getting a new earworm with a different tune, which is akin to trading one controlling husband for another.  If you do try this approach, I suggest a song which is not catchy at all, like “It’s a Small World After All.”


Good luck!


This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. lancealot8

    Thanks so much for ending with the “it’s a small world” reference. That fucking song will be a perpetual “do-loop” in my brain for days.

  2. John DesCamp

    For the ultimate, granddaddy of them all, make you crazy forever earworm, check out the short story that Mark Twain wrote in 1876. The Wiki has it.

    The father of the blogger.

  3. Swifty

    I have not heard this insipid tune for years but it still cycles through my brain. In Bing Crosby’s voice:
    Lay that pistol down, Babe
    Lay that pistol down
    Pistol packin mama
    Lay that pistol down.

    Oh good. There’s a youtube:

    1. CL

      Kinda catchy- and I looooove the outfits! 🙂

  4. CL

    God damn you put a lot into that response… even a new word?? Very impressive. But gees, for someone who’s an atheist you sure make a lot of religious references… haha. What’s going on? Are the Jehovah’s witnesses knocking on your door during the day when you’re blogging- I mean working? That is precisely the reason I choose to email people at 3 am with ridiculous questions.

    I refuse to listen to this Katy Perry song that you refer to , although let’s face it- I will probably do it later tonight. And I agree- does she not wear the trashiest clothes you’ve ever seen in your life???!!! So annoying. Annoying like when people say “dude” and “gag”. But those pale in comparison to the “It’s a Small World” reference which is now deeply imbedded in my ear- thanks a lot, Robin.

  5. warner7834

    Arrrrrrrgggggggg seriously? Now I have Wrecking Ball trapped in my head!

  6. warner7834

    Reblogged this on warner7834.

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