Ear worms

I hope that anyone who read this title did not immediately picture some kind of gross worm that resides in something’s ear. But now that I’ve just described it, I apologize in advance for the image.

What I’m actually trying to talk about today is the term that I didn’t really start using until I read Daniel J. Levitin’s This is Your Brain on Music, a wonderful book that, well, describes what happens in the brain when one listens to music. It’s a pretty fascinating book, and it’s pretty accessible science reading. So if you’re afraid of getting lost in musical and scientific terms, don’t worry; Levitin will guide you right along.

At one point he talks about ear worms, or one of those songs that you just can’t seem to get out of your head. It’s that song that is so, so damn catchy that no matter what you do, the song just keeps playing. Or at least a piece of a song. A while back, when Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” was being played 24 hours a day, for a while I could not get the song out of my head and actually played it on repeat a few times. Now get this straight; I am not usually a top 40 aficionado. But Jepsen (and/or whoever she worked with on the song) knows how to write a song with staying power.

The explanation for why ear worms occur is a bit of a complicated one to summarize here, but Levitin does provide some interesting facts: musicians are more likely to “suffer” from ear worms than nonmusicians, and people with OCD are also more likely to be troubled by them. Rarely does an entire song get stuck in one’s head; it’s usually a part that memory can comfortably recall, which is about 15 to 30 seconds.

I tend to get ear worm attacks every once in a while, but not as often as some people might since, as part of my reviewing for my music blog, I tend to have to jump from album to album. When I repeatedly listen to certain recordings, however, this opens up a whole new can of worms, if you’ll forgive the pun.

Right now, I’m afflicted with probably the worst case of ear worms I’ve ever come down with. The culprit: Christian Hansen. Last month, I finally got around to listening to a submission of Hansen’s latest work, C’Mon Arizona. I didn’t know what to expect going on, but I immediately knew I would be hooked after listening to “Ma-Me-O,” the album’s opening track.

My face immediately broke into a smile, even more so on the next song, “Spirit Guide,” that cleverly works in a line or two from Madonna’s “Holiday.” At the end of the album, it took very little time for me to start listening all over again. I normally listen to album three times before I review them; I must have listened to C’Mon Arizona at least five times before doing so.

Hungry for more after the review was done, I searched for his older recorded music and was delighted to find out that his previous full-length, Power Leopard, is just as addictive, from the opening pseudo-tropical beats of “Cocaine Trade” to the auto-tuned blips in “You, Me, Him & Us” (which is also, I should note, about a guy not really wanting to be part of a threesome). Hansen is gifted in that no only does he create beats that implant themselves in one’s mind, his lyrics are so witty that you’ll remember at least a line from them. Some samples:

  • “I take pleasure in all the small things/Surfing the Net and defecating” (“Pump It”)
  • “But that was back when your name was Brock/You had gigantic dreadlocks/You went to Burning Man a lot/But you never found your perfect spot” (“You Were a Juggalo”)
  • “I used to dance/Thought I was dancing for peace/I used to dance/I thought the music was sweet/It was just ’cause the drugs matched the beat” (“Cocaine Trade”)

It’s gotten to the point where, because I like so many of his songs so equally, there’s rarely a day that goes by when I don’t have some kind of Christian Hansen song stuck in my head. Today, for example, it’s “You, Me, Him & Us” which is subject to change depending on the way the day goes. This is the longest case of the ear worms I’ve ever come down with, and there’s really no cure!

3 thoughts on “Ear worms

  1. Steve

    Dude, at last! Christian Hansen has plagued me with ear worms since Power Leopard but nothing prepared me for C’Mon Arizona. It seriously broke my brain. I’ve never had a worse ear worm and after only a few listens. I finally wrote him to say his album was great but i couldn’t listen anymore. That’s when he told me about ear worms like he was some mad genius. Amazing album but after two listens it’s yours for life. Thanks for showing me I’m not alone. Pump it!

    1. glasspaperweight Post author

      I had a feeling Christian Hansen might have had ear worms down to a science! Goddamn. It doesn’t matter how many days I go without listening, I still end up with one of his songs running through my head. This morning it was “You Were A Juggalo.” Thanks very much for the comment, I am also glad to know I’m not alone!

  2. Pingback: Feel-good jams | Michael Writes

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