Do earworms make you happy or drive you crazy?

Posted by Mark Caro:

One fascinating, mysterious aspect of songwriting is how some hooks embed themselves in your head. There are endless combinations of notes and rhythms, yet a select few become earworms, sometimes in ways that make you happy (maybe that “rah rah…” chant of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” or the bass line of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” ) or not so happy:

So it’s no surprise that earworms have become the subject of an academic study— published Thursday in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts from Britain’s Durham University. The New York Times reports that the professors studied earworms’ structural patterns and found that:

Earworm songs tended to be fast, with a common, simple melodic structure that generally went up and down and repeated, like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” But the earworm songs also had surprising, unusual intervals, like the chorus in “Bad Romance” or the opening riff of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”

The researchers also found that 98 percent of people experience earworms at some point and that they can have positive effects (spurring creativity) or negative (leading down dark obsessive paths). The profs hope understanding earworms might yield insights into the way memories and the brain work.

Just don’t share those insights with the folks responsible for this: 

Which are your most loved or despised earworms? Have you ever tried to write one yourself? Steve, does this make you want to record “Air Dry”?