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Why earworms are nothing to Moana about!


Music is a massive part of my life, to the point where I wrote an article many years ago about how Apple saved commuters lives. Many will agree that music is a key stress relief, it promotes motivation, it gives us a place to forget our troubles, for a few minutes anyway. It can not only make us happy, but move us to tears. It is a very powerful media and it goes without saying, it is a very lucrative business.

However, there will be times where we listen to a song, and then spend hours, days, even weeks, trying to get the song out of our heads.
The film Easy A is a prime example of this where Natascha Bedingfield’s “Pocketful of Sunshine” becomes the catchy tune to the main character Olive. She says at the beginning of the film, “eaaghhh…worst song ever…” and then listens to it nonstop for the next few scenes. By the end of the film she has the tune as a ringtone on her mobile phone.

The reason for this post, is because I have also experienced a recent earworm, that I cannot shake.

Havelock Island, Mangrove tree on the beach, Andaman Islands

One of the benefits of having a toddler (some may also see this as not much of a benefit), is that you can watch as many children’s films as you like. Disney, DreamWorks and other children’s entertainment producers are known for subtly embedding phrases and topics into the films for the benefits of the parents, so they can also enjoy the films. Overall, while I laugh in the right places, I have never really needed the adult titbits to enjoy these films. If you appreciate them, then watch them, you don’t have to be a child.

My earworm (or brainworm if one prefers), comes from the film Moana. A very well crafted and delightfully entertaining flick, with very catchy songs.

The two main songs that I cannot get out of my head are “I Am Moana” and “You’re Welcome”. Dwayne Johnson really brings that song to life.
It has got to the point where I have been listening to the soundtrack on Spotify to try and get the tunes out of my head as I find myself randomly singing them. This is perhaps not an ideal situation to be in, when your colleague is trying to get their head down, devise complex techie equations for an important project, and then I belt out “I am Moana”, (not very well I might add).
Aside from listening to the song as a remedy, there are few other popular ways that can help remove the ‘sticky’ tune out of your head:

  • Chew gum
  • Solve word puzzles or maths problems (tech work doesn’t seem to work)
  • A spoonful of vinegar (it works for hiccups)
  • Find a distraction
  • Listen to your favourite song in the hope that it might override the current one.

Or you could just do what I did with Gnomeo and Juliet, and watch it continuously until the novelty has worn off.

Phrases used to describe an earworm include “musical imagery repetition”, “involuntary musical imagery”, and “stuck song syndrome. It is no surprise given that you can see 99% of individuals on public transport listening to music, the studies relating to earworms have increased, so there are plenty of text online if you want to read up on the science behind them.

Alternatively, if you want to join the Moana movement, you can find the soundtrack in the usual places, and I do highly recommend watching the film, especially if you are like me (and Moana), and the water calls you. Hmmm, perhaps that is the connection.