Friday, December 2, 2016

Kylie Minogue – "Can't Get You Out of My Head" (2001)

La, la, la . . . la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la . . . la, la, la, la, la
I just can't get you out of my head

A group of scientists recently studied what makes a song an “earworm” – that is, a “musically sticky” song that gets stuck in your head despite the fact that if you had your druthers, you’d druther be able to forget it.

In order to figure out the characteristics of earworm songs, those scientists asked several thousand people to list the songs that they found to be the earwormiest.  They they generated a list of non-earworm songs that were similar in terms of how old they were and how popular they were.  Finally, the scientists compared the two groups of songs with regard to 83 different criteria, which allowed them to identify the factors that were most strongly correlated to earworminess.  

According to an article summarizing that research that recenty appeared in an American Psychological Association journal, earworms are characterized by a fast tempo and a melody that is simple and somewhat generic but has unusual intervals that are repeated over and over and over.  (You can click here to read the entire article.)

Think about Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”  The first fifty seconds of that song consist of a very distinctive four-measure guitar riff that is repeated six times before the lead singer jumps in.  That riff is in a minor key, which doesn’t hurt when it comes to making a song an earworm.

Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” – which was one of the earworm songs most frequently mentioned by the subjects of the study – is also in a minor key.  Its signature melody jumps up a fifth repeatedly.

The main riff of the Knack’s “My Sharona” features an even wider interval – it goes up an octave and back down an octave over and over.

"Her name was Lola . . ."
One of the scientists who conducted the study offered a few suggestions for people who are trying to get an earworm out of their heads:

1.  Don’t resist the song – engage with it instead.  Many people report that listening to the earworm song from beginning to end can help to eliminate having a distinctive musical phrase from the song getting stuck in your head.  (When it comes to an earworm like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” of course, this cure is worse than the disease.) 

2.  Distract yourself by thinking of or listening to a different song.  (I once knew someone who got rid of earworms by whistling the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show to herself – which is cutting off your nose to spite your own face.)

3.  Try not to think about it and let it fade away naturally on its own.  (Like that ever works.  Thanks for nothing. Mr. or Ms. Scientist.)

*     *     *     *     *

Kylie Minogue’s 2001 single, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” was a #1 hit in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. 

Kylie Minogue
But it peaked the #5 spot in Finland, and only made it to #7 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in the U.S. 

The participants in the study that was discussed above cited “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” as one of the biggest earworm songs ever.  But I don’t find it that hard to get the song out of my head.  It just doesn’t seem to be all that earwormy – am I wrong?

Here’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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