Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On Songs Stuck In My Head*

*Attention, SAT word inventors: the English language is sorely lacking a word that means "a song stuck in my head." Please get cracking on it. Thank you. Also, this post apparently is leaning heavily on parenthetical asides, which I generally find disruptive to the flow of prose but was unable to lay off of tonight. My apologies.

It is now time to get back to one of the grandest, least commented upon traditions on this blog: overanalyzing pop music. I'm not entirely sure what drives me to obsessively hone in on every tiny little element I like and don't like in music, but it's there, it's not going away, so I just accept it and deal.

The result of this obsession and my unwillingness to fight it is that I am particularly vulnerable to song-stuck-in-headedness (again, need a nice, tight vocab word to express this phrase more naturally. The College Board, this is where you can give back after taking so, so much.) As I have so much experience with the phenomenon, I am working on a taxonomy of songs stuck in the head. It is still a work in progress, but I thought I'd give you a few archetypes I have experienced lately:

1. Songs you'd rather not admit you know all the words to: Singing, humming, bobbing, or mild dancing is never acceptable in public and already subjects the person to more than their fair share of public scorn. "Look at that rube," the public thinks, "singing and dancing and humming as if he enjoys music. Who enjoys music these days? What's up with that?" I generally find this baffling and chalk it up to people's primal urge to destroy anyone that they perceive might be having more fun than them (see also: war on drugs, war on sex, and basically wars in general). This public scorn is and should be intensified if the person is mouthing all of the words to "Always" by Erasure, for example. This is the most dreaded type of song to get stuck in your head.

2. Songs you only know the chorus to or songs with very few lyrics: Another deadly category, this applies mostly to catchy songs with choruses that are repeated a zillion times in its 3 minute duration, leaving you with only enough to repeat a tiny song fragment periodically for all of eternity, or at least the afternoon. It's the aural equivalent of Chinese Water Torture. It's annoying for the person with it stuck in their head, but truly pity their poor, poor coworkers who have to spend every second of the 30 minute van ride listening to them sing the chorus to "Private Eyes" or "Turn to Stone" endlessly. "I Got My Mind Set On You" fits the bill as well.

3. Songs with no words at all: "Walk, Don't Run" and "Classical Gas" just aren't the same when they're whistled.

4. Songs no one else has ever heard of:
"It's 'Cruel To Be Kind.'" "No, Nick Lowe." "Sometime in the early seventies, I think." "Yes, I'm aware you weren't born then; I wasn't either, but I still know it." "Seriously, what is weird about this? It was a hit song. It plays on the radio. It's pop culture. I shouldn't have to explain any of this."

5. Songs that you cannot sing out loud in public: Either the lyrics are incredibly offensive or completely gender inappropriate. This happened to me today. On the way to a department wide meeting, the insidious bastards at G101.3 decided to play "Hips Don't Lie." I know enough of it to sing through a bit, but something is lost when I sing Shakira's part, and I'm reasonably sure that directing any of my coworkers to keep on reading the signs of my body is a recipe for all kinds of trouble. This category also applies to Christmas songs when it isn't Christmas season.


liz said...

Earworms. Isn't that the proper term?

kathy a. said...

yes, earworms.

misheard lyrics, by contrast, are called mondegreens.