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New study uncovers why some songs become ‘earworms’

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According to a new academic study, earworms – the songs which get stuck in your head – have a common set of characteristics.

The research, conducted by the University of London, examined whether a song’s popularity and melodic features help to explain whether it becomes an earworm.

It also defined a scientific label for the phenomenon – Involuntary Musical Imagery (INMI).

Using a dataset of songs that were named as INMI by 3,000 survey participants, the study found that tracks which had achieved greater success and lengthier runs in charts were reported more frequently as earworms.

The study then analysed these tracks, finding that earworms have a faster tempo, an easy-to-remember melody and specific kinds of intervals – such as leaps or repetition – which sets them apart from other pop songs.

The most likely tunes to get stuck in heads were those with the most common melodic riffs found in Western pop music, such as a rise in pitch followed by a fall in pitch, as in nursery tunes and in Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

The study then stated the example of Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5, which is an earworm because its opening riff follows this pattern.

Kelly Jakubowski, lead author of the study conducted at the University of London, said: ‘These musically sticky songs seem to have quite a fast tempo along with a common melodic shape and unusual intervals or repetitions like we can hear in the opening riff of Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple or in the chorus of Bad Romance (by Lady Gaga).’

The research, Dissecting an Earworm: Melodic Features and Song Popularity Predict Involuntary Musical Imagery, was published this week by the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts.

Then report’s top nine earworms are:

Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
Can’t Get You Out Of My Head by Kylie Minogue (pictured above)
Don’t Stop Believing by Journey
Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye
Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5
California Gurls by Katy Perry
Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
Alejandro by Lady Gaga
Poker Face by Lady Gaga

The post New study uncovers why some songs become ‘earworms’ appeared first on M magazine: PRS for Music online magazine.

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