This Is Why Songs Get Stuck In Your Head According To Science

All it takes is a few minutes, just a few minutes of one song playing and it haunts you all day. You find yourself humming along, whistling as you work and singing out loud that one line you actually know the words to. We can blame the radio and their habit of over-playing certain songs all we want, but the truth is all down to the melodic content.

According to researchers at Durham University songs that get stuck in your head, also known as ear worms or involuntary musical imagery, are faster and have a “fairly generic and easy-to-remember melody.” However, they must also have something a little unique that sets them apart from average pop songs, such as intervals that leap or repeat.

Some examples of catchy songs that were names in the study were Bad Romance by Lady Gaga, Don’t Stop Believing by Journey and ironically Can’t Get You Out Of My Head by Kylie Minogue.

Lead author Dr Kelly Jakubowski said: “Our findings show that you can to some extent predict which songs are going to get stuck in people’s heads based on the song’s melodic content. This could help aspiring song-writers or advertisers write a jingle everyone will remember for days or months afterwards.”

Sneaky wee musicians!

If you are a budding songwriter or someone who wants to avoid getting songs stuck in your head, you might want to look out for songs that are made up of the following three characteristics : pace, shape of the melody and a few unique intervals.

In other words, the songs are something you can move to, whether this is dancing or working out.


The most common ‘ear worms’ include: 

Bad Romance – Lady Gaga

Can’t Get You Out Of My Head – Kylie Minogue

Don’t Stop Believing – Journey

Somebody That I Used To Know – Gotye

Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5

California Gurls – Katy Perry

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

Alejandro – Lady Gaga

Poker Face – Lady Gaga
Looks like Lady Gaga knows what is up when it comes to writing catchy songs!