The Top 9 Songs that get Stuck in your Head

If you’ve found yourself singing along to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” hours after you've first heard it, you are not alone. It's called an earworm and it's happened to all of us. But what makes certain songs stickier than others? 

It’s estimated that 90% of us experience an earworm at least once a week, with some having them even more frequently than others. It happens so effortlessly partially explaining why this music comes into our head and repeats. And it's very often a good representation of the original tune that we're remembering. A new study, published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, now has some insight into why this happens.

To find out what makes certain song catchier than others, the researchers used an online survey to ask 3,000 people between 2010 and 2013 to name their most frequent earworms. The songs most commonly listed as earworms were compared against other songs by the same artists to look for differences in their musical structure. According to the research, three factors determine a song’s sticky factor.  


We like to move to earworm songs. The earworms highlighted in the study were faster and more upbeat in tempo and generally had a rhythm that makes people want to move to the music.


Earworms are generally simple in structure, but they have a rhythmic pattern. Many nursery rhymes fit this pattern to help children remember them – so their creators knew what they were doing. Sounds may rise in pitch, go back down low and then rise again as a pattern, such as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”


Although the overall melody has a simple shape, earworms have some unique intervals that catch your attention.

In short, the most common earworms are simple enough to remember, but complex enough to surprise the brain.

So, are you ready for some earworms? Here are the most common songs named in the survey. Create your own action research and fire up this playlist.  Be beware: there’s a good chance you’ll have Lady Gaga in your ear all day!  

  1. “Bad Romance,” Lady Gaga
  2. “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head,” Kylie Minogue
  3. “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Journey
  4. “Somebody That I Used To Know,” Gotye
  5. “Moves Like Jagger,” Maroon 5
  6. “California Gurls,” Katy Perry
  7. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen
  8. “Alejandro,” Lady Gaga
  9. “Poker Face” Lady Gaga


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