In Germany we say: "Ich habe einen Ohrwurm", which means something like: "I got a catchy tune in my head".

Is there a reason why some songs do this to us?

  • Would this type of question be on topic for Music.SE? From what I know I think it'd fit better there – Zach Saucier Mar 5 '15 at 20:12
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    If you could find out exactly why, and you could reliably write sings that were Ohrwürmer, you would be the wealthiest songwriter in the world, wouldn't you? – user546 Jun 21 '15 at 4:00
  • Indeed, it would be a licence to print money ;-) – LStrike Jun 22 '15 at 6:47

I'm not a music expert nor a psychologist but I think the thing that most gets stuck in our heads is the melody. From this interesting Wikipedia article I got to know that for a catchy tune

simplicity and familiarity were vital

In the same article there also is this sentence:

While it is hard to scientifically explain what makes a song catchy, there are many documented techniques that recur throughout catchy music, such as repetition, hooks and alliteration.

But actually almost every modern or mainstream song has hooks that repeat themselves and lyrics that alliterate. So this doesn't say much about what makes a song catchy.

According to Todd Tremlin's book Minds and Gods: The Cognitive Foundations of Religion:

catchy music "spread[s] because [it] resonates similarly from one mind to the next"


if this helps most catchy tunes are very scalic especially the chorus vocal hook in mastodon's "oblivion" but has interesting melodic shapes, it's subjective what melodic shapes are catchy or not, so catchy music is more about the level of predictability and the interest that the melodic curves bring and how familiar it is, most familiar sounds catchyiest.

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