5 songs that will get stuck in your head

By Doug Frattallone, Staff writer
Published On: Sep 21 2011 01:04:18 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 27 2012 01:00:00 AM CDT

iStock / CREATISTA

Believe it or not, there's actually a name for when you can't get that great/grating song out of your head.

It's called an earworm, a term popularized by James Kellaris, a marketing researcher at the University of Cincinnati. Kellaris says an earworm is a portion of a song that repeats compulsively within one's mind.

Kellaris' 2001 study concluded that everyone gets earworms, some people more than others. Not much more to it than that, really.

Hey, don't blame me. Blame Kellaris. Maybe if he wasn't humming "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" to himself constantly while he was writing the dang thing he'd have a few more facts.

Oh well, now to the point of this article. Here is a completely random list of five songs that can produce massive earworms. Massive. So watch out.

Don't like the list? Want to complain about it? No big deal. I love you just they way you are ...

No. 5: "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel

Once upon a time, a knucklehead in the office was doing research on a nifty feature entitled "What Sesame Street Character Are You?" While scanning the Web, he came across an Oscar The Grouch clip on YouTube.

A young Billy Joel was singing this tune to the garbage can guy. "Don't go changing to try to please me," Joel warbled to Oscar. "I love you just the way you are."

The knucklehead had to listen to the song at least 15 times to get over it. He never really did, and now has the entire Billy Joel Greatest Hits 1 & 2 CD's burned on his iTouch.

He doesn't even like Billy Joel.

As for the song, it reached No. 3 in the U.S. and won the 1978 Grammy for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Joel says he wrote it for his first wife, Elizabeth Weber. That's pre-Christie Brinkley if you're scoring at home.

No. 4: "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey

This one most famously accompanied the ending of arguably the best TV show ever: "The Sopranos."

Tony, Carmella and A.J. are eating in a diner. Meadow tries to park the car. You think they're all going to die in a bloodbath. This Journey staple is blaring.

At "Don't Stop..." the screen goes to black, and the viewers get zero closure to the Mafia drama. The song is DRILLED into your brain in the most "HUH?" ending in TV history.

The song was also the theme song of the Chicago White Sox' 2005 World Series run, with Steve Perry even belting it out at the victory parade.

As for its place on the charts, it reached No. 9 on Billboard way back in 1981.

It's also one of those rare songs where the chorus isn't heard until it's almost over. The actual words "Don't stop believin'" are revealed with 50 seconds left in the tune. Talk about a delayed earworm.

No. 3: "Come and Get It" by Badfinger

Badfinger didn't have that many mega-hits. But they did produce a mega-earwormer called "Come And Get It," which was penned by Beatle Paul McCartney. Bet ya didn't know that.

As the story goes, McCartney gave Badfinger the song in 1969 as long as they produced it exactly as he instructed.

It was a no-brainer, and Badfinger (at that time called The Iveys) was soon crooning, "If you want it ... here it is come and get it ..."

The single made it to No. 4 on the charts in the U.S., and was the opening theme for the movie "The Magic Christian," starring Ringo Starr. Didn't see that one? Neither did the rest of the world.

As for the original McCartney "Come And Get It" demo, it was released on the "Beatles Anthology 3" CD. It's a bit slower, and you wonder to yourself, "Who are the Beatles covering here?" Answer: Badfinger.

No. 2: "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" by Dawn featuring Tony Orlando

It happened while watching CNN during the daytime (which is quite dangerous if you don't want to see dopey advertising).

On the screen: a svelte Tony Orlando, declaring he had lost a zillion pounds through some weight-loss thing and now sporting a 34-inch waist. Likely story.

Unlikely story? Tony's lead vocals on the uber-earworm "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree." That 1973 number out of nowhere topped the U.S. charts for four weeks. It's also No. 37 on Billboard's list of Greatest Songs Of All Time.

Tony-O doesn't get top billing, though, because the song was released by "Dawn, featuring Tony Orlando."

Been three long years since you've last heard it? One listen and it'll stick with you for another three.

That's not hard to believe.

Thirty-four inch waist? Right.

No. 1: "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Tunelessly singing "I'm as freeee as a biiiird now ..." as annoyingly as you can to yourself is one thing.

The serious earworm is when you put into words the signature guitar solo to yourself. It sounds something like this: "deer to deer, deer, deer, deer, deer, deer, diddly, deer, deer, deer." Or something like that.

It's total southern nuthouse territory. But that's Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" for ya. Earworming it this very second. And this bird cannot chay-a-yange! Lord help me, I cannot chay-a-yange!

As for the charts, the 1974 song only peaked at No. 19 on Billboard.

No. 19? Just goes to show that the classics aren't always No. 1. But try to stop humming it. That bird you cannot change.

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