Is the Happy Song Making Some People Unhappy?

Is the Happy Song Making Some People Unhappy?

Round and round

The first time I heard it, I loved it, and the second, third, fourth etc. but by the time I’d heard Pharell Williams’ ‘Happy Song’ for the hundredth and something time, it started to wear me down. It wasn’t because I had gone off the music, the lyrics or the sentiment, but because the tune would go round and rounds in my head for hours, if not days after hearing it. True, the repetition of ‘because I’m happy’ is a very positive message to have repeated in one’s head, but not if it eventually it means happy, but driven insane!


This sort of song is referred to as an ‘earworm’ but there is good news and hope for us all – scientists have found a way to get rid of it, but it takes a bit of work. Researchers discovered that the best way to get rid an earworm is to solve an anagram. Apparently, the mental effort of working out anagrams, forces the intrusive music out of the brain’s working memory. Being cognitively engaged is the key, because it limits the ability of intrusive songs to get into your head and start going round in that everlasting loop.

The cure

Reading a book works for some people but it needs to be something that requires concentration, otherwise the earworm will sneak back in, but doing something that takes too much concentration means the brain will give up trying, and the music will come back again. Finding the right balance is the secret.

The science

A series of tests were conducted to see which popular songs were likely to become stuck in memory, and for how long. Study participants were asked to complete anagrams, Sudoku and mazes drawn on sheets of paper, while the music of the Beatles, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé were played.

The reason that music gets into our head and is replayed in small loops, is because we get to know the chorus, but don’t know the other parts of the song as well, so we just replay the bit we know. Lady Gaga was the most common artist to get stuck in people’s heads, followed by Katy Perry, Abba, David Bowie and the Beatles. However, that was before Pharell came along with the ‘Happy Song.

Mountaineer, Joe Simpson, famously reported being bothered by a song he hated, (Brown Girl in the Ring by Boney M)  as he lay injured on a glacier in Peru. Maybe he should be grateful it wasn’t the, inappropriate for the circumstances, ‘Happy Song’!

Vive La Difference

At least there are different ways of expressing the sentiment of the ‘Happy Song’. Here is my current favourite – how could anyone resist a singing, swimming cat with a cast of  supporting dogs?



Now, just out of curiosity – is there a particular song going round your head right now? Oops, sorry!


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