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Ear Worm

"Why is it that I can recall a cigarette ad jingle from 25 years ago, but I can't remember what I just got up to do?"

This is the song that doesn't end... Yes, it goes on and on, my friend... in your head.

Ear Worms (from the German phrase Ohrwurm) are those songs that weasel their way into your head like uninvited guests and then proceed to stink up the inside of your cranium by playing themselves there over. And over. And over. And over. They're those songs that just get stuck in your head, and no amount of screaming, pounding, protesting, and banging your head into your desk will get them out. They will check out any time you like, but they will never leave. Someone infected with an Ear Worm may find themselves prone to bursting out into the song in inappropriate places, tugging at their ears in fury, and can end up distracted in the middle of conversation (or other important activities) by the continuous snatches of song wavering between their ears. And it's only a matter of time before, like Darryl Revok, they drill a hole in their forehead to let the voices out.

You may find relief by hunting down the lyrics and learning the words, but this is more effort than most people are willing to expend on a briefly-heard ditty. Worse, if the song is in a language you don't speak, this becomes pretty much impossible. And when the song is an instrumental... Some people also claim that just listening to the song in question from beginning to end could help, because as their theory goes, an Ear Worm really is a fragment of the song stuck in your head, while your mind attempts to resolve how it continues — in vain. Actual success of this method varies (from person to person and from song to song) though, so it might only serve as a temporary release or none at all. And even worse is the fact that some Ear Worms are songs that were made cyclic to begin with (say, video game soundtracks). Therefore, listening the song through will just complete the loop, rendering the Worm Nigh Invulnerable. Naturally, you can always distract yourself with another Ear Worm, but you might find it just as annoying as the first, and some people even develop a "playlist of Ear Worms" this way, being able to switch from one song to the other, but unable to silence them. As a general rule of thumb one could say: The more you care, the worse it gets.

The Internet is a particularly notorious supplier of Ear Worms; lots of music memes tend to be irrationally catchy. (This is probably how they got to be memetic in the first place.) Other prime offenders include commercial jingles, Broadway musicals, whatever Top 40 hit is being overplayed right now, video game music (including licensed music), and songs with chipmunk voice. Let's not go into show theme music, especially when they repeat and shout the name of the series over and over and over again.

Just because a song is listed here as a particularly bad Ear Worm doesn't mean it's not awesome. In fact, an awesome song can be just as catchy as a... uuhm... not as awesome one. In fact, a song may even be awesome because it's an Ear Worm, and a song may be an Ear Worm in part because it's awesome.

In fiction, Ear Worms are frequently the tool used to produce Psychic Static. Especially powerful ones can also serve as a Brown Note.

Not to be confused with the mind-warping parasites from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Compare The Tetris Effect, the video game equivalent.

TV Tropes would like to apologize to any readers susceptible to these things who, getting reminded of a song on this page, feel compelled to hear it again. For your convenience and further suffering, links will be provided whenever possible. (And sometimes this isn't possible, for various reasons; if you find a broken link, please remove it or fix it. Thanks!)

Note: When posting links to YouTube here, make sure to strip their URLs of all unnecessary fragments, such as "feature=..." — the "?v=oHg5SJYRHA0 or whatever"; parameter is the only one needed, really.

Also, unless it seems to have been posted with the copyright holder's blessing (look for one of those little marks like "director video" or "contains content from") or songs released under free license (e.g. Creative Commons), it probably shouldn't be linked here — it's very likely to be taken down. And also, for US users, the rest of the world may not see what you do. Links to video game soundtracks and demoscene productions are OK most of the time, though.

Please mention the work the example comes from. Simply typing out "Lalalalala (link to Youtube video)" will not be a good idea, because a) the link might get deleted, b) not everyone can play videos, and c) "Lalalalala" looks like gibberish to the average viewer.

Important Note: Examples of Ear Worms go into one of the sub-pages below. Do not put them on the main page, unless the Ear Worm trope is referenced within the story or lyrics.


Examples


References to, and stories involving, Ear Worms

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • 20th Century Boys: Kyoko keeps her favorite rock song in mind to protect herself during a brain washing session.
  • In Cromartie High School, the characters desperately try to remember the name of a song that is completely stuck in their heads, after one of them hears Mechazawa hum it in the bathroom. In the anime, they hum it in unison by the end of the episode and still can't name it. The song was "Ningen Nante", by the guy who does the main theme of the series. Notably, it seems that it wasn't Mechazawa who started this. At the beginning of the episode, we see him at a concert with Freddie singing to a guitar instrumental played by Gorilla. When you put two and two together, the guitar part serves as a basis for "Ningen Nante". So he wound up with the song in his head, felt like going around humming it, and it spread through the school like an infection.
  • In a literal example of Ear Worm, in an early episode of NEEDLESS, there is a brief scene where a strange cat/worm creature comes out of Eve's ear as she is sleeping. Its purpose is never explained, and it is never seen again for the rest of the series.
  • Taken to a very dark extreme in the Junji Ito short "Songs in the Dark". A woman hears a busker playing a song that is so catchy it literally alters her brainwaves and repeatedly plays over and over in her head, driving her insane in the process. Many others who heard the song ended up committing suicide.
  • The song Aa, Nagarekawa is referred to as such in the Locodol anime.

    Comic Books 
  • Adam "Empowered" Warren did a short arc for Gen 13 which featured Caitlin as the Only Sane Woman in the face of an unnaturally infectious and insane pop song.
  • In Sandman: At Death's Door by Jill Thompson, Delirium deals with the demons that crash Death's party by infecting them with Ear Worms.
  • In a Justice League story, the League encounters a created being that sucks up memories. Once they manage to reverse the effects, the Atom leaves it one memory: the Ear Worm that's been stuck in his head the whole issue. "Ziggy Stardust". The kicker: he couldn't remember the whole song.

    Comic Strips 
  • Rat does this to mess with Pig in a Pearls Before Swine strip by singing John Denver's "Country Roads, Take Me Home" near him. Rat even admits that he's doing it to plant an Ear Worm in his friend's head.
  • Tom Tommorrow's This Modern World once introduced a superhero named Anagram Man, but for the purposes of this entry we must take note of his sidekick, Song-In-Your-Head Boy.
  • One Nemi strip features an Ear Worm taking over a bus. Much to the annoyance of the main character.
    Cyan: (humming away) Hey, do you hear it too?
    Nemi: (visibly straining) No! I'm hearing "Raining Blood" by Slayer! Louder, and louder and louder!
  • Norm from My Cage once got a song stuck in his head; when pressured to tell what song it was he finally admitted it was the FreeCreditReport.com jingle.
    Norm: Advertising has salted my soul. Nothing good can grow there again.
  • A Sunday strip of Zits has Hector confessing to Jeremy that he has a show tune stuck in his head. After much pestering from Jeremy, it is revealed to be "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria" from The Sound of Music, at which point Jeremy gets it stuck in his head as well.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Finding Nemo invokes both this and Disney movies Award Bait Songs when Dory starts singing an obvious parody of such a song. "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming swimming swimming...".
    Marlin: No singing. No Singing! Great, now I'm going to have that song stuck in my head.
  • In the Kim Possible movie, we see Drakken pass by a glass-roomed torture chamber where a man is assailed by an Ear Worm. We can't hear it, but there's some very familiar puppets involved...

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the movie Thoughtcrimes, Brendan doesn't believe in Freya's telepathic abilities until she mentions that he'd had the Scooby-Doo theme song stuck in his head all day.
  • In Wayne's World, Wayne has the song "Hey Mickey" stuck in his head. He and his girlfriend sing it to expel it.
  • In the movie Pontypool, the Ear Worm comes in the form of infected phrases in the English language that spread through understanding.
  • In Eurotrip, Scotty's ex-girlfriend Fiona's new boyfriend's song, "Scotty Doesn't Know" (about Fiona cheating on Scotty) becomes something of an Ear Worm for the entire cast — starting with Scotty's best friend. Not only that, but it becomes a major hit all over Europe.
  • "Pocket Full of Sunshine" becomes an Ear Worm for the main character, Olive, of Easy A.
  • The catchy song from Three Magic Words, a short riffed on by RiffTrax, is declared an ear worm by a despondent Bill Corbett after it continues on past the short itself.
  • In Deep Rising, Joey starts singing the elevator's music under his breath while the group is sneaking along a corridor. Everyone stops and points flashlights and/or guns at him, so he sheepishly explains that it's stuck in his head. Amusingly, even the hardened mercenaries don't push the issue and simply resume walking.

    Jokes 
  • "Doctor, doctor! I keep getting these two songs stuck in my head: The Green, Green Grass of Home and Delilah!" "Oh, you've got Tom Jones syndrome. It's Not Unusual."

    Literature 
  • Older Than Radio: In 1876, Mark Twain wrote "A Literary Nightmare" (also published as "Punch, Brothers, Punch") about a jingle on punching train tickets getting stuck in his head.
  • This was the plot of a short story by Arthur C. Clarke, "The Ultimate Melody" in the collection Tales from the White Hart. A scientist noted the effect of Ear Worms in popular music, and determined to find the underlying rhythm that made them all so addictive through process of comparison and elimination. He apparently succeeded in touching on that "universal melody" for a moment, as the end of the story finds him completely vegetative, the song having matched so neatly with his brainwaves that it effectively locked them in stasis forever. As a note (no pun intended) of irony to the whole story, the machine that has been compiling and analysing these songs was turned off, still playing the ultimate melody, by a man who was completely unaffected by it. Why? He was completely, utterly tone-deaf.
  • The Sufficiently Advanced Aliens of Childhood's End by the same author use this as an example of precisely directed power. Yes, they could take out a dictator through armed combat, but it'd be much more effective and less destructive if they made it so there was a distracting little voice talking in his ear, 24 hours a day, that prevented him from thinking straight or planning his wickedness.
  • Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man features a man who wants to commit a murder in a world populated by telepaths. So he deliberately "infects" himself with an extremely catching earworm so that any telepaths won't be able to hear anything else that he's thinking. In-universe, earworms are referred to as "pepsis", although no-one remembers why.
  • In one of her latter SERRATed Edge novels, one of Mercedes Lackey's protagonists manages to take down an entire group of psychics with the sheer Ear Worm potential of They Might Be Giants. Apparently, the fact that the band's songs are both A) incredibly catchy, and B) so nonsensical that you actually have to focus on the lyrics to keep up makes them a perfect block for any Mind Rapage. It definitely didn't help that Unseleighe psychics have absolutely No Sense of Humor, little comprehension of allegory, and the imaginations of lead bricks. They went positively insane trying to figure out what the hell the hero was thinking about.
    "I know what the White Eagle is, but what in the name of creation is the Blue Canary?!"
  • The Terry Pratchett book Nation has an Ear Worm in the form of the Beer Song, described as a cheery little tune that bounces along and can't be removed from the brain with a chisel. It's important that the inhabitants remember it, though, as skipping a verse or two could result in fatal poisoning.
  • Discworld: The Hedgehog Song. It's an ear worm even though the words are never mentioned.
  • The story "Pie and Punch and You-Know-Whats", in Robert McCloskey's children's book Centerburg Tales, involves a record delivered by a mysterious stranger, which contains a song so catchy that the entire town ends up singing it uncontrollably. The only remedy is to get a different song stuck in their heads: "Punch, Brothers, Punch" from Twain's "A Literary Nightmare", mentioned above.
  • The short story "Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-TAH-Tee" by Fritz Leiber concerns a rhythm and pattern of dots that form an Ear Worm so powerful that it essentially takes over the world, leaving almost everyone unable to do anything but obsess over it. Eventually, the spirit of a long-dead witch doctor gives the main characters an antidote (another Ear Worm which cancels it out), because, as the ghost explains, "it was starting to catch on down here, too."
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Dark Mirror by Diane Duane, Deanna advises Picard to cultivate an Ear Worm in order to block her Mirror Universe counterpart's telepathy. He chooses George Strong's parody of "The Song of Hiawatha":
    He killed the noble Mudjokivis.
    Of the skin he made him mittens,
    Made them with the fur side inside,
    Made them with the skin side outside.
    He, to get the warm side inside,
    Put the inside skin side outside;
    He to get the cold side outside
    Put the warm side fur side inside.
    That's why he put the fur side inside,
    Why he put the skin side outside,
    Why he turned them inside outside.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms novel Finder's Bane, by Jeff Grubb and Kate Novak, the party is captured by the mind flayer god Ilsensine. To buy their release, they have to give it a song that it has never heard before. The minor deity Finder, in the party, gives it a recursive song — the last verse feeds into the first. The resulting Ear Worm gives Ilsensine big problems — so the mind flayer god ends up begging Finder to take the song away in return for three answers to questions.
  • China Miéville's short story "Wormword" features a deadly Ear Worm that can be spoken as well as sung. If you hear it intoned correctly, it causes a feedback loop in the brain that not only makes you recite the wormword over and over, potentially infecting other listeners, but also causes your brain proteins to distort, as if you've contracted a prionic brain disease.
  • Prose variant: in Dark Cities Underground, the protagonist once starred in a series of children's books his mother wrote when he was a boy. Even forty years later, he can't stop himself from mentally narrating his own actions in the catchy rhyming couplets his Mom's books used ("Jeremy Jerome Gerontius Jones, went to get an auto loan").
  • In The Name of the Wind the first book of The Kingkiller Chronicle, the protagonist Kvothe writes the song "Jackass, Jackass" to mock his school rival Ambrose. Since personally performing the song too often will get Kvothe in serious trouble with the University authorities, he writes the song as a deliberate Ear Worm. By the time he gets reported, it's all over town. Reader beware: the selections of the song included in the text are Ear Worms in their own right.
  • Poul Anderson's After Doomsday features a song, "The Battle of Brandobar", written to be a peculiar form of Ear Worm. The rhythm and rhyme of the song are carefully put together so it suffers little if any distortion when passed from singer to singer: "A space-hand who had never heard of Kandemir or Earth would still get their names correct when he sang what to him was just a lively drinking song. Only those precise vocables would sound right." This is essential, because the song is intended to let scattered Earthpeople know, "Hey, there's a bunch of Earthmen here."
  • H. H. Munro, a.k.a. Saki's "Cousin Teresa", in which a song containing the jaunty refrain "Cousin Teresa takes out Caesar, Fido, Jock, and the big borzoi." becomes an immense popular hit ("big-drum business on the two syllables of bor-zoi. It's immense."). The ensuing popularity of this absurd Ear Worm serves as a satire on the public obsession with trivia.
  • The Do-Da-De-Da-Da Code by Robert Rankin has a throw-away line in chapter 37 in a passage where everyone's fingers are poised for the last big number of a gig, "Fingers, Fingers, fingers. Fingers of Jonny's left hand on the neck of the wondrous guitar. Fingers of Andi Evans on the big buttons of the big recording equipment. Fingers of tom Gripping his drumsticks. Fingers of Gaz on the mic. A finger on the trigger. Two fingers of redeye from the optic. A finger of fudge is just enough." That last part is from the Cadbury's jingle that goes:
    A finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat.
    A finger of fudge is just enough, until it's time to eat.
    It's full of
    Cadbury's goodness, but very small and neat.
    A finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat.
Here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC9BBLSZZdQ Good luck forgetting it!
  • In The Shattered Alliance book from the Magic: The Gathering novels, Jodah the Archmage deters eavesdroppers at his study door with "a catchy little tune from my childhood that loops back on itself repeatedly." Since the spell makes people hear him singing it, another mage called it "cruel and unusual punishment."
  • Animorphs: The Yeerks are literal ear worms, except they crawl into your ear and take over your brain instead of being catchy. A more accurate version is how one Yeerk's host constantly recites Henry V in the back of his mind. It enrages the Yeerk so much that when it uncovers time travel, the first thing it does is try to go kill Henry V at Agincourt.
  • Audrey, Wait! is a book about an Breakup Song that also turns into an infamous Ear Worm worldwide, shaming all parties involved.
  • The concept is referenced in one of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers stories, when Sonya Gomez tries to make her personal access code easier to remember by using lyrics from a catchy alien folk song.
  • Broken Angels mentions a propaganda song written by Kempist revolutionaries which was so catchy that even the most patriotic soldier could find himself absent-mindedly humming lyrics from it. It became a bit of a problem, with overzealous political officers turning in otherwise-loyal citizen who happened to get it stuck in their heads. The government eventually dealt with it by releasing a rip-off version featuring pro-government lyrics set to the same catchy tune.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The concept is used in an episode of French TV series Kaamelott: King Arthur can't get out of his head a song he heard from a minstrel ("À la volette", a traditional children's song). He spends most of the episode getting distracted and trying to get the melody out of his head (even interrupting a council to sing it out loud). Ironically, the series was so popular that the song itself became once more well-known and remains a prime example of the Ear Worm in France.
  • The "You Are the Best" Training Montage song from Tek Jansen.
    Stephen Colbert: That song just digs into your brain like an alien parasite.
  • The series Medium has this in the episode "The Song Remains the Same", with Alison having "I Will Survive" blaring in her head making her shout and barely hear what people are saying. At one point the "record" skips, only continuing when she got closer to the broken iPod of the missing girl.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Survivors" features an Ear Worm in the form of an Ominous Music Box Tune that produces enough Psychic Static to freak out Troi to the point of madness.
  • Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger VS Abaranger:
    Jasmine: Please excuse me. (place hand on Ryouga's hand)
    Narrator: (while clipshow of Abaranger goes on) Jasmine is an ESPer. Whoever she touches, Jasmine recaps his memories.
    Jasmine: Seems true for now. I have my doubts for them though — (walks to the camera) — Aba-Aba-Aba-Aba-Abaranger!
    Umeko: What the heck was that?
    Jasmine: Don't know either. It was on loop in his brain.
  • The Seinfeld episode "The Jacket" has George dealing with the fact that "Master of the House" from Les Misérables is stuck in his head. He accidentally starts singing it a few times during a visit from Elaine's father, Alton Benes. The last scene shows Alton driving down the highway and singing "Master Of The House" to himself. Apparently this earworm is not only annoying, it's also contagious.
  • Scrubs
    • The episode "My Musical" ends with the current Sacred Heart patient humming the song she heard the staff sing when she first entered the hospital which is ironic, since her eardrums about to explode is what threatened her life in the first place.
    • Also the third episode of the series, "My Best Friend's Mistake", where they can't get the Erasure song "Give a little respect" out of their heads, which leads to various members of the cast up and singing it out of the blue.
  • "Goodies Rule OK", a The Goodies' special, has them (among other things) writing a motivational song called "Bounce!", which causes everybody who hears it to perform the accompanying dance. Britain goes bankrupt because everybody is bouncing instead of working.
  • An episode of the Battlestar Galactica reboot has a song suddenly and mysteriously force its way into the heads of four characters. They aren't even sure what it is or where it came from, but for several days, they hear it everywhere, driving them slowly insane. Apparently, if your brain gets infected by a driving cover of "All Along the Watchtower", you just might be a Cylon. (Said cover is also a powerful Ear Worm in real life.)
  • Doctor Who
    • A Jon Pertwee-era episode has Jo Grant resist the Master's hypnosis by reciting "The Walrus and the Carpenter" by Lewis Carroll.
    • Speaking of the Master, he's apparently had the same Ear Worm continuously since he was eight, when the last Time Lord president implanted it in his head. He once spread it to the entire human race in order to take over the world.
  • British comic duo Hale & Pace did an episode with this as a running gag.
    You're never going to get this song
    Out of your head, out of your head,
    You're never going to get this song
    Out of your head, out of your head
Then later, after it's gone on a bit...
The only way to get this song
Out of your head
Fire some lead
Into your head
He does. They sing the song at his funeral. He sits up out of his coffin screaming.
  • The A-Team references this trope in Season 4:
    Murdock: I've had "Three Blind Mice" by the Lennon Sisters goin' in my head for the past three days.
  • Gilmore Girls, (paraphrasing):
    Loreli: I finally found out how to get "Lazy Hazy Crazy Days" out of our heads. Just sing "It's a Small World" over and over.
  • In Good Luck Charlie, Bob describes a jingle as the basic concept of an Ear Worm: "A catchy little tune that sticks in your head and drives you a little bit crazy."
  • Naor's Friends (basically the Israeli version of Seinfeld) has an episode in which a woman gets the song "Shuvi laYam" stuck in Naor, Dedi, and Weizmann's heads out of spite, because they were frustrated with how long it took her to finish her business on the ATM machine they were waiting to use. It got so bad they called a specialist, who played the Ketchup Song ("a lesser catchy song") in their heads on repeat for long enough to get it out, but warned them not to hear the original song for 24 hours. As luck would have it, the café they went to got robbed while they were there, and "Shuvi laYam" started playing on the radio... Which made them angrily take down the robbers, who were armed with machine guns, pepper the radio into smitherenes, and save everyone in the café. At least the song got out of their heads...
  • In the Married... with Children episode "Oldies but Young'uns", Al goes nuts over an old song he has stuck in his head that goes, "Hm-hmm, him..."
  • On How I Met Your Mother Ted and Marshall are on a long road trip in a car with a cassette tape of "500 Miles (I'm Gonna Be)" stuck on an endless loop.
    Ted: I am. So. Sick. Of this song.
    Marshall: Don't worry, it comes around again.
    Ted: What do you mean?
Cue Gilligan Cut to Marshall and Ted enthusiastically singing along.
  • An episode of Drop the Dead Donkey has a Nessun Dorma box for people caught humming the theme of the Italia 90 world cup.
  • In the White Collar episode "Most Wanted", Peter keeps singing a catchy little song set to "London Bridge". Mozzie speculates that this is a weapon developed by the federal government for psychological torture by Ear Worm. It's actually an FBI mnemonic song listing the names of the mistresses of a high-profile fugitive who happens to be the Criminal of the Week.
  • In-universe example in Charmed: Prue gets the jingle for an ice cream truck stuck in her head. It turns out this was the demon's chord, which attracts demon children so that the ice cream man can seal them away. Prue remembers it because she was mistakenly trapped by the ice cream man when she was younger.
  • Frasier: invoked In-universe: when a death-metal artist moves in upstairs and plays his music full-volume around the clock, both Daphne and Martin get "Na-na-na-na-na-na, flesh is burning..." stuck in their heads.

    Music 
  • The Arrogant Worms, appropriately enough, have "Song Inside My Head" which is both an Ear Worm and about an Ear Worm. They even include the basic melody recorded in several different musical styles.
  • Similarly, the song "Ohrwurm" by the German a capella band Wise Guys is an Ear Worm sung by an Ear Worm.
  • Cephalic Carnage, pot-smoking and incredibly talented inventors of Rocky Mountain Hydro-Grind, paint the fourth wall red with their rather catchy song "Ohrwurm", though don't visit that music video unless you're prepared for Squick. (And have some amount of Brain Bleach on hand.)
  • Yet again, the song "Tosi Tarttuva Täytebiisi" ("Really Catchy Filler Song") by finnish group Allekirjoittanut (later Covered Up by Raptori, which shares two members of Allekirjoittanut) is a tongue-in-cheek dance track about the song itself being an Album Filler Ear Worm, while the Raptori version lampshades the Covered Up aspect.
  • Jonathan Coulton:
    If you can find, some way to be,
    a little bit less, afraid of me
    You'd see the voices that control me,
    from inside my head say I shouldn't kill yoooouuu... yeeet....
  • Referenced by Eminem during "White America", with him noting (and maybe mocking) his influence on society.
    Straight through your radio waves
    It plays and plays
    Till it stays stuck in your head
    For days and days
  • Referenced in the song "Replay" by Iyaz (the song itself is also a major ear worm):
    "Shawty's like a melody in my head That I can't keep out Got me singin' like Na na na na everyday It's like my iPod stuck on replay, replay"
  • "That Song in My Head" is another meta-example, as the hook is "I've had that song in my head all day."
  • "This is the Chorus", by Morris Minor and the Majors, (a parody of all the late 1980s Stock Aitken Waterman hits), has the line: "This is the Chorus, This is the Chorus, It goes round and around and gets into your brain".
  • "Come On Eileen" by Dexys Midnight Runners includes the lyric "...and you'll hum this tune forever".
  • "Love You Like a Love Song" by Selena Gomez + The Scene and Zendaya's "Replay" (not the Iyaz song) are two Disney Channel related examples, comparing a love interest to an Ear Worm. Of course, both are relentlessly catchy in their own right.

    New Media 

    Poetry 
  • The Billy Collins poem "More than a Woman" features a narrator describing how a song has been playing uncontrollably in his head all day. Although he says, "It is a song so cloying and vapid I won't even bother mentioning the title," the poem's title clearly tells us that it's The Bee Gees song from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

    Puppet Shows 
  • "The Chicken Song" from Spitting Image:
    Now that you've heard it once
    Your brain will spring a leak,
    And though you hate this song
    You'll be humming it for weeks!
This was a parody of "Agadoo" by Black Lace. Characters in the show were heard singing snatches of it throughout the episode before it was performed by the ensemble at the end. And then it was released for real as a single.
  • Lamb Chop's Play-along with Shari Lewis, Lamb Chop and Hush Puppy used "This Is the Song That Never Ends" (a.k.a. "This Is The Song That Doesn't End") as the closing theme. It's a recursive Earworm, so you can't even get rid of it by singing it all the way through... Any kid who grew up in the '90s has been annoyed by some kid on their camp bus starting a sing-a-long with this song, as well as "I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves". Worse, if you were a camp counselor in the '90s and they started a sing-a-long and you had to try to get them to shut up. You can not call yourself an American if you don't know this song. Lampshaded on the show itself, in which Shari Lewis cries out in horror when people begin to sing it, and then sends them away so she doesn't have to hear it anymore.
    This is the song that never ends
    It just goes on and on, my friends
    Some people started singing it not knowing what it was
    And they'll continue singing it forever just because
    This is the song that never ends...

    Tabletop Games 
  • An end to a rather strangely named ARG has this happen to a former shadow government official/cultist turned power-hungry God. Thanks to the players, another, more powerful and more moral God throws him into a dark cellar, and blasts "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper and the covered versions over and over. He really, really hates it.
  • In GURPS, sufficiently powerful message-carrying psi-bombs can lodge a short sentence or rhyme in a person's mind for several minutes. For obvious reasons, this can be a more terrifying prospect than similar tech that can rip out someone's soul and store it in a jar.

    Video Games 
  • Monkey Island
  • In The World Ends with You, one of the thought fragments that can be read, features someone trying to get a "Dempa"(?) tune out of their head.
  • Lampshaded in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. When Peach takes a shower, she hums both the overworld and underwater themes from the original Super Mario Bros.
  • If you talk to Kei Nanjo in the pharmacy in Persona, you catch him singing along with the pharmacy song (a potent Ear Worm). He then realizes you're listening to him and demands you join in.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, in the last boss battle of the Accordion Thief's Nemesis quest, the Big Bad has the ability to not only get a demonic song stuck in your head, but physical ear worms as well! The only way to get rid of them is to sing a different Ear Worm in response, which enrages the worms and sends them back to attack the Big Bad. The kicker? The cure is a mashup of "Feliz Navidad" and "The Fish Heads Song".
  • And now on AdventureQuest Worlds. At the end of the recent Mythsong Valley saga, the sixth Chaos Lord turns out not to be Discordia, but the special guest of the big Friday event, Kimberly of One Eyed Doll, whose music Discordia had been entranced by. Drakath turned her into a Chaos Lord by sticking a mind-controlling Ear Worm into her head. Only by defeating her does Kimberly manage to get the Chaos tune out of her head and return to normal.
  • Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock has the "Player of the Ear Worm" trophy for playing the same song 10 or more times.
  • Fortune Street has a level based on the original Super Mario Bros., complete with requisite remix of the overworld music. When selected as opponents, Mario says how much he loves the song, while Bowser roars that he'll never get the song out of his head.
  • In Persona 4, Teddie complains that the music playing in the old-school video game-inspired "Void Quest" dungeon has gotten stuck in his head.
  • In Persona 3, NPCs are overheard talking about how insanely catchy the "Tanaka's Amazing Commodities" TV show theme is.
  • Fallen London has "Plagued by a Popular Song", a "menace" quality that characters gain from failures. The song in question is "Pop Goes the Weasel" and bad things will happen to your pet weasels if it gets too high.
  • In Lollipop Chainsaw, a zombie bemoans:
    "I can't get this Katy Perry song out of my head! What a terrible way to die!"

    Web Animation 
  • Jonti Picking (a.k.a. Weebl, creator of Weebl & Bob), big provider of Ear Worms, eventually lampshaded this with "annoying", which has an annoyingly catchy tune about an annoyingly catchy tune:
    Oh my word, this tune is annoying,
    Yes I know, it's really annoying
    I can't get this song out of my head!
    Make it stop, this tune is annoying
    I gotta go to work in the morning
    Now I'm gonna be humming it in my bed!
  • "The Ballad of the Sneak" from Homestar Runner is ridiculously catchy.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Pinky and the Brain:
    • The three-part story "Brainwashed" deals with an Ear Worm that's spread to the whole world and is dumbing it down (it's strikingly similar to the "Macarena", which can't be coincidental). In a rare occasion of not trying to take over the world, Pinky and the Brain have to save the world.
    • One episode of Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain involves The Brain trying to use an Ear Worm to (what else?) Take Over the World. Specifically, he's going to modify the song in the "It's A Small World" ride at Disneyland to include lyrics telling people to make The Brain ruler of the world.
  • The Simpsons has: "Duff beer for me, Duff beer for you, I'll have a Duff, You'll have one too..." (repeat ad nauseam). For Massive Damage, it's set to a tune very similar to "It's a Small World". What's worse, it's the "jackpot" music on multiple versions of the Simpsons-licenced Fruit Machines. Winning £5 has never been this annoying before...
  • In an episode of The Mighty B!, Bessie uses an Ear Worm product jingle in order to get people to stop saying her middle name... which is cursed, and the effects of which are putting all of San Francisco at risk.
  • Brad opens the "I Was a Preschool Dropout" episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot by singing an entire verse of a song called "MinkyMomo". Immediately upon finishing the song, he grimaces and announces, "I hate that song."
    Brad: A-minky-minky-minky-minky-minky-minky-minky-minky-MOMO!
    The Minky Momo is an attitude
    The Minky Momo is a mellow mood
    You're Momo when you're drinkin' lemonade
    You're Momo soakin' in a marinade
    I know you're Minky, 'cause I'm Momo, too
    And so I know what you're goin' through
    But there's no mo' Momo whenever I... get... close... to... you!
    (stops singing)
    Man, I hate that song!
  • Carl of Aqua Teen Hunger Force talking about MC Pee Pants's song "I want Candy":
    Carl: It keeps running inside my head and it won't leave unless I blow it out. With a bullet!
  • The Kim Possible episode "Team Impossible" has said team show up with a theme song, which Ron groans afterward that he cannot get out of his head.
  • Futurama: This is not exactly an Ear Worm, but once you read the following... well, just read it:
    Professor Farnsworth:' Good news everybody! I've created an invention that forces you to read everything in my voice!
    • Reminiscent of Freemanic Paracusia.
    • You think that's bad? World of Warcraft gave one of their bosses his voice and catchphrase, and he does voiceovers for two other bosses as well. After listening to "Good news, everyone! I've fixed the poison slime pipes!" while wiping for two hours straight, you will NEVER get it out of your head.
    • The Simpsons Did It too:
      Troy McClure: I'm Troy McClure, you might remember me, because you're reading this in my voice.
    • You're now reading everything as if Troy McClure, Morgan Freeman, and Professor Farnsworth are reading it to you at the same time. Worst voices to have stuck in your head EVER!
  • The episode "Head Band" of Dexter's Laboratory features a "boyband virus" quite literally infecting the ears of Dexter and his family, and it does not only make them hear a song but also sing and talk to the tune of it. Luckily the virus eventually cures itself, as members of the boyband leaves to pursue solo-careers...
  • An episode of DuckTales that does their spin on The Odyssey has Uncle Scrooge nearly be lured away by the Sirens. After he was rescued, he commented "Ever had a song that just wouldn't get out of your head?"
  • Whenever Cartman from South Park hears the first line of "Come Sail Away", he has to sing it all the way through.
  • In the Robotboy episode "Traffic Slam", Tommy and his friends sing a song to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" called "I Know a Song That Gets on Everybody's Nerves", over and over, while they're stuck in traffic. You get the impression that they're doing it just to annoy Tommy's dad (it works).
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • The Musical cliptastic countdown special, which shows the top 10 favorite songs, voted by the viewers. In it, the villain Doofenshmirtz tries to hypnotize the "Live Studio Audience" with one of these. ("My name is doof and you'll do what I say... Woop Woop!") They get un-hypnotized when Agent P plays the number 1 requested song, which is "Gitchie Gitchie Goo" (and, as commented by Doof, "the never-before seen extended version!")
    • In the episode "Does This Duckbill Make Me Look Fat?", Dr. Doofenschmirtz is stealing all the clown statues from a burger chain because the song played from the clown is an Ear Worm he can't stop singing. Perry's boss is singing it too. Then in the end credits, he gets the "Perry the Teenage Girl" song stuck in his head.
  • Two examples from Justice League and Unlimited:
    • Batman has "Frère Jacques" on loop in his head to keep Dr. Destiny out.
    • The Question has a generic pop star song on loop in his head, but not on purpose — after being on stakeout with the car radio on, it's been stuck in his brain.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold and the entirety of its Musical Episode, "Mayhem of the Music Meister": The heroes sing throughout it due to a music-based villain who controls them through his music.
  • An OffBeats short concerns Tommy's inability to get a song out of his head.
  • Poor Arthur was constantly tormented by the theme song to D.W.'s favorite inane kid's show, "CRAZY BUS, CRAZY BUS, RIDING ON A CRAZY BUS."
  • In an episode of Freakazoid!, the title character is haunted for a short while by a song belonging to one of the many of the show's antagonists. "Where did he go, that Invisibo..." indeed!
  • Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers: In the episode "The Case of the Cola Cult", the Rangers discover a cult of mice who worship a defunct brand of soda after they discover a video tape of the company's most popular ad, complete with jingle... oh God, the jingle!
  • An episode of Family Guy features Peter hearing the song "Surfin' Bird" for the first time in years. Upon hearing that the restaurant management is going to throw away the record, he takes it and soon becomes obsessed with the song. He blares it for days upon end, he constantly brings it up in conversation so he can play it, he withdraws a large sum of money just to promote the song on TV, and he even uses the record as a sex toy. Eventually, Stewie and Brian steal the record and destroy it — and to make sure he doesn't ever play it again, they destroy every copy in town. Thanks to Jesus, Peter gets another copy at the end anyway.
  • A SpongeBob SquarePants episode (aptly titled "Ear Worm") has SpongeBob listening to a new song called "Musical Doodle", and gaining a dangerous addiction to it. Which turns out to be caused by an actual worm living in his ear listening to the song over and over again on a phonograph.
  • In an episode of Darkwing Duck, a brief scene shows Megavolt pacing in his lighthouse tower, singing a version of the title theme, with no lyrics. He soon breaks off and complains, "Agh, I can't get that song out of my head!" His irritation is understandable, since the song is all about his nemesis.
  • Regular Show, episode "This Is My Jam", has "Summertime Lovin', Loving in the Summer (time)" which becomes so relentless catchy that it eventually takes on physical form. The guys end up countering it by creating their own Ear Worm and blasting the Summertime Song, resulting in the two songs manifesting as giant glowing men who duel with guitars. Yeah, it's that kind of show.
  • One episode of Code Lyoko has XANA trying to kill people with an earworm... which also happens to send them into comas.
  • Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja has the song from a theme park named "Whoopie World".
    Howard: You know that stupid Whoopie World commercial? I keep getting it stuck in my head! Whenever I hear it, I can't think of anything else!
    Randy: Hmmm?
    Howard: ...Don't you do it.
    Randy: Whoop whoop whoop whoop whoop whoopie, Whoop whoop whoop whoop whoop whoopie, Whoop whoop whoop whoop whoop whoopie, Whoop whoop whoop whoop whoop whoopie!
    Howard: AHH! AAH! AAAH!
  • Two episodes from the fourth season of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic have characters referencing "Winter Wrap Up" from the eponymous episode, though the only two characters to do so are known to lean on the fourth wall.


Ha! Now we've got you singing it!
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