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Ear Worm

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"The song has ended, but the melody lingers on."

This is the song that doesn't end... It goes on and on in one's head.

"Ear Worms" (from the German phrase Ohrwurm) are those songs that weasel their way into one's head like uninvited guests and then proceed to stink up the inside of one's cranium by playing themselves there over. And over. And over. And over. They're those songs that just get stuck in one's head, and no amount of screaming, pounding, protesting, and banging one's head into one's desk will get them out. They will check out any time one likes, but they will never leave.

This phenomenon is well-known in Real Life, so it's no wonder it frequently comes up in fiction as well.

Characters infected with an Ear Worm may find themselves prone to bursting out into the song in inappropriate places and shown liking the tune because it's irresistibly catchy. They can end up distracted in the middle of conversation (or other important activities) by the continuous snatches of song wavering between their ears. However, soon they'll be profoundly annoyed by it and tugging at their ears in fury. And it's only a matter of time before, like Darryl Revok, they drill a hole in their forehead to let the voices out.

Sub-Trope of Inner Monologue. Ear Worms are frequently the tool used to produce Psychic Static. Especially powerful ones can also serve as a Brown Note. If the repetitive music that is the cause of someone's woes is not just in memory but ongoing, it's Incessant Music Madness. Could be sung or played by an Annoyingly Repetitive Child.

Not to be confused with the mind-warping parasites from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or mind-controlling parasites from Animorphs or Earwig in Real Life.

Although many of us have had experiences with Ear Worms, please stick to listing examples where a song's catchiness is commented on or demonstrated in-universe. Describing what makes a song catchy is almost impossible for most people who aren't music theory experts, meaning that the odds of subjective examples being Zero-Context Examples are extremely high (as was the case with a past version of this trope). Not to mention that calling a song annoying from an out-of-universe perspective could be Complaining About Shows You Don't Like.

In-Universe Examples Only:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • 20th Century Boys: Kyoko keeps her favorite rock song in mind to protect herself during a brainwashing 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.
  • The song "Aa, Nagarekawa" is referred to as such in the Locodol anime.
  • In My Monster Secret, Akane takes Akari's appearance to make a short movie parodying your typical Magical Girl Show Within a Show, called Magical Akalyn. If Asahi's reaction in the volume 10 omake is anything to go by, the show's theme song is an Ear Worm (though the fact it was played in a loop for maybe more than an hour on the radio didn't help).
    She's never ever popular! (si~ngle~) Alcohol's her only partner! (si~ngle~)...
  • 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 Voices in the Dark short story "Splendid Shadow Song". 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.
  • Sato in Welcome to the NHK is consistently tormented by the theme song to the Show Within a Show Magical Girl Pururin played by his neighbor Yamazaki. Once he befriends Yamazaki and he is introduced to the show, he often finds himself humming the tune, and even adopts it as his ringtone!

  • Comic Greg Warren has a bit about a crazy woman on the subway who kept repeatedly singing "ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS A FIIIISH! SANDWICH!", and that weird little ditty has been stuck in his head ever since.
    "That woman should not be homeless, she's a hitmaker! She may be one of the greatest lyricists of our time. I've heard eleven Taylor Swift songs, I don't know the words; I know all the words to 'Fish Sandwich', and —and!— nobody's wondering what to get her for Christmas!"

    Comic Books 
  • One story of the Animaniacs comic had Wakko getting a song stuck in his head, but not remembering from where. As he sang it, lots of people followed him. Then he recognized it, but without saying from where. Given everyone else had been 'infected' by that point, they all run in panic.
  • Adam Warren did a short arc for Gen¹³ which featured Caitlin as the Only Sane Woman in the face of an unnaturally infectious and insane pop song.
  • 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.
  • In Harley Quinn's own comic, an Ear Worm is an actual worm that hibernates for 363 days a year; the two days it is awake — Christmas Eve and Christmas Day — it curls up in a human's ear and sings very, very annoying Christmas songs like "Jingle Bells" and "The Twelve Days of Christmas". Harley is its latest victim, but she is cured by — who else? — Santa Claus.
  • The Sandman (1989): In Sandman: At Death's Door by Jill Thompson, Delirium deals with the demons that crash Death's party by infecting them with obnoxious songs.

    Comic Strips 
  • One Sunday strip of Garfield has Jon whistle a very odd tune (shown in a musical staff), which gets stuck in Garfield's head as a result. He ultimately gets rid of it by passing it onto Odie.
  • The titular character in Luann gets annoyed by a song stuck in her head in one Sunday strip. She asks Bernice how to get rid of it, which she replies by suggesting not to share its name.
  • 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 jingle.
    Norm: Advertising has salted my soul. Nothing good can grow there again.
  • 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!
  • Pearls Before Swine:
    • Rat does this to mess with Pig in one 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.
    • The 5/23/21 strip begins with a content warning. "Something terrible" ruined Pig's whole day, and Rat and Goat ask Pig to try to talk about it with them. Pig sings the Kars 4 Kids jingle, causing Goat to give a Big "NO!", Rat to fall on his knees, and Pastis to appear and apologize to the readers.
  • Tom Tommorrow's This Modern World once introduces a superhero named Anagram Man, but for the purposes of this entry we must take note of his sidekick, Song-In-Your-Head Boy.
  • 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 
  • In The Apothecary Knows Best, Snape gets "Purple People Eater" stuck in his head after singing it to his four-year-old.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Mittens is prone to getting tunes stuck in her head, though it happens to Bolt as well.
    • In "The Paris Trip," Mittens has "Free Man in Paris" by Joni Mitchell running through her head while sightseeing in the city, as well as "And I Love Her" by The Beatles after she and Berlioz make love. This also happens to her with "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" by Simon & Garfunkel during the cab ride to the airport at the end of the story, which makes her wistfully sad for her vacation fling with Berlioz.
    • In "The Gift," Mittens has the song "Pay You Back with Interest" by The Hollies floating through her head at one point in Nirvana, which is appropriate given the tie-in with karma.
    • In "The Ski Trip," Mittens has "Can't Buy Me Love" by The Beatles start running through her head at the beginning of her ill-advised downhill ski run with Bolt and Rhino.
    • In "The Ship," both Bolt and Mittens mention having songs by Marshall Crenshaw running through their heads just after they declare their love for each other. For Bolt, it's "Cynical Girl," while for Mittens, it's "Brand New Lover."
    • In "The Imaginary Letters," Bolt mentions having the song "Cinnamon Girl" by Neil Young going through his head when he and Penny are joyfully running through Harvard Yard.
  • In A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script, Edrahil doesn't like the working songs of the tribe of Beor because they're nonsensical, complicated tunes which you can't get out of your head. So he makes sure to hum them around people he dislikes.
    Beren: Well, there are words, only nobody knows what they mean any more. They don't even mean anything in our Old Tongue. There are a lot of working songs like that. And they all sound kind of the same, but they're different. So the threshing song is actually the reaping song done backwards. They seem really easy to sing, but they're not easy to get right, and if you mix it up you have to start over, and your friends throw chaff at you for breaking the changes because if one person gets off then everyone loses their place. Lord Edrahil absolutely hates them, on account of how they're boring and complicated at the same time.
    Steward: You left out the fact that once one hears one such — tune, one cannot banish it from memory.
    Captain: And you've left out the fact that you made certain that someone was humming it, in response to your peevish reminiscences, just when the Warden of Aglon was happening along to scoff at Himself for having been set down by Amarie.
    Beren: See, that's humor-at-someone's-expense.
  • "Catchy", a little Avatar: The Last Airbender comic by Rufftoon on DeviantArt, has Uncle Iroh tricking Zuko into singing "Secret Tunnel".
  • Cat Tales: Invoked in Something New, where Riddler can't get the song "76 Trombones" out of his head. It turns out to be a plot of Joker and Hugo Strange; Joker is seeking retaliation for Riddler repeatedly pinching Harley's behind at the Rogues' Christmas party in Knight Before Christmas, and had Hugo inject Riddler with a viral microchip receiver, transmitting the song directly into his brain to drive him crazy.
  • Fallout: Nuka Break: The advertising jingle "By Mennen!" is pretty much the only thing from pre-apocalypse society that Ben (a ghoul) hasn't lost to The Fog of Ages, a testament to its tenacity as an ear worm. Although he can't remember what it was used for, leading the group to eventually decide that it was some sort of religious expression, and they start saying "by Mennen" the way one would say "by God".
  • Harry Potter and the Marauders of the Mind:
    James: ...Lily is brilliant at runes and so is Moony. Pads and I never took it at school, but we both had to learn them alongside our alphabet as children. Remember, Sirius? A-B-C and ansuz-berkana-kensaz. There was a little song that went with it—
    Sirius: Don't you dare sing it! It went round in my head solidly for five and a half years. I reckon there's some sort of charm on it to force you to remember it for all time. It haunts my nightmares.
  • Weaponized in I Am NOT Going Through Puberty Again!, when Naruto gets a song stuck in Shukaku's head so the heart-to-heart he had with Gaara has time to sink in.
  • In I'm Still Here Harry uses "The Song That Never Ends" as part of a ward scheme designed to discourage upper-year Slytherins from breaking into first year students' rooms. After the students in question are freed from it, Dumbledore comments that he still occasionally whistles a tune he heard at a Muggle circus fifty years ago.
  • In the "Strangers" plot of JLA Watchtower, several Titans and Titan allies were "swapped out" with Evil Counterpart members of the Rogues Gallery, while the Titans themselves were "stuck in the heads" of their evil counterparts. One of the most effective ways the captive Titans fought back was by singing annoying songs to the supervillains, driving them to distraction.
  • In Origin Story, Alex Harris is trying to concentrate during a strategy meeting with The Avengers and she finds herself half-humming, half-singing a Major General Song (that started with the line , "I am the very model of a busty superheroine...") she'd seen on YouTube that just happened to have been about Alex herself. When the Black Widow asks her if something's wrong, Alex tries to explain, badly. She specifically calls it an Ear Worm, and can't figure out whether she is more annoyed by the fact that she can't get it out of her head, or that the damned thing exists in the first place.
  • In Saying No Kreacher and Dobby take turns "teaching" the Dark Torso a few of these songs. Eventually it spreads to Hogwarts, driving Hermione nuts.
  • In The Sorting Hat's Stand, a miscalculation in a prank spell which was supposed to affect only Slytherins eventually results in the entire school singing "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am" for the eight hundred and sixty-fourth time.
  • In Three to Backstep, this is one of the titular trio's responses to listening charms put in their private apartment by Dumbledore in order to eavesdrop. Like the fic above, they use "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am". Another of their responses is altering what a different eavesdropping point picks up for a Paranoia Gambit.

    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...". It becomes a Cerebus Retcon in Finding Dory when it was revealed her parents made up that song to help encourage her to keep moving on.
    Marlin: Dory, I'm gonna get stuck now WITH THAT SONG! Now it's in my head!
  • In Ice Age: The Meltdown, vultures sing a reworded version of "Food Glorious Food" regarding eating the main characters. Sid starts dancing along to it, then humming it, much to the other characters' irritation.
  • A running gag in Inside Out is that a jingle from a chewing gum commercial is a recurring one of these for Riley. This is shown as being the result of two "mind workers" pranking Riley's emotions by sending a memory of the jingle up to Headquarters, causing Riley to hum it to herself and making Anger even angrier. Even Joy has gotten fed up with it.
  • 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 are some very familiar dolls involved...
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: The not-so-subtly titled "Catchy Song", which largely consists of the phrase "This song's gonna get stuck inside your head," is this movie's answer to "Everything Is Awesome". The title really says it all. As Uni-Kitty's listening to it, an actual cartoon worm appears in her brain.
    Cause it's so catchy, catchy, it's such a catchy song
    Gonna make you happy, happy, don't try to fight it, sing along!
  • Conversed in the post-credits Stinger of Ralph Breaks the Internet. Ralph comments on how "Never Gonna Give You Up" is very catchy after singing it himself, calling it "a real earwig".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • "Pocketful of Sunshine" becomes an Ear Worm for the main character, Olive, of Easy A, after she receives a birthday card playing it.
  • 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.
  • In The Night They Saved Christmas, "Jingle Bells" is such an annoying one that even Santa Claus himself is sick of it. ("Sing any other Christmas song you want," he yells to his elves. "Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, White Christmas, any of those! But NO MORE JINGLE BELLS!"
  • In the movie Pontypool, the Ear Worm comes in the form of infected phrases in the English language that spread through understanding.
  • 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.

  • You can find a few. For example:
    Patient: Doctor, doctor! I keep getting these two songs stuck in my head: "The Green, Green Grass of Home" and "Delilah"!
    Doctor: Oh, you've got Tom Jones syndrome.
    Patient: Is that rare?
    Doctor: It's Not Unusual.
  • A joke about pest control by an individual pretending to take a popular phrase literally suggests a remedy: since many people use poisons of various forms to eradicate household and farmyard pests, songs with the word "poison" in the title or lyrics (or anything by a musician who has recorded such a song) might be used to control ear worms, depending on individual tastes in music. An example for one who favors classic rock:
    Bartender: Name your poison.
    Patron: Well, the poison would depend on just what kind of pests I'm trying to get rid of. So let me see, I think I'd use d-Con for rodents, RoundUp for weeds, Raid for insects... Alice Cooper for ear worms...

  • 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."
  • 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 Break-Up Song that also turns into an infamous Ear Worm worldwide, shaming all parties involved.
  • In Robert McCloskey's Centerburg Tales a record dropped off at Uncle Ulysses' lunchroom by a mysterious stranger contains a song so catchy that most of the town ends up singing it uncontrollably. The only remedy is to get a different song stuck in their heads: "Punch, Brothers, Punch" from Mark Twain's "A Literary Nightmare", mentioned below. And then once one person is sent out on their way out of town with "Punch, Brothers, Punch", all is back to normal— then someone plays the other side of the record...
  • The Sufficiently Advanced Aliens of Childhood's End 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.
  • 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.
  • 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").
  • 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 ear worm so that any telepaths won't be able to hear anything else that he's thinking. In-universe, ear worms are referred to as "pepsis", although no-one remembers why.
  • Discworld: The Hedgehog Song. It's an ear worm even though the words are never mentioned.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bill from I Think I Love You reluctantly works for a David Cassidy fan magazine. To his annoyance, he finds himself unable to get the songs out of his head, singing them to himself even when he's off work. He thinks that long after he's forgotten all of Tennyson and Keats, he'll still be able to give a confident rendition of "How Can I Be Sure." He tries to hide this fact from his girlfriend, who hates David Cassidy and thinks he works as a serious rock journalist.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • In Neverwhere the Marquis de Carabas gives one to a street busker in exchange for information. We next see the busker surrounded by an enraptured crowd as desperately tries to give the tune back.
  • The short story "Nothing but Gingerbread Left" by Henry Kuttner (which may have been the inspiration for the "funniest joke in the world" Monty Python joke) which was actually written during WWII was about a marching stanza in German that the allies covertly inserted into the ranks of the German soldiers which translates to "LEFT! LEFT! LEFT a wife and SEVenteen children in STARVing condition with NOTHing but gingerbread LEFT LEFT! LEFT a wife and SEVenteen children—...." and this mentally sabotaged the Germans; they couldn't get it out of their heads, and it won the day for the allies. Be warned though, if you actually read this story, even reading it in English a few times as it occurs in the story, it will play a number on your head (just how bad must it be in German)!
  • 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 SERRATed Edge novel Chrome Circle by Mercedes Lackey, the protagonist Tannim 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 Tannim was thinking about.
    "I know what the White Eagle is, but what in the name of creation is the Blue Canary?!"
  • Star Trek:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Takeshi Kovacs: 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.
  • 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.
  • Wayne's World: Extreme Close-Up declares "Mandy" by Barry Manilow the worst of all ear worms. If you hear this song in the morning, you'll never be able to get it out of your head all day, no matter what counter-measures you take.
  • 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. The closest thing to a Victorian extreme sport was salons of young people passing a slip of paper with the Wormword around, each reading it aloud in turn, gambling with getting the pronunciation right each time. Care to try your luck? The word is usually written as yGudluh.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 10th Kingdom: While in "The 10th Kingdom", the Trolls discover The Bee Gees, and subsequently can't get the songs out of their heads.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • In The Big Bang Theory Sheldon gets one stuck in his head which he fears will drive him mad. (It does to everyone around him.)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Earshot" Buffy temporarily gains mindreading powers from a demon and learns that Principal Snyder has "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles stuck in his head.
  • Cheers: In '"The Heart Is a Lonely Snipe Hunter" has the "The Sunny Side of the Street" song passed on.
  • 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.
  • The Colbert Report: The "You Are the Best" Training Montage song from Tek Jansen.
    Stephen Colbert: That song just digs into your brain like an alien parasite.
  • 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.
    • In "Under the Lake", everyone who sees the mysterious writing inside the spaceship has their brains rewritten by it. When they die, they come back as ghosts who repeat the coordinates endlessly. The Doctor compares it to hearing "Mysterious Girl" by Peter Andre and being unable to get it out of your head. He even uses the term "ear worm" to describe this.
    • Weaponized and lampshaded by the arctic researchers in "Last Christmas", who pump New Who's perennial Christmas Episode staple (Slade's "Merry Christmas Everybody") into Shona's headphones so she'll be too captivated by the tune to acknowledge the Dream Crabs.
  • 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 one episode of Full House, Michelle gets a cassette player and a copy of "Baby Beluga". Unfortunately, she plays it constantly, even asking the family to sing it when the tape breaks. When Stephanie is getting ready for bed later on, she finds herself absentmindedly singing the song, much to her chagrin.
    Stephanie: [rapping on her head] Get out! Get out! Get out!
  • 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.
  • Frasier:
    • 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.
    • When Frasier is unemployed in season 6 he starts writing an operetta to keep himself occupied. Later in the episode Martin starts singing one of the songs to himself and only realizes what he's doing when Niles tells him he's doing it again.
  • Friends: In "The One with the Free Porn", Rachel gets a Bow Chicka Wow Wow melody stuck in her head. Apparently it's the theme music for "Good Will Humping".
  • "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.
  • 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."
  • British comic duo Hale and Pace did an episode with this as a running gag. At the end, he does fire lead in his head. They sing the song at his funeral. He sits up out of his coffin screaming.
    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
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • In "Arrivederde, Fiero", 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. They alternate between liking the song and hating it
      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]
    • "Spoiler Alert": Marshall's annoying habit is singing to narrate everything he does plus some nonsense stuff; it turns out that one such song, which sounded like gibberish to the group, was a mnemonic device for the password to his bar exam results. The song is stuck in everyone's head and they all know it by heart, which is how Marshall finally remembers his password.
    • "Of Course": The group of friends repeatedly describes Barney's tune "a bang, bang, bangity-bang" as very catchy and burst into singing it together.
  • 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.
  • Legends of Tomorrow: In "Here I Go Again", after a mission to The '70s, Mick Rory has ABBA's "Waterloo" stuck in his head, and doesn't hesitate to use the memory-erasing gun on himself to wipe it out.
  • 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..."
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • Saturday Night Live: One sketch centers around a group of mobsters meeting at an Italian restaurant to discuss money owed to the boss. However, the group is distracted by the restaurant's main act (host Peter Dinklage) singing an '80s techno song about his "Space Pants". Eventually, the boss tells them they can wait until the song's over as it's too catchy.
  • 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.
  • Seinfeld:
    • The episode "The Jacket" has George dealing with the fact that "Master of the House" from Les Misérables is stuck in his head, and that he randomly starts singing it out loud without even realizing it. When he starts singing it in front of Alton Benes, Elaine's Grumpy Old Man father, Alton angrily tells him to shut up. The Tag shows Alton driving down the highway, only to suddenly start singing it himself. Apparently this ear worm is not only annoying, it's also contagious.
    • George also thinks that the "By Mennen!" advertising jingle is an ear worm, and incorporates it into his strategy for getting women. "Co-stanza!"
    • In "The Susie", George's answering machine outgoing is him singing to the tune of The Greatest American Hero. Later in the episode, Jerry, who tried calling George but got the machine, found himself singing the song while unloading his car.
  • 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.
  • In the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Musical EpisodeSubspace Rhapsody”, the episode ends with Uhura humming one of the songs sung in the episode, only for some of the crew to glare at her. She stops and sheepishly goes, "Sorry. Earworm."
  • In the Supernatural episode "Simon Said", there is an In-Universe example when Dean gets "Can't Fight This Feeling" stuck in his head.
  • Super Sentai:
    • Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger VS Abaranger:
      Jasmine: Please excuse me. [place hand on Ryōga'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 Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger ending song has a line which, roughly translated, goes like:
      Singing loudly so you'll always remember
  • In Utopia, Thomas Christie compares the phrase "Where is Jessica Hyde?" to this, saying that it's like a "turdy little pop song" that won't get out of his head.
  • 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.
  • A subplot in the Will & Grace reboot has Jack and Karen struggle to get an irritating commercial jingle out of their heads. Said jingle is an obvious parody of the infamous "Karz 4 Kidz" song.
  • Yellowjackets: In "It Chooses" Taissa complains that "Lightning Crashes", the song to which she and her fellow survivors had been dancing in previous episode, is going to be stuck in her head for a while.

  • The song "Tosi Tarttuva Täytebiisi" ("Really Catchy Filler Song") by the 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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....
  • The Devo Spice song "Earworm" is about this.
  • "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.
  • 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
  • "That Song in My Head" by Julianne Hough is another meta-example, as the hook is "I've had that song in my head all day."
  • 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"
  • In "Reflections" by, after shadowing a target into a nightclub, Black cannot get the music out of head, which then degrades into a lyrical Madness Mantra of sorts. Amusingly, ten years later in "Travel Guide", the music is stated to be by
  • Morris Minor and the Majors: "This is the Chorus", 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".
  • "Stuck on You" by Failure also compares a love interest to an earworm, and is deliberately simpler and catchier than their usual style... A considerably darker interpretation is that the song is comparing drug addiction to an earworm.
  • The song "Ohrwurm" by the German a capella band Wise Guys is an Ear Worm sung by an Ear Worm.

  • Rifftrax parodied this in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, when Khan implants some Cetan eels in a pair of officers.
    Mike: Honest-to-god ear worms. They'll have "Party in the USA" playing in their heads for days, poor bastards.
  • In Were You Raised by Wolves? viewers have written in to Nick and Leah about how memorable and catchy the theme song is, and the co-hosts mention these compliments as a way of showing appreciation for the person who wrote the music, Rob Paravonian.

  • 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 
  • Lamb Chop's Play-Along with Shari Lewis, Lamb Chop and Hush Puppy: it 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 ear worm, 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...
  • Sesame Street
    • A 90s episode had Oscar trying to get the theme song out of his head.
    • A 2000s episode had Big Bird getting addicted to Cookie Monster's famous song "C is for Cookie" so much that he cannot stop singing it, which prevents him from saying the number of the day.
  • "The Chicken Song" from Spitting Image. 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.
    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!

    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.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • One 2nd edition Forgotten Realms priest spell called forgotten melody, known only to the clergy of Milil, would cause distraction by getting part of an Ear Worm stuck in a target's head, leaving them unable to concentrate as they struggle to either get it out of their head or come up with the missing next line. Amusingly, it's noted that the spell is more devastating for characters with high Intelligence, since this makes them far more focused on the task and incapable of dismissing it.
    • 3rd Edition has a bard spell called insidious rhythm that consists of a catchy, silly tune that stays stuck in the mind of the target. This imposes a penalty on all activities involving reflection and concentration, and can even make a spellcaster flub his incantations.
  • 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.
  • A magical version appears in in Invisible Sun with the Insidious Song, a disease in musical form that lives in the mind of a thinking being, its simple but catchy tune echoing over and over. It is impossible to get the song out of your head once it takes hold, barring some kind of curse removal magic. The Insidious Song is highly contagious and tries to get those in its grip to hum or sing enough of the tune so it also spreads to other minds.
  • The digital version of Sentinels of the Multiverse has Missing Information, the theme for when The Mole Miss Information wins. The fact that she's basically taunting you doesn't help.
  • Sufficiently Advanced has a program called the Mental Repetition Override Lens, which can be installed in a properly-wired brain specifically to suppress the memory of a song that you can't get out of your head.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • In Baldur's Gate III, Raphael — a devil with a penchant for striking deals — made a contract with another demon in sing-song form, specifically to exploit the fact that such a song is impossible to forget.
  • In the Claptastic Voyage DLC of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, one of the sidequests has you trying to kill a literal ear worm crawling within Claptrap's mind, which takes the form of a Thresher with subwoofers on its head that's constantly blaring said song. The song is so infectious that there's even cut dialog of the player characters humming along.
  • Cragne Manor: One of the more surreal puzzles in the game involves you knocking down a shack, then an earworm of "Tubthumping" getting stuck in your head. You can sing along to the song, and the lyrics get progressively corrupted and disturbing. Since the earworm is only imaginary, to get rid of it, you can sever its ties to your brain with an imaginary knife you find elsewhere in the area.
  • In the "knocking" puzzle in Chaos in Deponia, Rufus must remember a secret code knock, but he keeps getting distracted by the catchy music that plays in the marketplace, making him forget the knock. To solve this puzzle, you go into the game's settings and turn the background music off.
  • Destiny 2 has Savathûn's song, which is described by Eris as being a "Viral Chant," used by the Witch-Queen as a method of influencing and controlling those that hear it. It's been heard coming from Shaxx, Crow, and even the population of the city itself. Now consider the fact that this was the first thing players heard when starting the game for an entire year.
  • 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.
  • Fallout 4: The ad jingle for the titular park of the "Nuka World" DLC. "What if there was a place with all the zip of Nuka-Cola? Wouldn't it be the cheer, cheer, cheeriest place in all the world?" Random raiders will occasionally complain about the song being stuck in their head.
  • 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.
  • Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock has the "Player of the Ear Worm" trophy for playing the same song 10 or more times.
  • 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".
  • Kirby: Planet Robobot: Susie mentions that the Haltmann Company's theme song (which is also the game's main theme), "The Noble Haltmann", is very catchy. She can be spotting singing at certain points during the game as well.
  • In Lollipop Chainsaw, a zombie bemoans:
    Zombie: I can't get this Katy Perry song out of my head! What a terrible way to die!
  • Monkey Island:
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Travis found "Philistine", the song sung by the 4th-ranked assassin Margaret Moonlight during the battle with her, to be "catchy as hell". She asks if he memorized the song, and she happily dies after he says he has. Immediately after this, Travis whistles some of the song.
  • 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.
  • Persona:
    • 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 Persona 3, NPCs are overheard talking about how insanely catchy the "Tanaka's Amazing Commodities" TV show theme is.
    • 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.
  • Splatoon 2 turns this into a major plot point. The "Calamari Inkantation" from the first game is so phenomenally catchy that it makes slews of Octarians realize that there's more to life than the militarized underground they call home, inspiring them to defect and live peacefully on the surface amongst Inklings. The song is also one of the only memories that survives Agent 8's amnesia in the Octo Expansion.
  • Vermintide II: Bardin Goreksson's habit of singing on missions spreads to everyone, Mission Control included. Markus and Sienna will join a round of "Over The Mountain"; Victor absently hums the song; and Kerillian gets annoyed when she realizes she's doing it too.
    Kerillian: Where is my hearthfire, over the mountain— you're a parasite, Goreksson, burrowing in my head!
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • Vocaloid: Some PVs for "Alice Human Sacrifice" (as well as the music itself) imply that Kaito's songs of madness were Ear Worms with lyrics that stray away from the melody and emotions put in the song.
  • 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!



    Web Videos 
  • When The Angry Video Game Nerd reviewed the Atari Jaguar system, the green face from Cybermorph came out to haunt him with "Where did you learn to fly? Where did you learn to fly? Where did you learn to fly?..."
  • Bronies React: In the video for the episode "The Perfect Pear", upon hearing the quite aptly titled "You're in My Head Like a Catchy Song", Silver Quill just quips, "Hello, earworm."
  • Channel Awesome:
  • CollegeHumor lampooned this in a "One Week" song parody: Streeter plays an amateur band player who gets so obsessed with a catchy song that it drives him insane, leading to sexual dysfunction, hallucinations, threatening his girlfriend's parents with a hammer, threatening his own fans with a handgun, attempting assassination, and eventually ending up in an insane asylum.
  • Exploited in one Danny Gonzalez vine, which involves a serial killer using the Red Robin jingle to lure their victim out of hiding. It works, as the victim can't resist singing along.
  • Honest Trailers:
    • The one for Frozen has a change of lyrics for every song of the movie; when it comes to "Let It Go"...
      Get it out
      Get it out
      Get this song out of my head!
      Get it out
      Get it out
      I'll sing anything else instead!
    • Rinse and repeat with the "Happy" song from the Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 trailer:
      (Because it's catchy)
      Clap along if you can't
      Get this song out of your head
      (Because it's catchy)
      Clap along if you wish
      It was something else instead
      (It's too damn catchy)
      Clap along if you sing
      This song under your breath
      (Insanely catchy)
      Clap along if you beg
      For the sweet release of death
    • And The Little Mermaid earns this treatment for "Under the Sea".
      It's so catchy, it's so catchy. It's so catchy it's so catchy.
      There's no escaping, this song's amazin' and so catchy.
      You'll never get it out your head.
      You'll sings the words until you are dead.
      Even when you sleep, it plays on repeat, it's so catchy.
    • The trailer for the X-Men: The Animated Series cartoon says the theme song "[has] been stuck in your head for decades. I mean, seriously, if Professor X was real, all I'd hear is 'ba-na-na-na naaaaa na na'."
  • Joueur du Grenier:
    • Some of the music tracks in the games he reviews, most particularly the theme of Dragon Ball for the NES (its European version, to be precise) are those. He even shows how this theme will never leave your brain.
    • When reviewing The Addams Family (NES), he notices that the only music track of the game is a 8-bit six-second loop of the series' theme. To show how it is annoying, he uses a short loop of the Joueur du Grenier opening theme during the following minute.
  • Musical Hell was targeted by this when reviewing Mamma Mia!, to the point that the punishment for ABBA's songwriters is "getting their own songs stuck in their heads for all eternity, so at least I'd have some company".
  • The National Lampoon website created a parody of TimeLife Classics CD music collections: Songs That Get Stuck in Your Head — "Each song has been improved to include only the parts sure to embed in your brain! With TimeLife "Songs That Get Stuck in Your Head", you now can choose the songs you want to get stuck in your head!" The most prominent example of the Ear Worm trope in this parody: Daniel Powter's "Had a Bad Day".

    "And if you act now, you'll get a bonus disc: Songs That Bleed into Each Other!" Only one song combination is demonstrated: Queen's "Under Pressure" and Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby".

    "If you act now, you'll even get those songs stuck in your head that you have no idea who they're by or what they are!" Among the ear worms in this fictional bonus disc: the original Meow Mix commercial jingle, a dial-up modem from the 1990s, and the majestic THX Surround Sound tune!
  • On YouTube, Nerdy Shenanigans asks the question "Why is the Spider-Man 1967 Theme Song Still Here?" The answer is a serious and thorough analysis of the concept of ear worm.
  • React: "Kids React to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (the first cartoon series):
    Krischelle: I'm gonna have this song stuck in my head. Thanks.
  • ScrewAttack's Top 10 Cartoon Games made sure to include this in one of the entries:
    Ch-Ch-ch-Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers!
    Ch-Ch-ch-Chip N' Dale, when there's danger!
    This song will be on your head all day and night
    Because of sing-along with Craig!

    Western Animation 
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Vase", when Nicole comes home from work, Richard is singing the song from the Elmore Wrecking Yard commercial ("We wreck 'em!")
  • 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!
  • Poor Arthur was constantly tormented by the theme song to D.W.'s favorite inane song, "CRAZY BUS, CRAZY BUS, RIDING ON A CRAZY BUS."
  • In the episode "Pichichus enamorado" from Las Aventuras de Hijitus, Oaky constantly sings a serenata song for his vecinita which she gets annoyed fast. Cue to also the dog Pichichus singing that song. Later, La vecinita de enfrente sings her serenata to Oaky much to his disappointment.
  • In the Back at the Barnyard episode "Chez Pig", after the animals open a café selling Pig's family recipe pies, Freddy gets their place's birthday jingle stuck in his head and sings it when he tries to sing the jingle from another restaurant.
    Freddy: The birthday song has driven all other songs from my 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.
  • In "Share Air" on Care Bears & Cousins, Grumpy Bear doesn't want to listen to Harmony Bear's new song (which Harmony had warned Share not to listen to anyway) because he's worried it might be this. In fact, there's another reason why they shouldn't be listening to the song — the song is so "light and airy" that it literally causes you to float in the air.
    Grumpy: Look, Share. I know how to fix a lot of things. A broken bike, a busted window, but a song that makes a bear float in the air? [chuckles] That's a new one. I'm just glad I didn't listen to it myself.
  • 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!
  • The episode "Killer Music" of Code Lyoko has XANA trying to kill people with an ear worm... which also happens to send them into comas.
  • The episode "Head Band" of Dexter's Laboratory features a "boy band 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 boy band leave to pursue solo-careers...
  • One unfinished Donald Duck cartoon, intended for a Saludos Amigos follow-up, explains local game "Caxangá" by using the melody of its sing-song tune "Escravos de Jó" with new lyrics noting it's very infectious (and indeed, the short has the song and the game stuck in Donald's mind):
    Down in Brazil, there's a sing-song game they play
    When you hear this tune, it comes to you night and day
    Just played once, and I'm sure that you will find
    This quaint melody will linger in your mind
  • DuckTales (Woo-oo!):
    • An episode of DuckTales that does their spin on The Odyssey has Uncle Scrooge nearly be lured away by the Sirens. After he is rescued, he comments "Ever had a song that just wouldn't get out of your head?"
    • 2017 DuckTales reboot:
      • In the episode "The Last Crash of the Sunchaser!", the kids get an "in-flight show" in the form of a Darkwing Duck marathon, only for damage to the VCR to cause the end credits of one episode to loop repeatedly. Huey, Louie, and Webby eventually start humming along to the credits music.
      • In another episode, Don Karnache's sky pirates use a musical number to distract the ducks while they're being robbed. Launchpad finds it so catchy that he stops flying the plane to watch the show, and after the inevitable crash, he continues humming the refrain.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • In "Franklin and the Super Sleepover" from Franklin and Friends, the Turtle family learns at dinner that the Beaver family has their "Beaver Tooth Song," a catchy little tune about their strong beaver teeth that they sing before every meal. When they almost start breakfast that morning without it, Franklin reminds his family about it. Beaver thanks him for remembering, and he comments "Remember? How could we forget it?"
  • 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!
  • Gravity Falls:
    • In "The Hand That Rocks the Mabel", Gideon arrives at the Mabel Shack's doorstep and Mabel quotes one of his song lyrics in surprise.
      Mabel: [gasp] It's widdle ol' you!
      Gideon: [chuckle] Yeah, my song's quite catchy.
    • The "Stan Wrong Song" from "Boss Mabel." Stan is caught singing it to himself in "Mabel's Guide to Fashion".
    • In "Society of the Blind Eye", Wendy vents her frustration over being unable to get "Straight Blanchin'" by Li'l Big Dawg out of her head after Soos becomes obsessed with it. Near the end, she almost resorts to using the eponymous society's memory-erasing gun to wipe the song from her mind.
  • In the Harvey Girls Forever! episode "Blame That Tune", a restaurant jingle gets stuck in the heads of most of the kids with the exception of Dot and Pinkeye, turning the affected into semi-coherent "songies". Dot drives it out by playing the show's opening theme.
  • In Hercules: The Animated Series, the arrival of Aphrodite is always heralded by her personal theme song "Aphrodite, Aphrodite, Aphrodite,/The goddess of love!" In the Chain of Deals episode, Cupid wants Herc's help in getting it out of his head.
  • Jellystone!: "Kitten Around", the sickeningly sweet song Augie sings throughout "Yogi's Tummy Troubles", ends up stuck in Boo Boo's head after he's accidentally left floating in the void of Yogi's stomach, much to his irritation.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the Looney Tunes "My Favorite Duck", camper Porky Pig is pestered by Daffy Duck, who keeps singing "Blues in the Night", eventually getting Porky singing it, when he's trying to sing "On Moonlight Bay".
  • In "You're My Hero" from Mack & Moxy, Clixx complains that he can't get the episode's featured song, "Call 9-1-1", out of his head. Then, hearing him sing a bit of it, Admirable Dean says that now he can't get it out of his head either.
  • 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!
  • Mighty Magiswords:
    • Vambre unwittingly enforced this in a short, when she tells her brother Prohyas to think of a new song. He creates one called "Purple Pete" and promises to only play it once.
      Prohyas: I got a nose, purple I suppose,
      And I will name my nose Pete!
      I got a nose, purple and it's gross,
      And I will name my nose Pete!
      It's Purple Pete, Purple Pete, Purple Pete!
      It's Purple Pete, Purple Pete, Purple Pete!
      It's Purple Pete, Purple Pete, Purple Pete!
      It's Purple Pete, Purple Pete, Purple Pete!
    • Vambre soon suffers an ear worm to the point where she is unable to think straight. When Prohyas sees his sister constantly hurt during a mission while dealing with the song, he decides to play it again to make her feel better. Vambre's Brain not only lampshades this trope, but is literally infected with worms. Vambre's Brain starts singing the song again in the end of the short, this happens:
      Vambre's Brain: It's Purple Pete! Purple Pete! Purple—
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Two episodes from the fourth season have characters referencing "Winter Wrap Up" from the eponymous episode, though the only two characters to do so (Pinkie Pie and Discord) are known to lean on the fourth wall.
    • Invoked in "The Perfect Pear" by Pear Butter singing a love song titled "You're in My Head Like a Catchy Song".
  • An OffBeats short concerns Tommy's inability to get a song out of his head.
  • 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. Doofenshmirtz 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.
  • 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.
  • Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja has the song from a theme park named "Whoopie World". Turns into a Chekhov's Gag when Randy starts singing it so it's the only thing on Howard's mind, thus the only thing on the mind reader's screen.
    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!
  • Razzberry Jazzberry Jam: In “The Forever Song”, the Jazzberries are beset by the eponymous eternally-looping tune. In addition to being annoyingly catchy, the song is also (supposedly) cursed so that anyone who stops singing it is plagued with bad luck.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • In the short film Rupert and the Frog Song, the titular Frog Song is so catchy that the two black cats who plan on eating the frogs briefly start meowing along before being shushed by the owl they're working with.
  • 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...
  • Whenever Cartman from South Park hears the first line of "Come Sail Away", he has to sing it all the way through.
  • 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, causing him to go insane. 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. Squidward beats it via his own ear worm, but this causes the ear worm to infest him.
  • In the Trolls: The Beat Goes On! episode "Ear Worm", DJ Suki's latest song gets stuck in her and her friends' heads. Poppy drives it out with a song of her own, only for the newer song to get stuck in her head at the end.
  • Wander over Yonder's Musical Episode "My Fair Hatey" ends when its finale number "You're the Greatest" is interrupted by Lord Dominator shooting at the protagonists and yelling at them to stop singing. The cold tag depicts her singing the song intermittently as she goes about her day.
    Lord Dominator: Ahhhhhhh! Stupid catchy tune!!

Ha! Now we've got you singing it!


Minky Momo

Brad opens "I Was a Preschool Dropout" by singing an entire verse of a song called "Minky Momo". Immediately upon finishing the song, he grimaces and mentions that he hates that song.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / EarWorm

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