Earworms: 100 Songs Your Brain Can’t Forget

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There are songs that linger in our heads for a long time after we hear them. Some of these songs are fun to listen to, but many become rather annoying in the long run. Others are classics that you will never get tired of.

At the University of Saint Andrews, they have started to do so, to explore the genesis of such earworms and came up with a kind of formula for the perfect earworm. According to this formula, the perfect earworm requires high receptivity and few surprises. Instead, predictability is a big plus.

Also, the melodic potential and rhythmic repetitions increase the chance of the earworm factor.

In the following list, we present you with 100 songs that have these qualities and belong to the greatest earworms of all time.

(You can find a Spotify playlist at the end of the article.)

01. Culture Club “Karma Chameleon”


“Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club has a sad theme and yet the song is one of the worst earworms. The song is about alienation and the desire to want to be liked by everyone. The song from the Year 1983 Is a plea for everyone to stay true to themselves and is easily remembered with the many repetitions of words and lyrics.

Few people, however, think “Karma Charmeleon” is a bad and annoying song.

02. Meghan Trainor “All About The Bass”


With the song “All About The Bass*”Meghan Trainor triggered not only a catchy tune epidemic but also a small movement in terms of body image. Meghan Trainor was confident with her curves, for which she often took criticism, helping to make many women (and men) feel more comfortable in their skin.

In 2014, the song landed on the charts in more than 20 countries and sold whole 11 million times. In the song, the lines “I’m all ’bout that bass / ’bout that bass / no treble“, what make the Miträllern very easy.

03. Europe “The Final Countdown


“The Final Countdown” by Europe reached the top in the Year 1986 reached first place of the German charts and could stay in the charts for a total of 21 weeks. The band Europe hardly knew until then and even today the song is their most famous one. The band didn’t believe in their song in the beginning and didn’t even want to release it as a single at first.

In the end, however, the singer and author of the song Joey Tempest prevailed, who from the beginning believed in the catchy factor of the song. Today the song is a Party anthem and is often played to boost the mood.

04. Kaiser Chiefs “Ruby


Ruby, Ruby, Ruby / Do you, do you, do you, do you,” it says in the refrain of the song “Ruby” by the Kaiser Chiefs. More parts of the lyrics many listeners do not even know from the catchy song. But that’s enough to make the song an earworm. Kaiser Chiefs live the classic musician’s dream.

They worked their way up from a garage band to a now very successful rock band. In the U.K., “Ruby” managed to stay on the charts for a full 45 weeks due to its distinctive chorus.

05. Queen “Bohemian Rapsody”


Few people would call Queen’s “Bohemian Rapsody*” an annoying song. He is therefore perhaps one of the few earworms that you are not happy about. In 1975 Queen landed their first number one hit with “Bohemian Rapsody.

The then still quite a young band sold their single more than five million times. Singer Freddy Mercury shaped the musical landscape like few others before and after him. The song opens with an iconic Cappella interlude.

The accompanying video is easily recognizable especially by the image with the four heads of the band members.

06. The Village People “YMCA”


A cowboy, an Indian, a policeman, and a construction worker form the letters “YMCA*” with their arms and sing to it a hardly forgettable hymn. The song from 1978 is about the shelters for young men, which were built in the late 19th century. The first of these was erected in New York in the nineteenth century.

The Young Men’s Christian Association set up overnight shelters to provide a safe place to sleep for newcomers to the city. They were not only safer than other places but also cheaper. In Germany, the song made it to the first place in the charts and also in numerous other countries a place in the top 3 was in it.

07. Baha Men “Who Let the Dogs Out”


In 2000, many people started barking in clubs, at home, and at parties. The reason for this was a song by the Baha Men that says, “Who let the dogs out?

Woof, woof, woof”. Few people can probably sing the whole song. For this, however, anyone who has not been living under a rock since the year 2000 can add the famous refrain sing along. “Who Let the Dogs Out*” is definitely one of the more annoying earworms in music history, because what seems funny at first can quickly become a nuisance.

In a survey conducted by Rolling Stone magazine, the song reached third place in a list of the 20 most annoying songs.

08. Michael Jackson “Beat It


In a list of the greatest catchy tunes, the King of Pop cannot be missing, of course. Michael Jackson makes it with his song “Beat It*” to the list.

The song has a captivating melody as well as a large number of rhythmic repetitions to offer. In addition, it is undisputed that even dance muffles want to bob along to the beat with this song. In Germany, the single reached second place in the charts, while in Jackson’s home country, the USA, it even landed at number 1.

09. Taylor Swift “Shake It Off”


Taylor Swift is one of the most successful female pop singers of the 21st century. Century.

So it is no wonder that she has also created earworms. After all, she knows her craft and what makes a catchy song. In the USA, their song “Shake It Off*” was on the charts for 50 weeks.

In addition, he took home, Taylor Swift, four times gold and sixteen times platinum.

10. Journey “Don’t Stop Believin”


It is not uncommon that a catchy song is also the biggest success of a band. Such is the case with the band Journey, whose song “Don’t Stop Believin*” can still be seen frequently in the download charts.

The song becomes catchy especially because of the melody and the beautiful lyrics. In addition, the song is often used in TV series. Among these series are example Family Guy, Scrubs, or also “The Sopranos.

The song is often used in dramatic or funny scenes due to its rousing melody.

11. Rick Astley “Never Gonna Give You Up.”


In 2016 the British singer Rick Astley with his album “50*” into the charts. His musical peak, however, he celebrated already in the 80s.

He owes this not least to his earworm “Never Gonna Give You Up” from 1987. The lines “Never gonna give you up / Never gonna let you down / Never gonna run around and desert you” can be sung along by millions of people worldwide. The video for the song has become part of the Internet phenomenon “rickrolling,” in which an unsuspecting user is directed to the video for the song with the help of a link.

This prank not infrequently results in the user falling for this rather unloved earworm.

12. James Piermont “Jingle Bells”


With Christmas just around the corner, there’s no getting around this classic song. “Jingle Bells” by James Piermont is more than 150 years old and still ranks among the most famous Christmas songs of all time. The song is played so often on the radio during the Christmas season that it hangs out to many ears.

It is also a popular song for singing under the Christmas tree. The song is catchy because of its constant rhythmic and melodic repetitions.

13. The Rocky Horror Picture Show “The Time Warp


Many catchy tunes have not only a catchy melody and unforgettable lyrics but also a choreography to go with them. “The Time Warp* The song “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is in a way an instruction for dance and offers therefore the suitable dance steps to the song. The musical, which premiered in 1973, has always had cult status and is still performed in many theaters to this day.

14. Mary Poppins “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”


In a list of catchy tunes, a song by Disney should not be missing. For years, Disney Studios has been creating movies that feature singing and dancing, and in almost every movie there is at least one song that just sticks in the mind.

The song was written by the Sherman Brothers, who have been working for the Film music to Mary Poppins even being awarded the Oscar. For many, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” might be a real tongue twister, which doesn’t necessarily make the song a perfect earworm. However, once you have managed to pronounce this strange word, you don’t want to stop.

15. Bon Jovi “Livin’ On A Prayer”


The band Bon Jovi celebrates since the 80s, again and again, great chart successes. Since its inception, 130 million albums sold and catapulted the rock genre into the mainstream. Like many other catchy tunes, “Livin’ On A Prayer” is about hope.

The song is about a couple who are average New Jersey citizens in contrast to rich New York citizens. The song calls for never giving up and always fighting for your dreams. Today the song is still a popular Party anthem.

16. The Proclaimers “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”


Especially Scottish soccer fans might have a hard time listening to the song “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)*” by The Proclaimers out of your head. The song is played at every goal of the Scottish national team. But even outside Scotland, the song is one of the biggest earworms par excellence due to its catchy melody, many repetitions, and simple lyrics.

In the release year 1993 the song was used in the movie “Benny & Joon” with Johnny Depp.

17. Psy “Gangnam Style”


In the summer of 2012, Korean Psy conquered the charts with the catchy yet strange song “Gangnam Style*”. The song is about the richest and most conspicuous district in Seoul. “Gangnam Style” is silly and socially critical at the same time.

In a funny way singer Psy describes how people try to live large in Gangnam. With the accompanying video, the song even made it the most popular YouTube video in the Guinness Book of Records in 2012. Although most of the song is written in Korean, it’s still memorable to people of other languages.

18. Queen “We Are the Champions”


Queen is not for nothing one of the most successful bands of all time. The band doesn’t make our list of 20 songs your brain can forget several times for nothing. “We Are the Champions*” is an easy-to-understand and easy-to-sing-along song that has an anthem character.

In 2011, a team of London-based scientists even named the song “catchiest pop song of all time“. While the song is often used at sporting events, it is rarely heard during election campaigns. Because Queen likes to take legal action against it.

Most recently, they took action against US President Trump using their song.

19. Pharrell Williams “Happy


In 2015, Pharrell Williams landed one of his biggest chart successes with his song “Happy”. The success of the song was certainly due to the catchiness of the song.

Not only can many people sing along to this Sing along song, but it also motivates many people to dance. The song’s infectious happiness allowed it to spread like wildfire. In Germany, the song became one of the best-selling singles since 1975.

This success even earned Pharrell Williams a diamond record. “Happy” was also featured in the movie “Simply Incorrigible 2” and reached a very wide audience.

20. Queen “We Will Rock You”


Queen is without question one of the most successful bands in music history and has been able to sing its way into the hearts and minds of listeners for over two decades. “We Will Rock You*” is still one of the catchiest songs ever and even younger listeners can still hear the famous line “We will, we will rock you” sing along. The song also became famous later due to frequent use in movies such as the 2001 Heath Ledger movie “Knights of Passion” or the 2011 action movie Sucker Punch.

Places: 21 – 100

Each song is linked to the corresponding music video via the title.

Song: Performer: Listen to:
21. Schickeria Spider Murphy Gang
22. Aqua Barbie Girl
23. Funkytown Lipps Inc.
24. I want fun Markus
25. Rednex Cotton Eye Joe
26. Tubthumping Chumbawumba
27. Marble, stone and iron breaks Drafi German
28. Under Pressure Queen & David Bowie
29. It’s Tricky Run DMC
30. Pure Lust In Life Vulture swoop
31. Video Killed the Radio Star The Buggles
32. Shout Tears for Fears
33. Song 2 Blur
34. Anton From Tyrol DJ Ötzi
35. The Ketchup Song Las Ketchup
36. Visit Europe Vulture swoop
37. The Fox Ylvis
38. Somehow, Somewhere, Someday Nena
39. Paper Planes MIA
40. Poker Face Lady GaGa
41. Thank You For The Flowers Udo Jürgens
42. Summertime, Summertime The Jamies
43. Call Me Maybe Carly Rae Jepson
44. Lollipop The Chordettes
45. Tri Tra Trullala Joachim Witt
46. Fergalicious Fergie
47. Let It Go Idena Menzel
48. One year Off-color
49. Surfin Bird The Trashmen
50. Royals Lorde
51. Dancing In The Dark Mike Mareen
52. Blue (Da Ba Dee) Effiel 65
53. Trio
54. Mambo Herbert Grönemeyer
55. My Humps Black Eyed Peas
56. Rosemarie Hubert Kah
57. Yellow Submarine The Beatles
58. Soul Survivor C. C. Catch
59. Get Lucky Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams
60. Can’t Get You Out of My Head Kylie Minogue
61. There is a train going nowhere Christian Anders
62. Hollaback Girl Gwen Stefani
63. I’ll build you a castle New home
64. Umbrella Rihanna
65. Wake Me Up Before You GoGo Wham!
66. Slice Me Nice Fancy
67. Mickey Toni Basil
68. Takin’ Care of Business Bachman Turner Overdrive
69. Katherine, Katherine Steinwolke
70. Material Girl Madonna
71. Party In The U.S.A. Miley Cyrus
72. Fiesta Mexicana Rex Gildo
73. Don’t Worry Be Happy Bobby McFerrin
74. Bad Boys Inner Circle
75. Sommersprossen UKW
76. Saturday Night Bay City Rollers
77. I Got You Babe Sonny & Cher
78. Copacabana Barry Manilow
79. Er Gehört Zu Mir Marianne Rosenberg
80. Don’t You (Forget About Me) Simple Minds
81. 99 Luftballons Nena
82. Baby Elephant Walk Henry Mancini
83. Durch Den Monsun Tokio Hotel
84. You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul Modern Talking
85. Eye of the Tiger Survivor
86. One Night In Bangkok Murray Head
87. Guten Morgen, liebe Sorgen Jürgen von der Lippe
88. Der Nippel Mike Krüger
89. Paradise Coldplay
90. Santa Maria Roland Kaiser
91. Wannabe Spice Girls
92. The Hustle Van McCoy
93. She Loves You The Beatles
94. My Bed Is Too Big Blue System
95. High Hopes Frank Sinatra
96. Sugar Town Nancy Sinatra
97. It Wasn’t Me Shaggy
98. The Sign Ace of Bass
99. MMMBop Hanson
100. Sun Of Jamaica Goombay Dance Band

Ohrwürmer Spotify-Playlist:

What song is your most popular or most annoying earworm? Write us your favorite earworms in the comments.

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