Earworms: 100 Songs Your Brain Can’t Forget


Some songs 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 ideal 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 with these qualities that 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 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 got the 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 music initially 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 believed in the catchy factor of the song from the beginning. 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 classical musician’s dream.

They worked their way up from a garage band to a 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. Therefore, he is perhaps one of the few earworms that you are not happy about. In 1975 Queen landed their first number one hit with “Bohemian Rapsody.

Also recommend:   The 108 Best Beautiful Love Songs Of All Time

The 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 a hardly forgettable hymn to it. The song from 1978 is about the shelters for young men 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 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, homes, and 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 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 the 20 most annoying songs list.

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 to the list with his song “Beat It.”

The song has a captivating melody and 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. Their song “Shake It Off*” was on the charts for 50 weeks in the USA.

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, mainly because of the melody and the beautiful lyrics. In addition, music is often used in T.V. series. Among these series are Family Guy, Scrubs, or “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.

Also recommend:   The 76 Best Songs About Death

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 a catchy melody and unforgettable lyrics and 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 proper dance steps to the song. The musical, which premiered in 1973, has always had cult status and is still performed in many theaters.

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 sticks in 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 natural tongue twister, which doesn’t necessarily make the song a perfect earworm. However, you don’t want to stop once you have managed to pronounce this strange word.

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 compared 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, 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.

Funnily, 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 in 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 with 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.

Also recommend:   Relaxing Music: The 150 Best Relaxing Songs

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. The song became one of the best-selling singles in Germany 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.SchickeriaSpider Murphy Gang
22.AquaBarbie Girl
23.FunkytownLipps Inc.
24.I want funMarkus
25.RednexCotton Eye Joe
27.Marble, stone and iron breaksDrafi German
28.Under PressureQueen & David Bowie
29.It’s TrickyRun DMC
30.Pure Lust In LifeVulture swoop
31.Video Killed the Radio StarThe Buggles
32.ShoutTears for Fears
33.Song 2Blur
34.Anton From TyrolDJ Ötzi
35.The Ketchup SongLas Ketchup
36.Visit EuropeVulture swoop
37.The FoxYlvis
38.Somehow, Somewhere, SomedayNena
39.Paper PlanesMIA
40.Poker FaceLady GaGa
41.Thank You For The FlowersUdo Jürgens
42.Summertime, Summertime The Jamies
43.Call Me MaybeCarly Rae Jepson
44.LollipopThe Chordettes
45.Tri Tra TrullalaJoachim Witt
47.Let It GoIdena Menzel
48.One yearOff-color
49.Surfin BirdThe Trashmen
51.Dancing In The DarkMike Mareen
52.Blue (Da Ba Dee) Effiel 65
54.MamboHerbert Grönemeyer
55.My HumpsBlack Eyed Peas
56.RosemarieHubert Kah
57.Yellow SubmarineThe Beatles
58.Soul SurvivorC. C. Catch
59.Get LuckyDaft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams
60.Can’t Get You Out of My Head Kylie Minogue
61.There is a train going nowhereChristian Anders
62.Hollaback GirlGwen Stefani
63.I’ll build you a castleNew home
65.Wake Me Up Before You GoGoWham!
66.Slice Me NiceFancy
67.MickeyToni Basil
68.Takin’ Care of Business Bachman Turner Overdrive
69.Katherine, KatherineSteinwolke
70.Material GirlMadonna
71.Party In The U.S.A.Miley Cyrus
72.Fiesta MexicanaRex Gildo
73.Don’t Worry Be HappyBobby McFerrin
74.Bad BoysInner Circle
76.Saturday NightBay City Rollers
77.I Got You BabeSonny & Cher
78.CopacabanaBarry Manilow
79.Er Gehört Zu MirMarianne Rosenberg
80.Don’t You (Forget About Me)Simple Minds
81.99 LuftballonsNena
82.Baby Elephant WalkHenry Mancini
83.Durch Den MonsunTokio Hotel
84.You’re My Heart, You’re My SoulModern Talking
85.Eye of the TigerSurvivor
86.One Night In BangkokMurray Head
87.Guten Morgen, liebe SorgenJürgen von der Lippe
88.Der NippelMike Krüger
90.Santa MariaRoland Kaiser
91.WannabeSpice Girls
92.The HustleVan McCoy
93.She Loves YouThe Beatles
94.My Bed Is Too BigBlue System
95.High HopesFrank Sinatra
96.Sugar TownNancy Sinatra
97.It Wasn’t MeShaggy
98.The SignAce of Bass
100.Sun Of JamaicaGoombay Dance Band

Ohrwürmer Spotify-Playlist:

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

2 thoughts on “Earworms: 100 Songs Your Brain Can’t Forget”

  1. One last cry by Brian McKnight but I may be severely heartbroken and thus it will not stop playing over and over in my head.


Leave a Comment