earworm-730x495Music is an art that almost everyone enjoys. There are limitless possibilities when it comes to the creative aspects of music, always leaving room for a new sound. Music has always been and is such a big part of the world’s culture that it consistently gives inspiration to many individuals to create and develop their own sounds. Language and spoken word allows for a specific message to be communicated to an audience that can be beautiful and emotionally expressive. While this is the case with many songs and genres, some songs with vulgar language can actually do much more harm than you’d think.

Ever notice a particular song or verse stuck in your head? Commonly known as an earworm, many find that this effect can last for a few minutes, hours and in some cases days that slowly lead to weeks. Earworms are sneaky, and often times affect the mental state of the individual without them knowing. One Philosopher Oliver Stacks, tells a story of a friend he once knew who had a severe ear worm that lasted ten days. After hearing a single song only once, the tune and tempo stuck to his mind like glue. It haunted him throughout the day, interfered with his school work and sleep, and generally began to drive him mad. He mentions in this story, that as the friend began to tell this story, the song had come back to haunt him for the next few hours.

“A friend of mine, Nick Younes, described to me how he had been fixated on the song “Love and Marriage,” a tune written by James Van Heusen. A single hearing of this song—a Frank Sinatra rendition used as the theme song of the television show Married . . . with Children—was enough to hook Nick. He “got trapped inside the tempo of the song,” and it ran in his mind almost constantly for ten days. With incessant repetition, it soon lost its charm, its lilt, its musicality and its meaning. It interfered with his schoolwork, his thinking, his peace of mind, his sleep. He tried to stop it in a number of ways, all to no avail: “I jumped up and down. I counted to a hundred. I splashed water on my face. I tried talking loudly to myself, plugging my ears.” Finally it faded away—but as he told me this story, it returned and went on to haunt him again for several hours.” ​(Sacks, Musicophilia: tales of music and the brain, 2007)

Now we all know earworms can be annoying, but not as well known is they do have the potential to terrorize and even cause an individual to take action, physically repeating what the lyrics say. This is where a song can potentially damage a person, subliminally influencing them at once or overtime. Songs that include subjects of sex, drugs and other private activities aren’t all bad in the slightest, in fact some of the most beautiful music can be expressed through the personable intimacy with another. Songs that discuss drug use aren’t always bad either, with the goal to promote a good time and fun with others you care about, it a feeling of bliss and enjoyment can come from it. While these subjects have become more acceptable amongst many artists and audiences, it is very easy to abuse these subjects in a negative way.
When we listen to music, we enjoy the feelings that crash over us, it is up to us to decipher the meaning behind lyrics and promote more of what we want to hear. Morals and traditions are constantly changing, and music adapts to this as well. From the advent of 1950’s Rock and Roll, to today’s hip-hop/rap genre. Together as a whole we make our morals and norms. When an idol makes a song, but uses language that is rather vulgar, we shouldn’t just accept it as is, just because someone we want to look up to makes something, doesn’t mean we have to like it.

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