The last song you heard stays in your head just like the taste of the last cigarette you smoked. When it won’t go away even after the fourth or eleventh song that you’ve listened to, that’s called a brainworm. The stale riff stays in your head until you somehow replace it with a another riff. That one eventually gets stale if you don’t listen to another song. Music is a habit forming drug much like nicotine.

One man’s brain worm is another man’s favorite song. The difference lies in the answer to the question “do I want to hear that song again?” If the answer is no, then what you’ve got is a brainworm. They talk about the subject on this Shortwave episode:

spotifyNPR: Shortwave – Why music sticks in our brains – October 7, 2021

They call it an earworm in one of the ads for the episode. They don’t, however, tell you about how earworms persist or how to get rid of them. Any song that doesn’t stick in your head but silences the pattern repetition can serve as a brainworm killer. The Wife uses Mandy by Barry Manilow. I hate Barry Manilow, but I have developed a grudging respect for the song. Especially if you sing it with over-dramatic zeal:

…make it broader, with tons of shoulder. Remember, you’re a drag queen!

Victor Victoria (1982)

Is Mandy a man or a woman? Does it matter? No it doesn’t. What matters is that you consciously force your mind to mingle the worm with the new lyrics and melody, in much the same way that you get rid of the hiccups by breathing and drinking water in a deliberate pattern, training the ticking muscles to adapt to the new pattern. You will it gone with a heavy bludgeon of Barry if that is what works.


Mandy was my second-most listened to song in 2021 according to Spotify and Amazon. That isn’t surprising to me. A lot of the music that I wanted to listen to again with my new headphones has turned out to be brainworms that I only forgot again by liberally applying Mandy, which I sang along to at the top of my lungs for the best effect. I even threw in a little shoulder because why not?