7 Simple Ways Get Rid of a Song That's Stuck in Your Head

Be gone, earworm! Here are our top tips to get you some peace.

Published June 12, 2024
Annoyed Woman Covering Her Ears

We get it. It's been hours since you heard "Love Shack," and it's still playing over and over and over in your head. Lucky for all of us, there are a few tried-and-true tricks to get rid of songs that get stuck in your head. One of these earworm coping methods is sure to help, so no worries. You're about to be free of that tune that's been on repeat all day.

Replace the Song Stuck in Your Head With Another Earworm

The easiest way to get rid of a song that gets stuck in your head is to replace it with another one. This time, though, you're choosing what's playing in your brain, not giving in to the whims of the background music you heard in a store or whatever happened to pop up on Spotify.

The trick here is that the replacement song has to be catchy. We're talking really catchy. Your mileage may vary, but these are a few of the surefire earworm replacements according to scientific research in the UK and a Reddit-based Spotify playlist:

  • "What's Up?" by 4 Non Blondes
  • "Take on Me" by a-ha
  • "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls
  • "Sail" by AWOLNATION
  • "Mambo No. 5" by Lou Bega
  • "All Star" by Smash Mouth
  • "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
  • "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley
  • "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor
  • "Beat It" by Michael Jackson
Fast Fact

Why do songs get stuck in your head? According to research by Goldsmiths College in London, earworms happen when music has repetition (a phrase or melody that repeats over and over), simplicity, and something incongruous or surprising that breaks the pattern of the song.

Dig Into the Earworm and Give It a Real Listen

If you keep hearing a little piece of a song over and over, you can sometimes get it out of your head by giving it a real listen. Start by figuring out what the song is. Google the lyrics or sing a little bit for a friend if you're not sure what you're hearing. Then, actually listen to the song from start to finish.

Sometimes, all your brain needs to stop playing something on repeat is to know exactly what it is it was trying to play. Of course, there's a risk to this method in that you might end up with the whole song stuck in your head.

Related: 100 Best Hard Rock Songs That Kick Out the Jams

Do Something Else That Involves Words

man lying on bench next to window and reading book

If you're hearing the lyrics of a song over and over, you can stop by making your brain focus on other words. Just like it's really hard to listen to an audiobook and read a different book at the same time, your brain really can't tune in to the earworm and process other words simultaneously.

There are a bunch of word-based activities that will give you a break from the song stuck in your head, but these are our faves:

  • Read a book.
  • Listen to a podcast.
  • Watch a show or movie.
  • Have a conversation with a friend.
  • Text or call someone.
  • Read an article on something that interests you.
  • Write in a journal.

Take a Nap (or Even Just a Break)

When you're really tired or stressed, you may be at greater earworm risk. This makes sense when you think about your mental state when the song is stuck. If you're like most of us, songs play on repeat when we're not really focused. That can happen when you're overwhelmed or overworked, when you're really tired, when you're overstimulated, or any other time you're just really not feeling your sharpest.

Fix the root of the problem (the thing that's keeping you from focusing on other stuff), and you can sometimes get that earworm to leave. Take a little nap, go for a quick walk to get a break from work or school, spend a few minutes resetting yourself, or do whatever helps you recharge. Chances are, the song won't be there when your ability to focus is restored.

Related: What to Do When You're Overstimulated - 6 Quick Fixes

Rewrite the Lyrics or Melody

Guess what? Just a slight tweak to the lyrics or melody of the song can completely mess up its staying power in your mind — at least for some of us. Bonus points if it's silly, funny, or just entertaining.

For instance, if you've been Rickrolled, and you have Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" playing on repeat in your brain, imagine someone who is in a terrible mood when you wake them up in the morning and change the lyrics to fit that situation: "Never gonna wake you up, never gonna make you frown, never gonna run around and bestir you."

Related: 12 One-Hit Wonders You Might Have Forgotten About

Visualize the Song Leaving Your Mind

You know how if you imagine something happening, you can sometimes feel better (or worse)? In this case, picture the song as something that's leaving you behind. It could be a giant record player loaded on the back of a semi-truck or a huge billboard of the musician's face on the side of a bus that's passing you by. There's no wrong answer here as long as the song is leaving you in the dust.

Distract Yourself With Something You Love

Father And Son Playing Video Games

Getting back to the idea of focus, if you can find something else you want to focus on, you can stop hearing the song stuck in your head. It's all about what you love to do, but these are some surefire activities that will distract you from the earworm:

  • Play a video game.
  • Watch a show you love.
  • Make some art.
  • Text a friend to meet you for coffee.
  • Play with kids.

The trick is that the activity you choose to do has to be engrossing. Going for a walk or riding your bike still leaves part of your mind free to wander (back to the earworm).

If All Else Fails, Share the Pain

Still have that song stuck in your head? If all else fails, sing it to a friend to share the pain. You never know; you might be able to hand it off and free yourself of the repetition. Good luck!

7 Simple Ways Get Rid of a Song That's Stuck in Your Head