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I have always been distressingly prone to the condition I call “radio brain,” more generally known as earworms or “involuntary musical imagery.”

Apparently it’s not in itself a sign of OCD, but it is an obsessive brain behavior, as it’s basically getting stuck in a loop of some kind, and it’s really really hard to get it to stop.

This happens to me all the time. It used to be a huge problem during exams in school, since apparently a quiet room in which I’m trying to concentrate is like catnip to whatever sadistic part of my brain does this.

See, while it’s “involuntary brain imagery” or whatever, I’m actually more inclined to believe in the version put forth by the Pixar movie INSIDE OUT. Somewhere, wandering the corridors of my memory, there are cruel little whatsits that make me remember random melodies over and over, just to torture me. And it’s never the full song. Just a verse or a line or two, over and over and over and over and over and over until I become a crazy person.

If you’ve ever been around me at, say, my birthday celebrations, you’ll remember that I vigorously refuse to allow anyone to sing any kind of happy birthday song. Know why? It’s because my stupid brain records and replays the most recent version of a song I’ve heard. And a lot of people think it’s funny to sing “Happy Birthday” off-key. What they don’t realize is that I will be hearing that inside my head on loop for the next several hours, if not several days. I have yet to find an effective way of stopping it. I’ve found that if I play other music loud enough, it’ll drown out the stuff inside my brain, but it doesn’t make it go away. In a few maddening cases, it’s actually led to my having more than one song stuck in my head simultaneously. The worst version of this was the month of the Beethoven’s 9th Symphony/RENT soundtrack mashup, back in college. Not fun.

Speaking of college, there was a food truck on campus that played a very electronic version of “La Cucaracha” for its horn (a song about cockroaches to advertise a food truck? Really? Who thought THAT was a good idea?), except there was one note in the sequence that was always very, very flat. And I’d spend the rest of the day unable to get that out of my head.

Songs I’ve recently had stuck in my head:

  1. Virgin America safety video music
  2. Farmers Only Dot Com jingle
  3. That “Cups” song from PITCH PERFECT
  4. “Try Anything” from ZOOTOPIA
  5. String quartet version of Katy Perry song “Dark Horse,” as played at OCLC reception at ALA conference
  6. “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag” from the EASY VIRTUE soundtrack
  7. “Shake it Off,” by Florence and the Machine
  8. “#Flashback,” by The Baseballs
  9. “Vogue,” as performed by the cast of GLEE
  10. “There’s a Light (Over at the Frankenstein Place),” as performed by the cast of GLEE
  11. Opening progression from 8-part “Crucifixus” by Lotti
  12. “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day,” as arranged by John Rutter

And that’s just in the last two weeks or so.

So if you’re in my company and I suddenly say “Oh, shut UP” out loud, it’s almost certainly not directed at you. It’s directed inward, at my stupid brain.

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