18 Catchy Songs That Will Always Get Stuck in Your Head
Music can be a wonderful thing. The right song can instantly put you in a pleasant mood and serve as an uplifting spark, if even just for a brief moment. Sometimes, however, you’ll come across a song on the radio and even when it’s over, it sticks with you long after the last note is played. Like a broken record scratching the same chords over and over again, catchy songs — good or bad — can stick with you like a painful tick.
Catchy songs that tend to get stuck in one’s head, or “earworms” as they’re often called, usually cause polarizing reviews. People either love them or hate them. We’ve assembled a list of some of the most memorable “stuck in your head” songs and have also put them together in a Beats Music playlist. We will warn you, though: Listen with caution. And tell us which catchy songs you can’t seem to forget in the comments below.
Carly Rae Jepsen, ‘Call Me Maybe’
‘Call Me Maybe’ became the unexpected breakout hit for pop star Carly Rae Jepsen, who catapulted to the top of the charts thanks to this catchy song and with the support of fellow Canadian Justin Bieber. Before the rest of the world got to know Carly, Bieber heard ‘Call Me Maybe’ on Canadian radio and immediately tweeted about the track to his millions of fans, thus igniting the viral phenomenon. Bieber — along with Selena Gomez, Ashley Tisdale and Big Time Rush — made their own lip dub on YouTube which would later inspire the 2012 Men’s Olympic Swim Team, the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders, the Harvard Baseball team and more around the world to do their own video parodies. It became nearly impossible to go in public without hearing someone humming the catchy synthesized chords and mumbling the memorable hook, “Hey I just met you / And this is crazy / But here’s my number / So call me maybe?”
Psy, ‘Gangnam Style’
Like ‘Call Me Maybe,’ ‘Gangnam Style’ became stuck in heads after the video by Korean rapper Psy became a viral hit on YouTube. And while most people still have no idea what the song’s about since most of the lyrics are sung in Korean, it didn’t stop the track from becoming an international addiction. The bass heavy dance tune reached one billion views on YouTube, setting a record that no English speaking artist was able to achieve previously.
Miley Cyrus, ‘Party in the USA’
Before Miley Cyrus was the world’s most famous twerker, she was the innocent girl next door known as Disney’s Hannah Montana. ‘The Time of Our Lives’ was Miley’s transitional record from Disney star to a mature artist, and the celebratory party song was evident of that edgy songstress that she would eventually become. The song debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 immediately and also became a No. 1 radio hit the United States. ‘Party in the USA’? That’s exactly what it became once this song got stuck in people’s heads.
Aqua, ‘Barbie Girl’
In 1997, ‘Barbie Girl’ became a worldwide hit for Danish group Aqua, and thanks to this bubblegum earworm, people were singing along to the high pitched vocals by lead singer Lene Nystrøm endlessly. “I’m a Barbie girl / In a Barbie world / Wrapped in plastic / It’s fantastic.” Fantastic for some, but for the rest of us, an impossible task to get out of our heads. Mattel, the toy company that owns the Barbie copyright, filed a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement. To the dismay of many, the lawsuit was dismissed and the song forever became a part of ’90s pop culture.
Lou Bega, ‘Mambo No. 5′
‘Mambo No. 5′ was a classic mambo and jive song that was written in 1949 by a Cuban artist named Dámaso Pérez Prado. But it was Lou Bega, a German of Italian and Uganda descent, that popularized the song in 1999 with his own take on the classic. Bega added his own lyrics to the song about having a little fun with as many women as possible. The chorus became unforgettable, with Bega knocking off a long list of names, including “A little bit of Monica in my life / A little bit of Erica by my side / A little bit of Rita is all I need / A little bit of Tina is what I see / A little bit of Sandra in the sun / A little bit of Mary all night long / A little bit of Jessica here I am / A little bit of you makes me your man.” It seemed that the song has remained stuck in many people’s minds well after its time, for in 2007, the song was named the sixth most annoying song ever in a Rolling Stone readers poll.
Toni Basil, ‘Mickey’
Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ became one of the most unforgettable songs of the ’80s, and whether you liked it or not, the chorus paired with that familiar drum stomp was impossible to escape. The song invokes a playful cheerleader chant dedicated to a crush named, well, Mickey. Everyone remembers the chorus to which Basil shouts, “Oh Mickey ,you’re so fine / You’re so fine, you blow my mind / Hey Mickey! / Hey Mickey!” But few remember the rest of the song, a joke which was made by Mike Myers in the 1992 comedy ‘Wayne’s World.’
The opening melody to Hanson’s ‘MMMBop’ became almost like a warning for people in 1997, as it meant listeners would either have to shut off their radio, or risk listening to the entire track and getting it stuck in their heads. The overly taxing positivity and catchiness that the Hanson brothers brought to the track led to many campaigns to stop its airplay, including a fundraiser at Pennsylvania’s Delone Catholic High School to ‘Stop the Bop’ in support of Hurricane Katrina victims. Students ended up collecting $3,000 from kids who actually put up money to not hear the song at the school ever again.
Lady Gaga, ‘Poker Face’
By the time ‘Poker Face’ was released as a single in 2008, the world had already been introduced to the phenomenon known as Lady Gaga. Gaga became an overnight sensation with her first single, ‘Just Dance,’ and while ‘Just Dance’ was in itself a catchy song, ‘Poker Face’ was a more aggressive and booming beat that really pushed the new star to new heights. The lyrics “P-p-p-poker face / P-p-p poker face” became a part of pop culture lexicon, thus making it impossible to forget.
The Black Eyed Peas, ‘My Humps’
The Black Eyed Peas released ‘My Humps’ as the third single off the 2005 album ‘Monkey Business,’ and despite being negatively rated by critics for its sexually suggestive and repetitive tone, the song became the most successful single off the album. The mix of hip-hop and dance pop, combined with Fergie singing about her humps and “lovely ladies lumps,” made this earworm a crazy guilty pleasure.
This 1997 pop rock anthem by British group Chumbawamba not only became one of the most memorable one-hit wonders, but also one of the most lasting songs that got stuck in our heads. The continual chants of “I get knocked down / But I get up again / You’re never going to keep me down” are unmistakably part of the band’s legacy. The tune and lyrics are usually easily identified while the song’s title “tubthumping” (jumping on a bandwagon of a populist idea, usually by a politician) is lesser known.
Gwen Stefani, ‘Hollaback Girl’
When No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani announced that she was taking a break from the punk rock group No Doubt to pursue a solo album, many wondered if she’d leave her edge behind for a more subdued, mainstream sound. But when ‘Love. Angel. Music. Baby’ was released in 2004, Stefani proved her critics that she could pull off releasing a pop album while maintaining her style. Tracks on the album ended up becoming a fusion of several genres, including electronic, new wave, hip-hop and rock. ‘Hollaback Girl’ ended up becoming the most popular song on the album, earning the distinction of the first song to reach one million digital downloads. The repetitive stomp claps combined with Stefani rapping, “A few times I’ve been around that track / So it’s not just gonna happen like that Because I ain’t no hollaback girl / I ain’t no hollaback girl” showed that she had what it takes to create a catchy song that just can’t leave our heads.
Haddaway, ‘What is Love?’
To this day, you rarely see somebody listening to Haddaway’s 1993 track ‘What is Love?’ without seeing their heads bop to the beat. While the super catchy danceclub anthem enjoyed modest success internationally, the song became engrained in pop culture when in 1996, it was used for a Saturday Night Live sketch starring Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan. ‘What is Love?’ became the theme for the recurring bit starring Ferrell and Kattan as the Roxbury Guys: two hapless, idiotic bachelors who hopelessly go from one New York City club to another trying to meet women. Haddaway has since released remixes for the track as late as 2013, an unfortunate symptom of just how engrained that song is in our heads to this day.
Spice Girls, ‘Wannabe’
The mid-’90s saw the emerging popularity of the boy band trend, with New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync hanging on crazed teen fans’ walls everywhere. But the girls weren’t going to sit back and watch idly. Enter the Spice Girls, the five member British girl group who started a trend of their own. ‘Wannabe’ was the first single off the album ‘Spice,’ and the lyrics focusing on girl friendship over dating men was a part of their “girl power” message that popularized them women everywhere. While the Spice Girls as a group have mostly dissolved, it’s nearly impossible to hear their name without thinking of ‘Wannabe’ craze that swept the nation off its feet.
Beyonce, ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’
Another song about female empowerment came from Beyonce when she released her wildly successful track ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’ from her 2008 album, ‘I Am…Sasha Fierce.’ The uptempo anthem with a clap-along beat tells of a girls’ night out and a run-in with an ex. “If you like it, you should have put a ring on it” became the anthem for single ladies everywhere and ultimately not only one of Beyonce’s most catchy songs, but one of her most successful tracks in her vast library of songs.
Rick Astley, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’
At some point or another, we’ve all fallen victim to the Internet hoax phenomenon known as “Rickrolling” wherein by clicking on what seems like an innocuous link, you end up coming up with Rick Astley’s 1987 single, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’ The origins of Rickrolling started in 2007 when members of the Internet site 4chan passed around what was advertised as the first trailer for the video game ‘Grand Theft Auto IV,’ and it ended up being the music video for the Astley song. The phenomenon later exploded as a concentrated effort to vote the song in as many Internet polls as possible, such as when the New York Mets asked their fans to vote for the song that would play in the eighth inning of their home games. Astley himself has been a good sport regarding the joke, even appearing unexpectedly in the 2008 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on board a float to sing the song.
Los Del Rio, ‘Macarena’
The ‘Macarena’ wave became an unstoppable force in the mid-’90s thanks to Los Del Rio, a Spanish group that wrote a song about a girl named Macarena and incorporated a mix of flamenco and rumba sounds. The Macarena Dance grew in popularity, and for the first time since the Electric Slide, people of all age groups and backgrounds knew the dance by heart. Los Del Rio never had another hit after ‘Macarena,’ but they have definitely left their mark with their catchy song that will forever be hard to forget.
Baha Men, ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’
Baha Men’s ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ became one of the most memorable hits from the year 2000 thanks to its ubiquitous presence at sporting stadiums everywhere then and even now. The soca-inspired track was loved in small doses, but over time, made many less than flattering lists, including Rolling Stone’s 20 Most Annoying Songs.
Justin Bieber, ‘Baby’
Before he was speeding Lamborghinis and partying late nights at exclusive clubs, Justin Bieber was just your average, innocent neighborhood boy with a guitar. But after catching the eye of Usher, the then 15-year-old Bieber signed his first record deal and released his first EP, ‘My World.’ Immediately Bieber became the new teen heartthrob with his famous bowl haircut and dreamy lyrical ballads. The song ‘Baby’ off of ‘My World 2.0′ featured a mix of his high pitched vocals with Ludacris rapping. The track was an overnight hit, and to the chagrin of his critics, one of the most impossible catchy songs to escape.