Friday 29 December 2006

and I can die when I'm done...

Earworms of the Year 2006

Ohrwurm” - a german word that literally translates into English as “earworm”, and refers to a song or tune that becomes lodged in one’s head.
After spending a couple of otherwise quiet days in the office compiling a spreadsheet of all of the Earworms featured on this blog over the last 12 months together will all of the votes emailed in, I am now able to present you with the official rundown of EARWORMS OF THE YEAR 2006.

As you might expect, it's a pretty diverse list, with around 471 songs by something like 300 different artists (at least 10 of whom don't even exist).

From that mass of songs though, 25 clearly emerged from the crowd...

Ladies and Gentlemen, in reverse order:

25. Johnny Cash - "Hurt"

In the year that "Walk the Line" was released*, perhaps it's not surprising that Johnny Cash was the single artist to have the most different songs nominated as an earworm. This was the most popular of the seven songs, and comfortably the most haunting.

You said:

“I’m not sure how the late, great man would feel about this being used as the tune for an ad for running shoes. I suppose it could be worse, like an ad for plasters or something…”

“Quite simply, I think that he is one of the greatest musicians to have ever walked the planet. The honesty in his voice and music is so overwhelming to me. I realize that this is a Trent Reznor song, but to me Johnny Cash truly made it his own in this recording. Haunting.”

(watch it)

* Actually released in late 2005, but you know what I mean

24. The Raconteurs - "Steady, As She Goes"

Unlike the White Stripes, Jack White's side-project may have been slightly disappointing live, but this song definitely features some of the year's best fretwork.

You said:

“Riff of the year. Always nice to get a quality riff stuck in the head”

“It's not big, and it's not clever... but it rocks.”

(watch it)

23. Muse - "Starlight"

Muse made something of a splash in 2006 with their album "Black Holes and Revelations" and look set for even bigger things in 2007 when they headline the new Wembley Stadium. Matt Bellamy may be famous for the sounds he can coax out of a guitar, but it's a keyboard riff that went down best around these parts.

You said:

“I like small doses. I can't normally tolerate a whole album's worth of that operatic screamery in one sitting, but I do seem to be able to hear the odd song of theirs and be able to forgive the falsetto warbling and wholly unnecessary overproduction for four minutes. This is a superb record - I love the keyboard riff particularly”

(watch it)

22. Arctic Monkeys - "A Certain Romance"

In the year that they released their massive selling debut album and generally conquered everything put before them, Sheffield's finest were nominated for four separate songs. The enthusiasm of Cody Bones made sure that this was the one that makes the top 25.

You said:

“I started to listen to the Arctic Monkeys about 6 months ago when they were mentioned almost every day in blog land. After downloading a few songs, I found to my surprise, that I actually like them. They seem to be a combination of The Clash, and The English Beat, two of my favorite bands, again, a song I don’t seem to be able to get out of my head, but unlike 'Temperature', a song I’m happy to have there.”

“I can't get this song out of my head, I guess thats what earworms are supposed to be.”

(watch it)

21. The Feeling - "Love it When You Call"

Cheesy 1970s MOR is back!

You said:

“it...just... won't... get out... of... my... HEAD!”

“There's bits nicked from every guilty pleasures band I can think of, but it's so hearteningly genuine and loveable, that by the time the twin guitar solo comes along, I'm dancing around playing air piano over the end.”

“The Feeling are to Earworms what Hugh Grant is to posh English comedy film roles. I could easily have put Feeling records as every one of these top five - catchy daft seventies influenced pop. Genius.”

(watch it)

20. Sufjan Stevens - "Casimir Pulaski Day"

This one is more or less entirely down to me, I'm afraid. Sufjan Stevens was my big musical discovery in 2006, and this is the song that stuck. It's also the song most likely to move me to tears.

You said:

“Casimir Pulaski Day” is about someone dying of bone cancer, and I find the lyrics incredibly moving because they seem to ring so true."

“It’s breathtakingly beautiful and achingly sad”

(watch it)

19. Billy Joel - "The Downeaster Alexa"

I saw Billy Joel live this year, and he was absolutely brilliant. This isn't one of his more famous songs, but it's aces!

You said:

“Legend. Legend. Legend.”

“Not many musicians capture the troubles of the blue collar worker better than Billy Joel. I love this song, and I don't even know what a "striper" is, never mind why it's a bad thing that you can't sell them anymore.”

(watch it)

18. Scott Walker - "Farmer In The City"

Ah, bestill my beating heart!

You said:

“After 11 years of listening to this, I still can't really fathom what it's about. Is it an auction of some sort? Eerie. Compelling. He's a genius, obviously.”

"Do I hear 21? 21? 21?
I'll give you 21, 21, 21"

nope? Me neither.

(download here)

17. Robbie Williams - "Rudebox"

Robbie does rap. Sort of.

You said:

“I heard this once and it embedded itself right in my brain from that point on. Everytime I listened to it, I heard something else about it to love. The simplicity, the electro beat, the killer of a chorus hook and that plinky plonky keyboard sound that sounds like your food getting passed through the scanner at Tesco. Ok, so he tries to rap! Forgiven for trying new areas though. It's just so damn catchy.”

“According to Victoria Newton of the Sun "The worst record ever made..." Personally I love it. Good show Robbie old chap!”

(watch it)

16. The Theme From Doctor Who

Kaptain Kobold's love of multiple remixes of the Dr. Who theme ensured this a place in the top 20, but it is a brilliantly enduring piece of music. I'm still fairly convinced that the TV show is neither as big nor as clever as Russell T Davies thinks it is though.... and don't get me started on Torchwood.

You said:

“I'm sure it's possible to listen to this too much, but with 60 versions and remixes at my fingertips I haven't reached that position yet. Sad, I know.”

(watch it)

15. The Kooks - "Naïve"

I can take or leave their fashion statements, but this is just a great record, isn't it?

You said:

“Bad hats. Bad hair. Great song.”

(watch it)

14. Take That - "Patience"

After 10 years away, the kings returned to reclaim their crown.

You said:

“Every single shop seems to be playing this over the past month. As if Xmas shopping isn't hard enough as it is. It's doing my nuts in, and my heed. Saccharine.”

“I was never much of a fan first time round, but I was surprised to realise I knew all the words to every song when I watched An Audience With... at the weekend. Shameful. Back for good? I do hope so”

“It's not exactly as high-octane as some of their classics, but it's so simple and so pleasant that I caught myself lustily singing along to it in the car the second time I heard it.... so I'd best have it on the list, eh?”

(watch it)

13. The Killers - "When You Were Young"

The glittery jackets may have been replaced by denim and some whispy-looking facial hair, but they're still pretty much instantly recognisable (How could they not be with Earl Hickey on drums and a member of Marc Bolan's band on guitar?).

Sadly, this is the best thing on the album by a country mile.

You said:

“Sam's Town ain't no Hot Fuss. But this is a damn catchy wee tune”

“they’ve grown some beards, but this is still very recognisably by The Killers. They’re a bit too fond of the lyric “He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus”, and they’ll never write another song as good as “Mr. Brightside”, but it’ll do.”

(watch it)

12. The Feeling - "Fill My Little World"

Undeniably brilliant, but so saccharine that my teeth are melting.

You said:

"When your two year old starts wandering around the house singing "right up, right up", you know that something seriously earwormy is going on. When you start using the chorus line for all sorts of other day to day activities "eat your plate of tea, right up, right up" (etc), it has completely taken over."

"Deeply, deeply M.O.R. and frighteningly reminiscent of REO Speedwagon.... but pleasant enough, and very much parked in my head."

(watch it)

11. Kelly Clarkson - "Since U Been Gone"

Oh dear God, it's started playing in my head again...

You said:

“Much like the stars of a zombie movie, it never really goes away without drastic force”

“Because sometimes a girl just needs a feel good break up song.”

“Fiendishly addictive. This song is a guilty pleasure”

(watch it)

10. Dolly Parton - "9 to 5"

Where the hell did this come from? Ah well, that's the beauty of the earworm.

You said:

“Dolly, dontcha just love her! She's become almost a pastiche of herself, but my bet would be that’s she's one of the smartest artistes on the planet.”

“I was minding my own business doing some work earlier in the week when I overheard someone’s mobile phone ringing. Their ringtone was some sort of odd mash-up between Bouncy Knowles’ “Crazy In Love” and this stomping Dolly ditty. It’s that whole breathless opening verse – “tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen/pour myself a cup of ambition” that I couldn’t get rid of, closely followed by the bloody chorus. It was a great description of my day, though – “it’s all talkin’/and no givin’/they just use your mind/and they never give you credit”…..”

(watch it)

9. Red Hot Chilli Peppers - "Dani California"

In spite of its good reviews, I thought that "Stadium Arcadium" was bloated and extremely disappointing. Still, this is catchy, and it did have a great video, eh?

You said:

“a band that charts in three different decades, without selling out.”

“The Peppers have managed to chart in three different decades, quite an accomplishment if you ask me. This also managed to be a good song, unlike the Stones with 'Start Me Up', for their third decade hit. Typical Peppers song, rockin with just enough funk. “Poppa was a copper, mama was a hippie””

(watch it)

8. The Flaming Lips - "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song"

This is just joyous.

You said:

“A song questioning the corrupting influence of absolute power set to an insanely catchy tune. When Bono and Chris Martin talk about this kind of thing, they always sound preachy. The Flaming Lips just sound like they're having fun. You're a lot less likely to see U2 or Coldplay prancing around with giant furry animals onstage either - more's the pity”

(watch it)

7. Hot Chip - "Over and Over"

The joy of repetition really is in you.

You said:

“Did someone say kitsch? Oh yes... like a monkey with a minature cymbal”

“No, really, they've done this on purpose haven't they? Surely there's something in the Geneva Convention about weapons grade earworms? This came into my head over a fortnight ago and has absolutely refused to budge. Having said that, what's not to love about a monkey with a miniature cymbal?”

(watch it)

6. Lily Allen - "Smile"

Hmm. We seem a touch ambivalent about this one.

You said:

“Is it cool to like Lily Allen? I'm not sure. There's something not right about her accented singing, but this is a song you just can't shake”

“Coincided with the summer heatwave. Played everywhere. Not bad as pop music goes”

“College Friend brought me the Lily Allen CD as a hostess gift when he visited. I played it at work and giggled all the way through. She has such a sweet and lyrical style, but the words she's singing are rarely sweet and lyrical.”

“I'm now firmly of the opinion that not only is this song annoying, but that Lily Allen is also a tedious, attention seeking little brat”

“Do us all a favour and shut up, you silly little girl. And her dad. I can't stand her dad either.”

(watch it)

5. Sigur Ros - "Hoppipolla"

Gloriously otherworldly.

You said:

“Thanks to the BBC showing 'Planet Earth' at both ends of the year and using this as the trailer music, it has been firmly implanted in my consciousness. I mean, it was getting there anyway, being a cracking tune in its own right, but the BBC really haven't helped here.”

“I love that 'Hoppipolla' means 'hopping into puddles'.”

(watch it)

4. Snow Patrol - "Chasing Cars"

Sappy indie pap. I love it, obviously. They've had a pretty good year, all told - what with the best selling album of 2006, a string of hit singles and now a top 5 placing in Earworms of the Year poll....

You said:

“I had to ask somebody what this song was and who recorded it. I know nothing about Snow Patrol. I only heard the song when it was used in a trailer for the "Greys Anatomy" TV series. I don't know what you would call this. An indie anthem? Whatever. It's just a wonderful, emotional song.”

“It’s been a cold and rainy week, and somehow every time I am in the car this song is on. And now, even when it’s not, it runs through my head while I am driving. That’s okay, though, because it’s a good song.”

“Big, sweeping, epic, tearful.... it's nice to have them back.”

"Just a bloomin' good song and one of the highlights of the charity gig at Rock City when Gary Lightbody had lost his voice and the audience sang it for him. He looked genuinely over-awed by it."

(watch it)

3. The Fratellis - "Chelsea Dagger"

This one's lost on me, to be honest. Are they the Scottish Kaiser Chiefs?

You said:

“Surely the catchiest tune of the year? And Scottish too. Hurrah”

“Good, old fashioned, knees up, singalong, (Dad) rock and roll. Lad music at it's best. I bet that Rod and the Faces would have done a great version of this in 1974. The video was like a party that I would have liked to have gone to”

“Very catchy”

“I really don't want to like the Fratellis. Billed as the next Franz Ferdinand and almost as over-hyped - the biggest thing to come from Scotland since the Bay City Rollers, apparently. But this song's fab. I can't help it.”

(watch it)

2. Scissor Sisters - "I Don't Feel Like Dancing"

No sir, no dancing today.

You said:

“I can't say I was a huge fan of the Scissor Sisters first album. I found the whole thing a bit feeble, to be honest. Then, out of the clear blue sky came this epic disco anthem. It is, let's be fair, fantastic. Not only that, but in a rather ironic way, it is the song that gets a giddy two year old out of her seat and walking like Mick Jagger across the living room floor like nothing else has since "I Believe In A Thing Called Love"”

“Do you think the laser ‘pow pow’ noises are too much? Nah, this is kitchen sink disco. It’s got the lot, and that “no sir, no dancing today” lyric is just genius.”

"Classic and bloody catchy!"

(watch it)

1. Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy"

This was top by an absolute country mile. It was the first single to go to Number#1 in the UK singles chart on downloads alone... it was top of the chart for 8 weeks until it was deleted... it was the most downloaded song of 2006.... in other words it was inescapable.

Just as well it's a good record, eh?

You said:

“No other song could have been my number 1, this year. Until I saw the video I wasn't too sure if this was being sung by a man or a woman, as the voice was curiously asexual and seemingly on the verge of hysteria. Brilliant, dark and repetitive (in a good way). Just genius. A while ago I heard a mashup that grafted the vocals of Liberty X's "Just A Little Bit" onto the backing track of "Crazy" and it still worked. This was the real deal. Best track of the year.”

“I am only human, of course this got stuck in my head, and it's gleaming pop with an understated video that made me want to see it. The ohrwurm has danced a groovy dance in my lobes on and off for pretty much the whole year”

"Around for months before it was released - and loved....until it started to feel like it would never go away."

“Best Number one evah.”

“Who didn't love this when they first heard it. Completely infectious, boating more hooks than a fisherman on one of those fishing programs on Discovery Channel. It's one of those songs that even now, after being killed by overplay (Thanks Radio One!), even now you can't help but want to turn the volume up....just a little more.”

(watch it)


Many thanks to all the guest editors who contributed this year and to everyone who emailed in their votes. You can't always control what's playing in your head, but on the whole it's a hell of a lot better than silence.... may your internal jukebox in 2007 always be in credit.

2006 - that was the earworm that was.

Happy New Year.


Next Week: Sarah
Forthcoming attractions: Flash, Ka

[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito, Graham, Lithaborn, Phil, Mark II, Stef, Kaptain Kobold, bedshaped, I have ordinary addictions, TheCatGirlSpeaks, Lord B rides again, Tina, Charlie II, Cody Bones, Poll Star, Jenni II, Martin, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL, Lizzy's Hoax, Ben II]


  1. Nicely done ST, it looks like I have some downloading to do, this looks like a nice playlist. Have a happy New Year.

    P.S. What!!!, no Keane.

  2. ...there wasn't even any Keane in my list, for heavens sake!

  3. What a lot of work that must have been - you're a legend! I'm pleased to see that the soundtrack in my head wasn't unique.

  4. Cheers for the hard work ST, but where was Manifest Deceit Corporation - Tricks Of The Trade (Queen Liar Liar dub)?

    heh heh

  5. Very impressive, ST! A job well done. I need to check out some new tunes...New tunes for a new year. :)

  6. Good stuff ST. Not surprised none of mine made it anywhere near the top 20...

  7. I am glad to see that my earworms made it in, even though I was too busy/too lazy to send you my top five. Sorry about that. Nice work on putting together the list!

  8. You really make some work for yourself, but it really was a brilliant idea, especially as I managed to get 3 of my choices in the top 4.

    Or does that just make me predictable?

    (Frowns deeply.)

  9. A superb list I reckon, good work Mr Toni!

    Considering this is a list of earworms rather than favourite songs it's a surprisingly strong list musically. While not my cup of tea, you can't argue with songs like Chasing Cars.

    Here's to the Earworms of 2007!

  10. Oh great, now I've got Chelsea Dagger pounding round my head *again*! ;-)

    Interesting concept, nicely exceuted, enjoyed that, thanks.