52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Friday, January 04, 2008

an anticipation for precipitation...

And so we come to the last rites of 2007: the selection of the Earworm of the year.

So what is an Earworm?
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.
This list is a little bit different to any other "Best of 2007" lists that you might have seen. This list is trying to bottle all of those fragments of tunes that have floated across your head over the last 12 months and to distill them into a coherent list. It's a hopelessly difficult task, and ultimately one that's doomed to failure.... but by condensing down the contents of every Friday's "Earworms of the Week" column and with the help of your votes over the last couple of weeks, we can at least make an attempt to bottle that genie.

Are you ready to tilt at some windmills?

Ladies and Gentleworms, after literally hours of pointless labour over a giant spreadsheet with some 430 different songs by 335 different artists, it is my great pleasure to present for your Earworming pleasure......


30. "Boring" - The Pierces

A song kindly brought to my attention by Mike as part of the shuffleathon CD he made for me a couple of months back, and it's a keeper for sure. It's certainly a welcome antidote to all the saccharine shite floating around the charts at the moment, anyway.

You said:

"It's a tale of crippling ennui and I love it."

29. "Don't Stop Me Now" - Queen

Just in case anyone thought that this might a rundown of songs from the modern era in general and from 2007 in particular.... here's Queen with a song from 1979. Well, you can't keep a good earworm down, can you? As it happens, this song was used on a corporate ra-ra video by my company this year. The song's supposed to be a description of a cocaine high, so that corporate nonsense made me smile as I'm fairly sure that's not entirely what they had in mind...

You said:

"Ahh, you can't beat a nice bit of Queen to get you going in the morning. Or something."

28. "Proud Mary" - Creedence Clearwater Revival

John Fogerty was one of the best acts that I saw at Glastonbury this year, and although he ran out of time before he could play this one, he was aces. A lot of fun. He strikes me as the kind of guy who walks around his house with his guitar and a portable amplifier strapped onto his belt, thrashing out good-time solos to back up his running commentary on his day....

"Got out of bed [pealing guitar solo]. Feeding the dogs [solo]. Going for a walk [solo] Having my breakfast [solo]...." etc.

Or perhaps that's just my overactive imagination?

You said:

"It’s a bit of a classic it has to be said. "


27. "More Than A Feeling" - Boston

Number 500 on Rolling Stone's list of Greatest Ever Songs. Number 76 on Q Magazine's list of the Greatest Ever Guitar Tracks. The bloody riff was stolen for use on "Smells Like Teenspirit" for heaven's sake! This song is a solid gold classic! What's not to like? In fact, why isn't this higher on the list?

You said:

"Guitar Hero has so much to answer for"

"If Led Zeppelin taught Dave Grohl how to rock, Boston taught him everything he knows about melody. This is a brilliant record."

26. "North American Scum" - LCD Soundsystem

Not a band that I know very much about, but certainly one that was very popular with the voters and an album that has featured in a lot of "Best of the Year" type lists (actually topping the lists in the Guardian, Uncut, Drowned in Sound). Perhaps I'd better give them a listen, eh?

You said:

"Oh, wonderful brilliant amazing genius! Who else could sum up what it is to be American, and yet also a jolly nice chap, in these confused and crazy times? And which such wit and verve and knowing intelligence, whilst also being completely danceable and singable and ecstatic."

25. "The Intro and the Outro" - The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band

Hands up - the only reason this song is in this list is because it has been in my head (and on almost every mix CD I have made) for at least four of the last twelve months. What can you do? It's not even really a bloody song, is it? Is it bad that it makes me smile every time I hear it? Even that crappy wildman of Borneo joke....

You said:

"Very silly"

24. "Stop Me" - Mark Ronson

Hmm. I'm inclined to think that this is heresy, but there you go... you kids seem to love it.

You said:

"You would think that with the way Mark Ronson has been feted this year that the idea of a producer led album, featuring a succession of guest singers, had been never done before. Good lord, Phil Spector was doing the same thing in the 1960's, and I am sure that he wasn't the first. Anyway, rant aside, I really liked "Stop Me". This track was really nice reinvention of one of Morrisey-Marr's best songs as a dance/soul/R'n'B workout, featuring a bit of the Supremes "You Keep Me Hanging On". Really good."

"As soon as I heard the hook, which was pretty much everything about the track, I was literally hooked. Line and sinker followed shorty. Helped massively by being such a familiar tune, even to non Smiths fans. And the way it slips into "Keep Me Hangin' On" is a stroke of genius. Fantastically produced in such a lavish style, the melody and tone of his voice went round and round and round in my head for weeks."

23. "Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt" - We Are Scientists

I don't think they've even released anything this year have they? Still, since when was that important in a list of earworms? I saw them back in November 2006 and they were brilliant. They're loud, angsty and slightly silly. Perfect.

You said:

"In my experience, you simply can't knock a song that contains this many "whoah oh oh oh ohs" and "yeahs"."

22. "In The Air Tonight" - Phil Collins

Blame the advert if you like, but the real reason this makes the list is because -- whisper it quietly -- it's a bloody great song. Time for the Phil Collins revival, anyone? No? Just me?

You said:

"No, I am not a Genesis fan, but you've gotta love that ad. And since it's on about a thousand times an evening, and my brain instantly absorbs any lyric, it's safe to say it was rattling round in my head for a long time, and continues, sporadically, to do so."

"I always wondered what happened to Clarence Beeks..."

21. "The Saturday Boy" - Billy Bragg

Ah, he doesn't quite make the top 20, but his presence here at all has made me a very happy man indeed. The man's a legend!

You said:

"He’s done plenty more famous songs than this, but this one has always been my favourite. And when he plays live, he does the trumpet solo for this song by playing air trumpet directly into the microphone. What more do you want?"

20. "My Donald" - Rachel Unthank and the Winterset

Another song that I'm not familiar with... and I can't even find a YouTube link for this one. Folk, I think... but good folk.

Ah hell, you say it better.

You said:

"The arrangements of the songs draw on jazz, classical folk and even ambient rock influences. I have recently been reading a book called Crow Country which is my favourite book of the year so far and this is the perfect soundtrack to it, bringing to mind bleak autumn and winter landscapes, silhouettes of trees, beaches under snow and hordes of black birds flocking to roost. As you can perhaps detect, it’s not a laugh a minute but amongst it’s dark songs of domestic violence, infant death and life at sea are a few moments of humour and positivity."

19. "Ruby" - Kaiser Chiefs

Utterly talentless plagiarists. I can't quite believe how bad some of the lyrics in this song are.... but there is no denying how irritatingly catchy this bloody song is. Gah!

You said:

"An incredibly annoying song"

18. "The Bridge" - Scott Walker

[the link's to a cover, but a good one]

I wonder how this song made the list. Ahem. Oh alright... it's another one that owes its presence here to me banging on about it over the course of the year. Still, it's a great song, so don't expect me to apologise.

You said:

"Legend. End of story"

(ok, I said that... but it's my list!)

17. "The Pretender" - Foo Fighters

He may not have got his dream job drumming for Led Zeppelin, but the nicest man in rock had to be on this list somewhere. In the run up to me seeing them at the back end of last year, I was hardly listening to anything else. It's classic Foo Fighters: a pumping rocker as the lead-off single for the new album, following in the footsteps of other classic Foo singles "All My Life", "Monkey Wrench", "This is a Call" and the like. It's a formula, but if it ain't broke....

You said:

"This song is pretty much the Foo Fighters all over: pedal to the metal rock with a strangely amiable feel to it.."

16. "Books from Boxes" - Maximo Park

"Our Earthly Pleasures" was my album of the year, without a shadow of a doubt. This was a single, I think, but it's not an obvious single and is certainly a lot less up-tempo than their songs like "Our Velocity" and "Apply Some Pressure". What it does do though is it showcases Paul Smith's lyrics at their best

"We rarely see warning signs in the air we breathe
Right now I feel each and every fragment"


You said:

"It's not quite as pedal to the metal as some of their stuff and is a bit more reflective, but it's all the better for it."

15. "Gonna Fly Now (Theme from 'Rocky')" - Bill Conti

Stupidly inspiring tune... not to mention the unavoidable fringe benefit that hearing this song will always conjure up images of Stallone running up the steps to the Philadelphia museum of Modern Art. Who says Rocky VI had no impact?

You said:

"Rousing enough to raise the dead and have them running up steps throwing punches"

14. "Fortunate Son" - Creedence Clearwater Revival

More Fogerty! This time the mighty Fog holds court with this furious burst of invective against war and privilege. As used to great effect on the soundtrack for the last Die Hard film, where blue collar hero John McClaine seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Together with a slot on the Jazz stage at Glastonbury, I think this has been a pretty good year for Mr.Fogerty all round. Anyway, how many other end of the year lists for 2007 feature two songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival? We're so current!

You said:

"With all of the presidential campaigning gearing up, and with our current political mess, this song keeps popping up. It's a good song, so why fight it?"

13. "Grace Kelly" - Mika

I was determined to hate Mika based upon my irrational dislike of his chosen album artwork. In the end this song was simply irresistible. It seems I wasn't alone.

You said:

"Tell me who didn't go around humming the "I could be brown, I could be blue..." bit? The braver amongst us would even attempt the falsetto lines. It's such a jolly, bouncalong song and dammit, if that's not what sinks into your head and wont let go, then I just don't know what is."

"It's irresistible. I sing along even though I have no idea what the words are."

12. "1234" - Feist

Another one I don't know. Hmm. I must be losing touch.

What's that?

Oh, right.

You said:

"Feist is one of my 2007 favourites in no small part due to this song. Her iPod commercial pushed it into the inescapable realm, and even my husband blithely and incorrectly whistling the notes of the chorus at every opportunity has failed to make me despise this song, but I'd be quite happy not to hear it for awhile."

11. "Our Velocity" - Maximo Park

If I was being really harsh, I'd say that this was a slightly inferior retread of "Apply Some Pressure"..... but it's a marvellous record nonetheless and it's a showstopper live too, and the band put in my favourite performance of Glastonbury 2007. The guitarist is best friends with the brother of a colleague of mine too, so I practically know them.

You said:

"Pumping, swirling, orangey goodness"

10. "Carry on my Wayward Son" - Kansas

I saw a lot of good bands at Glastonbury this year, so why was it that the song that I couldn't shake from my head was by some hoary old American rockers? Damn you Guitar Hero!

You said:

"Thanks to Guitar Hero, this is a song that simply will not budge from my head."

9. "My Party" - Kings of Leon

"Because of the Times" was another of my albums of the year. It doesn't really have any obvious standout tracks, but a general vibe of absolutely filthy rock and roll. Well, you can't really go wrong with that, can you? It's amazing how popular they have become with the ladies since they shaved off all that ridiculous facial hair too....

You said:

"I just can't get away from the absolutely filthy-dirty guitar groove that drives this song along and suddenly takes over about two minutes in. Play it loud."

8. "Now My Heart is Full" - Morrissey

This one might be down to me too. I read "Brighton Rock" by Graham Greene in the summer, and it's hard to read that and not to think of Morrissey's rundown of the characters in this song. I didn't think the book was all that, but the song is a keeper. Morrissey's voice has never sounded better than on this record.

You said:

"I reckon that "Vauxhall & I" is his best solo album (well, it's my favourite) and "Now My Heart Is Full" is my favourite song on it."

7. "Young Folks" - Peter, Bjorn & John

Singlehandedly responsible for the great whistling boom of 2007.

You said:

"This damn song is everywhere. There's no escaping it. It's the whistling, see. It gets right into the centre of the brain and waits for moments of inattention to pummel its unsuspecting victim with an air of jaunty insouciance. Played outdoors, it can cause sheep collisions. This one has terrible staying power. In theory, I like Peter, Bjorn and John, but I may never forgive them for this."

6. "Shine" - Take That

Oh, this is ELO, right? No. Hang on! It's those loveable funsters, Take That! Those cards. What a comeback.

You said:

"It doesn’t quite reach the astronomical heights of perfection set by “Patience” (you heard), it’s a nifty enough little wriggler in its own right."

5. "You! Me! Dancing!" - Los Campesinos

I feel a little as though Ben has been waging a one man campaign for Los Campesinos for most of the last twelve months. It looks like it's working though: this rambling, shambolic little number attracted loads of votes and is a fantastic pop record.

You said:

"After a minute's post-rock intro it bursts into technicolour life, brimming with hooks, xylophone-driven melodies, twists, turns, endlessly quotable lyrics and a chorus tailor made for festivals to shout along to."

"This is just such a brilliant pop song."

"Gotta love those exclamation marks."

4. "Black Mirror" - Arcade Fire

I'm never quite sure whether I like Arcade Fire or not. There's just something about them that makes me distrustful of them... probably their critical acclaim. Still. There seems little point resisting the power of their music. For me "Neon Bible" lacked the standout tracks of "Funeral", but the album as a whole was somehow all the more coherent for it.

You said:

"I love this track. They remind me of the Pixies a little with an added huge organ sound, which is no bad thing."

3. "People Help the People" - Cherry Ghost

Simon Aldred is only 33 years old, but already he possesses a voice that sounds as though it has been soaked in whisky and cigarettes for at least twice that time. "Thirst for Romance" was one of the albums of the year and this is the best track on it. It's probably on the Radio 2 playlist though.... that's not a bad thing per-se, but it does make me feel old.

You said:

"Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant."

"What a voice. What a sentiment. Great song."

2. "Foundations" - Kate Nash

It took a little while for me to get past my instinctive distaste for Kate Nash before I realised quite how good a song this is. Yes, it's annoying. Yes, some of the lyrics are terrible ("You said I must eat so many lemons, 'cause i am so bitter. I said "I'd rather be with your friends mate 'cause they are much fitter") but there's still something wonderful about this song, not least the killer chorus. It's a great song. End of story.

You said:

"Ultimately, there's lots to dislike here. But see past the stage school diction and twee lyrics and there is a classic underneath. The chorus is just HUGE. It manages to be both angry and petty, and poignant and heartbreaking. It perfectly sums up the feeling of clinging on to a relationship that's falling to pieces."

"I know that there's something eminently puncheable about Kate Nash, and a large part of me wants to loathe this record... but the simple fact is that I can't shift it from my head"

"Yes, there a mannerisms aplenty to hate in this record, but there's still enough vulnerability and sheer invention to make this a joy to listen to."

1. "Umbrella" - Rihanna

I'm not quite sure how I managed this, but until I looked up the YouTube link for this song this evening, I'd never knowingly heard this song. Ever. I know it was ubiquitous throughout the summer, but somehow I managed to miss it entirely. I have also yet to hear the Leona Lewis song too. Is this a good thing, or have I simply spent too much time listening to Kansas and Creedence Clearwater Revival this year? From the sheer volume of votes this song got, it appears I was the only person in the whole world to miss it. Apparently (and inevitably) you can now buy Rihanna branded brollies....

You said:

"The song of the summer, although "summer's" really stretching it a bit. Like it or loathe it, this track truly defines the phrase earworm. (And for the record, I do not like it.)"

"Love or hate it, it was everywhere. For what it is- a calculated, slickly mass-marketed pop tune- Umbrella ticks all the appropriate boxes. The song suits Rhianna's emotionless voice, and style. It's all surface and covered in hooks. C'mon, who wasn't in the rain sometime this year silently repeating " brella, brella, brella"?"

"It's that fucking "ella ella ella" line that plants itself in your head and just keeps popping up and the most inappropriate moments. Fantastically catchy in both verse and chorus delivery and a melody that's so instant, it's no wonder this was such a huge single. Even the drums are annoyingly addictive. I defy anybody who says this wasn't an earworm for them. Love it or hate it, it's as close to a perfect pop song as we've seen. It pains me to admit it, but this would be my biggest of the year. "ella, ella, ella, eh, eh, eh.""


Thanks for all your votes and especially for all your Friday contributions over the last year. Here's to more of the same nonsense in 2008, eh?

2007? That was the earworm that was.



  • At 4:55 pm, Blogger Talia said…

    Hooray - ay - ay - ay - ay - ay - ay -a - a - a - a - a - a

  • At 5:54 pm, Blogger Craig Cliff said…

    I had to laugh seeing 'Don't Stop Me Know' on the list. I hadn't heard it for ages until New Years Eve. Someone had it on their specially made playlist (those things never work out they way they should, but that's another story) and it turned out it was three people's favourite song and one person's least favourite song, which made the three sing louder.

    I think this story is some sort of definition of an earworm: 3 out of 4 people love it, 1 out of 4 hate it, but it's stuck in your head regardless of which camp you're in.

  • At 7:58 pm, Blogger Cat said…

    I listened to the Kate Nash album in the bath earlier. I don't much like it, other than the singles, in all honesty, but the CD itself is one of the prettiest I own.

    (Good work with this, by the way - must have taken you ages!)

  • At 11:14 pm, Blogger bedshaped said…

    Great read!
    Thanks for putting all the time and effort into compiling this list of musical addiction madness.
    Oh, and how on earth did you manage to byepass Umbrella. You jammy git!

  • At 9:39 am, Blogger ian said…

    I too have escaped Rihanna. Whenever I think of an umbrella song, I get tripping daisy.

  • At 3:48 pm, Blogger Lisa Rullsenberg said…

    make it at least three of us: I too have by-passed the Umbrella song, though not the more ubiquitous citations of it all over the net!

    PS well done on compiling this list - what a great effort!
    PPS when does the CD collection list restart or did I miss its completion!

  • At 9:04 pm, Blogger Cody Bones said…

    Good stuff ST, I'm sorry I didn't get my vote in, but seeing as I would not have voted for any of those songs, it probably wouldn't have mattered. Thanks again for introducing me to so much new music every year, I really appreciate it, and please, keep up the good work.

  • At 2:53 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As one who was chased all over the place by Rihanna and her damned umbrella,I commend you on your excellent list.

  • At 1:17 am, Blogger Ben said…

    I only heard 'Umbrella' for the first time the other night too...

    Re: Los Campesinos! - good to know all the hard work's paying off...

  • At 9:32 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Every time I hear that Umbrella song, it sticks in my head for days! Gotta love it. Another song that sticks in my head, but isn't so poppy is "The Pilot" from The Confusions. I freaking love this song! www.myspace.com/theconfusions

    Happy New Year's to all!



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