It started innocently enough: I turned on some Bob Dylan to keep me company as I unpacked boxes at my new apartment. It wasn’t until later, when all the dishes were in the cabinet and I was tucked into bed, that I regretted my choice.
At 4 a.m., I was awakened by the sounds of Bob Dylan’s rubber band-like voice whining “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” Although the song is more than 10 minutes long, he just kept repeating the refrain.
Anyone who’s ever had this problem knows the havoc a two-second segment of a song, played on a loop for two days, can wreak on a person’s life. It intrudes into your every waking moment (and some of your sleeping moments, too). The harder you try to ignore it, the louder it plays.
The earworm — which recently wriggled its way to its own definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary — has invaded your life. All you can think about is how to get rid of it.
One popular cure is to replace the offending song with one that’s equally catchy, but less annoying. Users of this method run the risk of ruining the song they like better, or possibly creating a deadly strain of double-earworm. It happens.
It’s also been suggested that listening to the song from start to finish will eliminate a repeating refrain. But this cure assumes that you have the entire discography — usually of a musician you can’t stand — at your fingertips.
The only cure I’ve found is drowning. Not for myself, but for the earworm.
First, I play back the song that’s tormenting me in as much detail as possible. Then, I layer it with a song of a completely different genre. This time I chose a classical song, as it was easier to hear over Dylan’s vocal stylings.
Once I get two songs playing, I add a third. It helps to find something catchy and obnoxious, so I revisit every dance I attended in middle school and bring back some late ’90s rap.
Then, I play them all at once. It sounds truly awful, but the best medicine often is.
Something about the mental exercise of playing three songs simultaneously is so exhausting that it banishes the earworm after just a few minutes. It may sound difficult, but so is driving a car when you haven’t slept for two days because Bob Dylan just won’t quit.
If this doesn’t work, you can either add a fourth song, or schedule a visit to a psychiatrist.
Call Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 575-8641.