The Songs That Get Stuck in my Head … or just Pop Up Randomly
With my busy life lately, I have not been taking that much time to listen to music for pleasure. This, apparently, has not stopped my brain from mentally replaying songs that are familiar to it, as I’m going to bed, just waking up, even in the middle of my sleep or just at random times during the day. It remembers songs from TV commercials, songs playing on the radio in stores while I’m shopping or sometimes just pulls songs from the mental archives that I don’t remember hearing recently. It might even decide to put on “repeat” a song I don’t particularly like. I find music hard to ignore when I hear it. My brain just tends to tune in whenever I hear it, whether I particularly like it or not.
So, I started making a list of the songs that either popped into my head or repeatedly played mentally over the past few days. It’s quite a list: ’70s pop, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Celtic, Christian contemporary, ’80s New Wave in French language … I think I might be the only quirky ding dong in the universe whose brain could come up with this particular list. I almost wondered if this was too embarrassing to post, and it reminded me of the meme below.
So, here is the first one, “I Think I Love You” by David Cassidy from Partridge Family. I do remember how it got started. I recently heard this while food shopping, and it hasn’t fully left my brain since. I do happen to like it. It’s sweet and innocent and tells a little story. Though I remember watching the show as a kid, I’m not sure that I remember the song from then. I think I was reminded of it some time later, probably from listening to oldies radio.
A short time later, my brain pulled up this one from Brady Bunch, and I thought, “Really, brain?” Again, I watched the show as a kid but was reminded of this song since from a friend who is a pop culture aficionado. Unlike David Cassidy, the Brady kids aren’t exactly known for their hit songs. It may have been some mental association between Partridge Family and Brady Bunch that brought this up in my mind, but then, I remembered that there was another reason why this song would pop up. I’ve been hearing a snippet of it in a recent 2020 commercial. I couldn’t recall which one, but, with help from the Internet, I found it, a Perdue chicken commercial. Now, I am wondering how many people have heard the song from the commercial without knowing its Brady Bunch origins? I don’t believe the commercial has the original Brady kid voices though. Some of the lyrics do seem to fit the pandemic, “I just can’t stay inside all day. I’ve got to get out and get some of those rays.”
Okay, so, now we are out of the ’70s. Mandisa’s “Overcomer” was mentally playing in my head as I was waking up one morning. It’s a song I heard a lot on Christian radio when it was a new hit, 2013. I don’t remember hearing it recently, but it was most definitely not the worst song to wake up thinking about. I’ve had a few struggles lately, caretaking for parents. Both Dad and I were bitten by a dog recently, and Dad has now had two surgeries to close the wound and cover it with skin. These positive thoughts are certainly welcome.
This Loreena McKennitt song, “The Highwayman,” was on a playlist I used to help me to sleep, and, oddly enough, my sleeping brain began a mental playback on another night without any help from the actual music playing. It’s a long storytelling song, so you might wonder how much of it my sleeping brain could reproduce. I’m not sure. Maybe, it was one section of it on repeat, but it seems to me my brain recalled a full sound, the voice and instruments.
This next one is an odd one. I am a bit of a musical theater enthusiast, but State Fair is not one of the more popular Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, and its title song is also not the most popular of Broadway style songs. Still, out of nowhere, this little piece of music came to mind, “Our state fair is the best state fair. Don’t miss it. Don’t even be late.” I couldn’t recall any other words, but there it was.
I enjoy this song from South Pacific, but the way it came to mind was very odd. What I remembered first was this little dramatic orchestral section that follows her beginning phrases in the song, say, right after “my faith in romance.” That part came to my mind alone, and I had to think hard to remember why this orchestral bit was so familiar and in what song it belonged.
This next one is in a completely different category, an ’80s New Wave song in French. I was not familiar with it in the ’80s but learned of it more recently through Wii Just Dance games. I don’t think this particular song is available on U.S. versions of the game, but I found the Just Dance song on YouTube. My interest in French language led me to look up the French lyrics and the English translation and then the original video and the story behind the song. By the time I did all this, I gained more and more of an appreciation of the song. The whole video has a bit of a surrealist feel. In spite of its bright colors and costumes and dancing, the subject matter is rather dark. It’s about a woman who died from cancer, a friend of the band and a dancer. The rhythmic beginning and more lyrical sections of the song express a celebration of the woman’s life, but the more aggressive sounding section speaks more bluntly about death, “It is cancer that has assassinated you …” There are a few hints in the video of the sad, dark content: bones used as percussion instruments, a splash of red paint, tears in the lead singer’s eyes. I do have an appreciation for it but feel that an English version would feel too blunt for me, rather than hearing it through the filter of a foreign language.
I have quite mixed feelings about the next one, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Melodically, it’s very pleasing. Lyric-wise, it is cryptic. I’m not sure which rendition became familiar to me first. I’ve listened to both the Leonard Cohen version and the Jeff Buckley version, and neither seem particularly familiar. Lately, I’ve heard renditions by several artists and bands I like including Pentatonix. In spite of its title and mixed Bible references to David and Bathsheba and Samson and Delilah, it is not essentially a religious song and does not belong on either a Christmas album or album of sacred arias. I’ve seen it on both. It seems to be more about a human relationship, and the expression, “Hallelujah” which literally means “Praise to the Lord,” does not seem sincere to me in its literal meaning. After all, the writer expresses, “Maybe there’s a God above” and seems even in doubt about this basic faith. Still, I like to hear it sometimes and puzzle over the artist’s meaning. This article in Rolling Stone might give some enlightenment.
I remembered that a friend and I were riding together in a car and a version of this with more Christian lyrics came on the radio. The one below may have been the one we heard. If you are a person of faith, or even if you aren’t, give this one a listen. This version would be appropriate on a Christmas album.
And, similarly, here is an Easter version.