yes, there’s a scientific reason why you keep playing that one song on repeat

It’s not your fault. We’re gonna help you through this.

by Roisin Lanigan
08 November 2017, 3:16pm

Craig David, Craig David! Atlantic Records

I don't know what anyone else's Spotify activity looks like on a day by day basis, but mine looks like this: there are a few chart hits from a "Wake Up Happy" playlist pre-curated by Spotify. At around 4pm every day I listen to a 45 minute blast, no more no less, from the Be Here Now Album. Sometimes I put on that one Gina G song when I'm in the shower. Oh, and I listen to Steve Winwood's Higher Love at least 452529985 times every day.

I thought this was a deep, shameful secret, but apparently not. Apparently every one of us has a hidden Higher Love (a song, potentially a synth and brass 80s banger, that you constantly smash on repeat every day) and there's a scientific reason behind it. It's nothing to be ashamed of. The first step is accepting it.

Unwrapping the science behind the irresistible urge to play a sound so repeatedly you ruin it for yourself, Noisey spoke to music professor Peter Vurst, who explained that it all comes down to how music affects the reward centres of our brains. When we listen to music - which is by nature repetitive anyway - it releases a high, a rush of dopamine in our brains that we're immediately drawn to replicate until we die (or hate the song we're playing).

He went on to say: "It's hard to explain, but we know music affects our reward system. How it does so varies from individual to individual -- music gets some people way "higher" than others. There are a few people that get absolutely nothing out of music. It is documentable that listening to it generates no activity in their pleasure centres whatsoever. There's no music that appeals to them, and they can't understand why other people spend time on it.

"But then there are people whose arm hairs stand up, when they listen to music they like. We know that this is regulated by dopamine -- the brain's natural dope ."

Peter likened the urge to play songs on repeat to any other kind of addiction, like food or drugs. And guess what? There's a scientific reason we get sick of them after our endless repeats too. Peter says: "If you listen to something a bunch of times, it makes its way to the other end of the spectrum, and we stop learning anything new when we listen to it, which our biological systems are hypersensitive towards."

So don't feel too bad about it. Maybe put that song on repeat again. It's science.

peter vurst