Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Little Apple poses big psychological question

By Ke Han (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-08 07:44

<EM>Little Apple</EM> poses big psychological question

 Armed police perform a dance to the song 'Little Apple' in Jilin city, Jilin province, July 29, 2014. [Photo/CFP]

The Chinese media have been overwhelmed by a pop song, Little Apple, by the Chopstick Brothers. Called "brainwashing pop song" by many, Little Apple has become popular overnight in China like Gangnam Style or Tante (Perturbed) in the recent past.

All "brainwashing pop songs" have some common characteristics: they are simple and easy on rhythm, have straightforward lyrics and are fast paced. Little Apple has all of those and has become so popular in social media and networks media that even some official organizations are using it for promotion. For instance, the Ministry of Defense has posted a music video with soldiers dancing to this song on its official website to lure new recruits.

There are psychological reasons why simple songs top the charts, so to say, in no time. "Brainwashing pop songs" have appeal to us because of a psychological phenomenon called "earworm effect", which seems like a trick to our brains. In lay terms, earworm effect means the ceaseless repetition of a piece of music, often the chorus of a song, in one's mind. This recognition phenomenon of the brain is the reason why some simple pop songs "brainwash" us into accepting them as good pieces of music.

But the overwhelming popularity of a cultural phenomenon cannot be attributed only to a psychological phenomenon. Generally speaking, pop culture is characterized by novelty, easy accessibility and diffusion, and a large audience. The novelty of "brainwashing pop songs" is that it is fast paced. Such songs, however, are quite different from each other in rhythm and form to suit audiences' demand for novelty. The Internet helps spread these songs rapidly among a large number of people in the shortest possible time. And the songs' simple rhythm and lyrics guarantee that they appeal to an overwhelming majority of people who listen to them.

Pop culture expresses (or reflects) feelings common to the majority of the people and thus helps them feel relieved. Moreover, many people believe these songs' catchy but meaningless lyrics and pacey rhythm help them unwind, increasing their popularity.

It's interesting to note that another psychological phenomenon, group psychology, too plays a vital role in popularizing "brainwashing pop songs".

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