Image by Dersu Rhodes
Maybe you noticed a new phenomenon the last time you sat down for an evening of YouTube and chill and pulled up a cool music video. Your favorite pop songs have undergone a kind of surreal treatment. People have turned them into hour-long loops—just the same song, played back to back, for an hour, on YouTube. The most popular versions of popular songs have millions of plays, and, if you type the title of almost any pop song into the YouTube search bar, the site will tack "1 hour" on as a suggested search. It wasn’t enough to hear the hits every hour, on the hour on the radio. Not even by a goddamn long shot.
There's an immediate logic to it: How else are we supposed to appreciate the subtle nuance of Bieber's rebrand? We need to hear his croons over and over and over again until the mysteries of mankind are unearthed. What DO I mean as I nod my head yes? I do in fact want to say "no" but how? And to what? Am I really saying "no" to embracing a destiny of which Bieber is the gatekeeper? What are the consequences of my negation? And who the fuck does Bieber think he is, trying to unmoor our internal dialogue like this?
Psychologists have found evidence that we grow more attached to music that we hear repeatedly. Elizabeth Margulis, author of the recent On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind and one of the leading authorities on the topic, told NPR last year that it’s partly due to a simple psychological phenomenon called “mere exposure.” Simply hearing a song more than once makes us respond more favorably to it.
“The second time you hear it you know what to expect to a certain extent, even if you don't know you know," Maugulis told NPR. "You are just better able to handle that sequence of sounds. And what it seems like [your mind is saying] is just, 'Oh I like this! This is a good tune!' But that's a misattribution."
Human brains are drawn to repetition, which is why, according to Margulis, roughly 90 percent of the music we listen to is music we’ve heard before. And, by extension, that probably has something to do with why we’d prefer to listen to the same song on repeat for an hour rather than, say, let the YouTube auto-play feature take over. These tracks are the bad ex-boyfriend you keep around because you're not strong enough to find someone new. You're too weak and they're too easy and, all of a sudden, you're listening to an hour-long loop of "Uma Thurman."
While it's not clear if artists enjoy these hour-long loops, or why an hour is the standard length, I like to imagine that Pitbull has to hear "Dalé!" every three minutes just to stay alive, and these loops get the job done faster. To help everyone use their hours of repeat listening as efficiently as possible, I sifted through the best and worst hour-long loops the internet had to offer. Here is my guide:
Shawn Mendes – “Stiches”
On a since-deleted version of this, YouTube user Leyla Nichole wrote, "After listening to this so many times it sounds like he's singing 'farting on tamales' instead of 'falling onto my knees.'" Enough said.
Projected time before closing tab: Listen until you hear "farting on tamales."
Pia Mia – “Do It Again”
Picture a one-night stand with Chris Brown. That's what this song is about.
Projected time before closing tab: You know what, just don't even open the tab.
Prince Royce feat. Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull – “Back It Up”
As the singular comment on this video would have you know, this is "Cool."
Projected time before closing tab: 46:50. J. Lo has just serenaded you about dropping it low, and you choose to end on a literal high note.
Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth – “See You Again”
YouTube user B1GBUD2007 sums it up: "Rip Paul Walker Still crying in 2015"
Projected time before closing tab: 4:32. Listen once and crank your transmission for all the Walkers we've lost while crying a single tear.
Maroon 5 – “Sugar”
“Sugar” is about how much you adore your new wife, Victoria Secret model Behati Prinsloo. She’s hotter than a Southern California day or something.
Projected time before closing tab: 31:20. You have to take a break to get some candy from the office kitchen because you’ve heard Adam Levine say “sugar” for the past 30 minutes.
Fetty Wap feat. Remy Boyz – “679”
Got 34 minutes in without realizing that it was even on repeat. The “Trap Queen” rapper has got your soda and then some. Fetty forever. 1738!
Projected time before closing tab: 1:01:23. Keep the Remy and tunes flowing through to the end.
Andy Grammer – “Honey I’m Good”
“I was going to cheat on you but I’m actually tired so, maybe another time,” is the thesis from “Honey I’m Good.”
Projected time before closing tab: 1:45. This song makes you feel like you’re a cheater by association.
Clean Bandit – “Rather Be”
YouTube user Kathy Rich says, “Its the best song in the hole entire. UNIVERS!” and then added about 50 heart and kissy face emojis. She helpfully clarifies, as if hearing it a dozen times on repeat wasn't enough indication of what she's talking about, "THIS SONG."
Projected time before closing tab: 43:06. You’d “Rather Be” like Kathy and find a new spot in your heart for Clean Bandit.
Madonna feat. Nicki Minaj – “Bitch, I’m Madonna”
Madonna will not die, no matter how much you wish otherwise. Bitch, she is fucking Madonna. She feeds off your hate and it only makes her arms ever stronger.
Projected time before closing tab: 56:43. You’ll hate yourself for doing it but be rendered incapable of stopping this song any sooner.
Caitlin Greenwood is now watching an hour-long loop of "Charlie Bit Me" and losing her mind. Follow her on Twitter.