Getting the chills

One of the greatest things Frannie and I have in common is that we get the chills from music — typically at the exact same time, triggered by the same musical… something.

For me it starts  at the back of my neck, and if it’s really good, it spreads all over my back, head, and chest — if it’s really really good I end up with tears in my eyes.  I get it the most from vocal solos and tight harmonies, in particular R&B, gospel, and certain musicals. 

It’ll happen and the two of us will look at each other and be like, wow.   

Apparently this is not just a random thing, but there is actually a lot of science to it.  I never really looked into it until today, but it even has a name: Frission, or more colloquially, a “skin orgasm”.  Here is a good overview of the phenomenon, and here is a ton of assembled academic research on it.  There is even a subreddit devoted to it.

I experienced it this morning on my train ride into NYC, and of course immediately thought to blog about it and include a clip that attempted to communicate it.   As I read more about, a few things stood out: first, not everyone experiences it — estimates vary but somewhere around half of people feel some sort of frission response that can include chills, welling throat, tears, etc.  Second, the experience is not just about music but also about meaning — often times particularly sad passages cause the experience (eliciting a deep-seated survival instinct), so it often requires at least some conscious or sub-conscious attention to lyrics. And third: musical context matters — it is often the result of a musical build-up over the course of a song, and an isolated passage on its own might not have the same effect.

Given all that as setup, here is the one that got me today.  The closing number from The Greatest Showman (which happens to be my daughter’s favorite album right now, so is playing constantly in our house).  The part from 3:18 to the end is the kicker, but it’s probably best to start from the beginning to get the whole build.

Best with good headphones, loud.  Curious to know if others get it too.  Enjoy!

Subscribe to new posts by email:

  • Totally. Good choice on “The Greatest Showman!” For me, frission was/is experienced more deeply and frequently once I was married and had children.

  • Nick

    Thanks so much for sharing the clip and more so the term of “Frission”… It’s one of those awesome words like Schadenfreude that says so much more than a few syllables…

    I’m fortunate to be able to experience “Frission”… few examples

    Jesus Christ Superstart
    Les Miserables
    Lion King (move and musical)… in fact most of Disney movies have almost templated “frission”

    Celine Dion
    Annie Lenox
    Whitney Houston
    Barbra Streisand

    Snow Patrol (Chasing Cars)


  • Yes, definitely get it! I built a collaborative songwriting platform where respected songwriters and well-known artists write original songs with their fans, many for charity. The hot Nashville band The Sisterhood wrote this one to send tiny personal solar lights to Haiti and the harmonies give me chills every time!

Nick Grossman

Get new posts by email