Baby Shark hit the Billboard Hot 100. How the child’s music went viral


Whether or not you might have youngsters in your life, it might appear to be the Baby Shark music is in all places.

It’s an earworm. It’s a dance craze. It’s a meme.

And as of this week, it’s one in every of very few youngsters’s songs in historical past to have landed on the Billboard Hot 100.

Not solely did the infectious bop a few household of toothy fish make it onto the charts regardless of being not new within the slightest, it additionally scored the best debut of the January 12 version of the Hot 100, popping up at No. 32.

I suppose you could say it made a splash. (Sorry.)

But how did we wind up right here? How did this little ditty-that-could make the bounce swim from toddler YouTube to the Billboard charts? Are you able to see how a meme turns into a quiet cultural phenomenon? Then seize your fins and let’s go hunt (doo doo do doo do doo)!

“Baby Shark” is an addictive delight

If you’ve by no means heard of “Baby Shark” and do not know what I’m speaking about, you’re in for a deal with, albeit an insanely addictive one. Be warned: The following tune shall be caught in your head for days, however I promise it’ll make you smile:

The “Baby Shark Dance” video above has been a global hit among the many under-5 set — and, by extension, their dad and mom — because it was first posted to YouTube in 2016, and it’s simple to see why. For one factor, the titular shark dance is appealingly easy, one thing even the youngest toddler and surliest adult can do.

It’s additionally visually attractive in addition to ridiculously catchy: The video is effectively made, the kids are lovable, and the cheery, infectious music — doo doo do doo do doo! — meshes completely with the whimsical mixture of animation and stay action.

All of those components have made “Baby Shark Dance” a bona fide YouTube hit. The video at the moment stands at almost 2.2 billion views, making it one of many high 25 most-viewed movies in YouTube historical past.

“I do know quite a lot of dad and mom who use it as a bribe or a pacifying approach,” journalist, mother, and former Vox colleague Elisabeth Dickson informed me. “It’s like toddler catnip. Bright, shifting colours; cute little kids; catchy, repetitive lyrics. I might guess something, although, that quite a lot of the views are repeat views from the identical customers.” While that is anecdotal proof, it’s undoubtedly true that there’s a lulling, hypnotic high quality to looping the video; I’ve been identified to hearken to the 2-hour compilation model at occasions, and I’m nonetheless right here to inform the story.

What’s extra, “Baby Shark Dance” suits in with a bigger theme of wholesome internet trends, in that it’s easy and shiny and turns sharks into cute and cuddly sea companions.

So it’s no marvel that Baby Shark has additionally turn into a healthful web meme, bringing collectively folks everywhere in the world to do the “Baby Shark Dance” and the “Baby Shark Challenge” (that are the identical factor). In truth, so far as healthful memes go, this is likely one of the wholesomest, in that it’s innocent and enjoyable, and straight involved with bringing folks collectively as a substitute of, say, being cynical or edgy, or snarking in regards to the world. (At least in case you low cost the ecological havoc brought on by permitting cute kids to ruthlessly invade the territory of those poor animated sharks, presumably placing everybody concerned in peril.)

But memes hardly ever have a single supply, and whereas there’s a single definitive model of the Baby Shark music that’s swum into the general public consciousness, it has many predecessors.

Baby Shark’s historical past comprises multitudes

The “Baby Shark” music itself appears to haven’t any definitive origin level: Some variations of it are a longtime staple at youth summer time camps and scouting retreats, and there are infinite variations on its primary premise, including one version the place a surfer loses an arm and has to endure CPR. Another model that dates to at least 2008 on-line consists of the topic dying on the finish.

“My husband and I sang it on a bus on the best way again from a marriage and one of many individuals who was singing alongside knew the music from, like, camp,” Dickson informed me. “She’d by no means even heard of [the famous internet version]. And I used to be like, ’What? How?’ as a result of it’s such a cornerstone of my life now [that I have a kid].”

For the primogenitor “canonical” model of the internet-famous “Baby Shark Dance,” because it have been, we are able to thank a fun-loving German woman named Alexandra Müller, a.k.a. Alemuel. On January 15, 2007, from the consolation of an armchair, she gave the world this viral video:

In German, this rhyme is a “singspiel” — a sung nursery rhyme — generally known as “Kleiner Hai” (Little Shark). So it was in all probability already identified to most of Alemuel’s German viewers. But her video sparked a viral craze that in the end spawned an official release of the music 15 months later, in May 2008, in addition to, in line with one German media outlet, round 400 spinoff videos of school rooms and different teams performing the accompanying dance.

And as you’ll be able to see from the next 2012 model, the music and the dance have at all times just about existed as a pair — which is sensible, since quite a lot of the enjoyable of Baby Shark lies in switching forwards and backwards between little shark gestures and large shark gestures:

Fast ahead to YouTube circa 2016, when worldwide companies (just like the overwhelmingly widespread Bollywood channel T-Series) have been beginning to slowly shift YouTube’s tradition away from particular person, grassroots vloggers and towards a mixture of automated and mass-produced content material.

These movies flooded YouTube’s algorithms and racked up billions of views, and kids’s movies have been — and proceed to be — among the many hottest examples. One purpose that mass-produced child’s movies have since turn into so profitable is that their younger target viewers clearly finds their infinite repetition interesting. Meanwhile, that very same repetition makes them easy and cheap to produce, whereas nonetheless offering attraction and visible stimulation.

Among the preferred YouTube’s kid-centric mega-channels is Pinkfong. Overseen by a Korean training and leisure firm, Pinkfong has greater than 14 million subscribers and has garnered greater than 7 billion views throughout all of its movies. But greater than 2 billion of these views come from “Baby Shark Dance.” Pinkfong uploaded the video on June 17, 2016, and though it clearly wasn’t the first variant of the Baby Shark music and dance on the web, the video’s excessive manufacturing values, its cute kids, and its enjoyable, colourful design set it aside and helped make it into successful.

In the intervening years, Pinkfong itself has churned out a litany of Baby Shark offshoots; however its legs as a meme actually come from what the remainder of the web has achieved with the music, with a push into the mainstream as an sudden viral pop sensation.

After steadily constructing all through 2018, the Baby Shark craze reveals no actual indicators of stopping

Baby Shark’s first brush with all-ages, worldwide fame got here in 2017, when it grew to become massively widespread in Indonesia. It spawned an Indonesian dance craze that noticed households and communities across the nation doing variations of the dance.

And in 2018, the #BabySharkChallenge grew to become an enormous meme throughout TikTok because the app burgeoned in reputation, with a well-liked remixed model of the music going viral.

This additionally meant that Pinkfong’s “Baby Shark” gained much more mainstream consideration: It wasn’t just a music for kids anymore. In August 2018, it made its approach onto the UK Top 40 charts, and in September, James Corden featured it on The Late Late Show. “Once in a lifetime, a music comes alongside that defines a technology,” he quipped.

By the tip of October, the music had floated onto Billboard’s top streaming songs chart for the first time — at which level it had already spent greater than six weeks atop Billboard’s Kid Digital chart.

In November, this was occurring:

And in December, the music even made a cameo appearance in YouTube’s annual year-end Rewind video. (The 2018 version of the video was historically disliked, however we gained’t maintain that against the sharks.)

All alongside the best way, Pinkfong’s “Baby Shark Dance” video spawned offshoots within the form of flash mobs, covers, and, inevitably, many music variants. The most well-known of those is perhaps the bizarre and eerie “Johny Johny Yes Papa” mashup meme that briefly took over the web final summer time, however one of the vital current widespread riffs is a heavy steel version by Norwegian guitarist Leo Moracchioli, who is thought for his steel preparations of pop songs:

So the Baby Shark music is clearly right here to remain, having firmly established itself in lots of corners of the tradition, on-line and off, in all its incessant repetitive glory. And but, though it may appear to many like Baby Shark has reached a saturation level, a sure degree of omnipresent common existence, Dickson factors out that in lots of respects, it’s nonetheless a distinct segment.

“Numerous my pals with out kids don’t even know what it’s,” she informed me.

If that’s the case, Baby Shark nonetheless has quite a lot of cultural permeation to do. So the following time you hear the music and also you’re tempted to run away (doo doo do doo do doo), why not seize a buddy as a substitute, be part of within the dance, and help it alongside?



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