Baby Shark – A Journey Into Madness

Even now, I can’t tell you how I did it.  By the grace of God, I managed to exist for five decades on this planet without ever hearing ‘Baby Shark’ from start to finish.  Granted, I’d heard people complain about it, describing how it’d taken over and, ultimately, ruined their lives.  I couldn’t understand their anguish or even imagine a world as hellish as the one they described.  That has now changed.

When you’re in a car, there’s nowhere to go.  This is ironic, because the whole point of a car is to go somewhere unless, of course, you’re stuck in traffic or trying to park.  But, in truth, what I mean is that in a car there’s nowhere to which you can escape.  You’re stuck, listening to whatever ear-melting musical demon the person in control of the stereo sees fit to conjure up.

We’ve developed a tradition whereby I surrender my phone and everyone else takes turns adding their song of choice to the queue.  That way, you’re all guaranteed to hear a tune you like at least once every six songs.  It sounds simple, but it’s not.  Sometimes, there are delightful surprises.  Sometimes, however, things take a darker turn and someone selects something they know is truly and irredeemably evil.

When it began, I had no idea what was happening.  Ignorance is not just bliss, but a form of self-deception that lets you wallow in a false sense of security when, by rights, you ought to be exiting the vehicle and running with your hands in the air, screaming.  In retrospect, I wish someone had invented airbags for ears that could be programmed to deploy whenever it senses the opening bars of ‘Baby Shark’.

The video for the Pinkfong version of ‘Baby Shark’ is the most watched video on YouTube of all time with some twelve billion views.  It is, I feel, definitive evidence that the Internet is fundamentally broken and should be abolished.  Upon learning this, I was both impressed with myself at avoiding it for so long and vaguely disappointed at how colossally out of touch I am.

For those of you who’ve assumed ‘Baby Shark’ is a relatively recent assault on the senses, it’s origins stretch right back to the movie ‘Jaws’.  It’s believed that in response to the Steven Spielberg munch-a-thon ‘Jaws’, camp counselors invented an early version of the song ‘Baby Shark’.  At that time, the song was reasonably gruesome and involved sailors being devoured and going to heaven where, presumably, the inhabitants get to spend eternity in perpetual bliss, never having to hear ‘Baby Shark’ ever again.

But when ‘Jaws’ was released, the Internet was yet to be invented.  Which, once again, goes to prove what a dead-set genius Spielberg is in anticipating viral marketing decades ahead of time.  It’s debatable as to whether ‘Jaws’ would have been more or less terrifying had it featured the song ‘Baby Shark’ rather than the score by John Williams.

Had ‘Baby Shark’ remained a campfire tune used to frighten city kids whilst away from their parents, most of us would never have heard of it and, I dare say, the world would be a better place.  But some people weren’t content to allow cat videos to run the Internet and tried to intervene by rolling out various versions of ‘Baby Shark’.  There was a 2007 edition by an artist called ‘Alemuel’.  It’s in German and is so darkly horrifying that it’s enough to make you avoid water for the rest of your life. 

A guy from upstate New York did his take on ‘Baby Shark’ way back in 2011.  It sounds a lot like the current version but the accompanying video features a middle-aged dude called ‘Johnny Only’ instead of cute children and, as a result, is nowhere near being the most watched YouTube video of all time.  This is a complete travesty.

The Pinkfong version – which is now regarded as definitive – was released in 2015.  It has now been viewed more than twelve billion times.  Which, by any measure, is a lot.  Originally, I made the mistake of thinking ‘Pinkfong’ was a band, but according to Wikipedia it’s an ‘education brand’.  In other words, it’s a company.  Frankly, I’m not sure how I feel about corporate entities releasing songs, as it’s a role traditionally filled by musicians.  It’s not as though rock bands try and teach children to count.  Or, if they do, they rarely go beyond ‘one-two-three-four!’

It made me wonder – which video did ‘Baby Shark’ overtake when it was crowned the ‘most streamed video all time?’  I’m glad you asked.  It was ‘Despacito’ by Luis Fonsi.  Despite racking up a respectable eight billion or so views, I’d never heard of it.  The video clip was okay, but Fonsi looked different than he used to when he lived in the room above the Cunningham’s garage.

When I hear ‘Baby Shark’, I am bewildered.  It’s as though everything I know about music is meaningless.  Worse still, I’ve started to feel sorry for sharks, generally.  Having gone so long without every being subjected to the aural atrocity that is ‘Baby Shark’, I can only hope that I can avoid it for another fifty years.  Here’s hoping.  Do do do do do do do.