This week, the Billboard Top 40 chart included an unusual debut song, with “Baby Shark” ranking at 32 on the list for January 12. If you’re not familiar with “Baby Shark,” it is a children’s song sung at camps and preschools about a family of sharks accompanied by appropriately shark-y hand gestures. I first heard this song in the early 1990s on a college beach trip, and since the people singing the song remembered it from their childhood, it goes back to at least the 1970s. Stranger still, the version of the song on the chart is not by a famed popstar, but is from a video made by the South Korean education company Pinkfong in 2015. The popularity of the song has been aided by the viral meme of the
#BabySharkChallenge where people film themselves performing the song’s choreography.
I’m tickled by the “Baby Shark” song’s chart success, because we expect the Top 40 to be filled with finely crafted pop recordings from internationally famed musicians. “Baby Shark” instead is a song performed everyday by hundreds of thousands of ordinary people, especially children. It turns everything we know about chart success on its head.
More personally, when my son was a baby, my wife & I sang a version of this song we called “The Magic Shark Song,” because sometimes it was the ONLY thing that would soothe him when he was fussy. Our version had a slightly different tune and lyrics. Most significantly, instead of the famed/notorious “doo doo doo doo doo doo” chorus, we sang:
“Baby shark, baby shark, ba, ba. Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba,
Mommy shark, mommy shark, ma, ma. Ma, ma, ma, ma, ma…”
And so on, with the repeated sound being the first syllable of each member of the shark family. As time went by, I varied the song to sing it in the style of Ethel Merman and Carol Channing (RIP). Trust me, singing “shark teeth are a girl’s best friend” was a hit with the infant!
So, I lift a fin to “Baby Shark” this week. Long may it chomp!