Beware Of The Shark

Well, there it is. The numbers have been studied and crunched, millions of humans have made clear their preference, and the upshot is painfully apparent. We are doomed as a species.

I mean, seriously, how could quite such a staggeringly large proportion of the population make such a ridiculous choice? This takes bad taste and ill-judgement to a whole new level. It really is enough to make you despair of humanity.

Eh? US Election? God no, this is much worse. I’m talking about the fact that the Baby Shark video this week became the most-viewed video on YouTube. Ever. It has been seen over seven billion times. That’s the equivalent of everyone in the world watching it once. Once, frankly, being more than enough. However, assuming there are a fair number of Bhutanese grandmothers and British high court judges who have yet to encounter this dubious pleasure, it’s fair to say that there are a considerable number of people who have seen this video quite a few times more than once. Almost certainly under the age of seven, on their parents’ phones and iPads, thrust in front of them while their parents try and grab a few minutes of peace while they shovel down a cheeky Nandos and mainline chardonnay.

If you are fortunate enough to have bucked this depressing trend, first, a word of advice. Do not watch this video. Seriously. You might be curious, wanting to see what it is about this video that has so enraptured the hearts of our planet’s young people. Allow me to caution you again. Do not do this under any circumstances. 

Baby Shark is the most infuriatingly catchy tune ever created. It is an ear worm that will burrow its way down your auditory canal and chew its way, agonisingly and relentlessly, into your brain, where it will dwell for the rest of your days, until the sweet release of death. 

In the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, I have watched it so that you don’t have to. I will describe it for you. Made by Korean children’s entertainment company Pinkfong, it features two small American-Korean children, wearing onesies of gender-stereotypical colours (get with the 2020s, Pinkfong) dancing and lip-synching badly, to the following lyrics: “Baby Shark doo doo doo du du du” (hardly Oscar Wilde) against an animated sub-aquatic background. 

It wasn’t even written by Pinkfong. The best guess is that it originated on American summer camps in the 1970s. This ties in with my own experiences of working, for two summers, on camps in America. When I wasn’t underage drinking and trying to snog American girls who liked my accent but wanted me as a friend, I was being made to sing insufferably inane, catchy, jaunty songs for the delectation of kids whose parents didn’t want to have to spend the holidays with them. Suddenly, American politics makes a little more sense.  

The video looks like it cost about £12 to make, and was shot in half an hour. And it’s been played over 7 billion times. Played back to back, that would go on for 30,187 years. That’s an awful lot of aural-torture.

If you think I’m exaggerating the torment of this tune, bear this in mind. Last month, three former staff members at an Oklahoma prison were charged with causing “undue emotional distress” to inmates by playing the song to them as a punishment. 

I can relate to the inmates’ pain. When I was a student, a song was released called I Love Your Smile, by Shanice. It was so disgustingly perky, so unspeakably saccharine and, coincidentally, so filled with doo doo doo-ing, it made me want to rip off my own head so I never had to hear it again. Then the girl who lived in the room below mine bought it, and decided to start every day (early) by playing it full blast. The guards at Guantanamo wouldn’t have been so inhumane. And let me tell you, that song is Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony compared to Baby Shark. 

The thing is, you might be tempted to see this as an aberration – a one-off quirk that by no means sums up humanity’s lack of taste or discernment. But take a look at the video it displaced. Or, rather, don’t. It’s Despacito, a pretty bang-average Puerto Rican pop song by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee (nope, me neither). Before that, it was bloody Gangnam Style. Abd before that, it was a Justin Bieber song. Meanwhile, the song now in third place, behind Baby Shark and Despacito, is Shape of You by Ed Sheeran. I have nothing against the man personally, but I will never entirely forgive him for the fact that my daughter spent a fair amount of the years between the age of four and seven tottering about singing “I’m in love with your body.” It was as inappropriate as it was unsettling. Thanks, I now realise, to YouTube. 

In preparing this article, as I said, I watched the video. I’m mentioning this again because I want my sacrifice acknowledged. But also to tell you that my wife walked in on me, and gave me a look of such withering disdain it almost physically hurt me. I think she thought she was marrying someone who might write about current affairs and the environment. Honestly, I’d rather she’d have walked in on me watching hardcore animal porn. 

So, if you think the most insidious, dangerous threat to the planet’s status quo comes from North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, think again. Just take a trip south of the demilitarised zone. Kim Jong Un has got nothing on Pinkfong, I’m telling you. Perhaps the song itself sums up what the lasting effects will be of this extraordinary and disturbing audio-visual phenomenon. As the last line succinctly puts it: “It’s the end.”