While shark attacks might be exaggerated, Baby Shark’s attack on adult psyches is not

click to enlarge Baby Shark Live! is nothing if not colorful.

Baby Shark Live! is nothing if not colorful.

After a long delay, Baby Shark Live! is finally making its way to the Pacific Northwest… in 2022.

In some ways, it feels like it’s too late.

“Baby Shark” has been with us as a campfire song for perhaps over four decades, but the version that drilled a hole directly from the internet to your brain was released in 2016 by Pinkfong, a South Korean children’s edutainment brand (and the conglomerate taking Baby Shark on tour).

Two years after that upload, the Kids’ YouTube algorithm, memes, and the power of monoculture beamed “Baby Shark” into the ears and brains of anyone with a working internet connection. By early 2019, it broke the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at 32. As of this writing, the YouTube video has nearly 11 billion views, which has likely generated at least $75 million in revenue for Pinkfong. Its 431 million Spotify plays, on the other hand, are worth a paltry $1.7 million (and if you think that number actually seems low, you’re not alone! Thanks, Spotify!).

Baby Shark’s Big Show! just wrapped its first season on Nickelodeon. The cultural phenomena has been covered by the Wiggles (makes sense), Céline Dion, K-pop group Red Velvet, folk singer-songwriter Janis Ian, unlistenable alt-band Judah & the Lion, and Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, among quite a few others. You can still buy Baby Shark cereal (berry loops with marshmallows) wherever Kellogg’s products are sold, as well as pretty much any Baby Shark children’s toy you can imagine.

But despite all of this, Baby Shark’s cultural ubiquity still feels like it’s waning. At the height of its power, a parent friend with a 1-year-old told me about a cab ride he took across San Francisco early that year. His baby started crying mid-ride; their driver put on “Baby Shark,” silencing her in a matter of seconds. “I’m a parent too,” the driver said. “It always works.”

I can’t imagine how many times any given parent heard “Baby Shark” in 2019. I say this because I have no children, yet “Baby Shark” was inescapable. It poisoned my brain like few weapons-grade earworms ever have. It took a global pandemic and two years to erase its psychic damage — and the moment I was tasked with writing about it, it was just waiting to reassert itself, echoing through my skull into infinity.

But my obsession didn’t start with “Baby Shark.” On some late summer day in 2018, I came across “Johny Johny Yes Papa”, as originally uploaded by BillionSurpriseToys. At this point, I’d never heard either “Johny Johny Yes Papa” or “Baby Shark.” The combination of incessant vocal melody, heavy Autotune and the weird 3-D animated dad’s “Single Ladies” dance was a perfect storm of digital z-tier meme hell garbage. I felt an unstoppable compulsion to share it with everyone I knew.

This is how I learned that a little song about eating sugar and telling lies is an English-language nursery rhyme better known in India than anywhere else in the world. This is also how I learned that it’s normally sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and that BillionSurpriseToys devised an especially potent mutant strain — the “Johny Johny” nursery rhyme rewritten to the tune of “Baby Shark” — for maximum impact. This is also how I’m now learning that even though a ton of the wildest content uploaded to YouTube Kids was vaporized in a scandal best known as Elsagate, a search for “Johny Johny No Papa” on YouTube today will still return hours upon hours of pure nightmare fuel.

Now, three years later, my friend’s daughter has grown up into a 4-year-old full of personality, and the song no longer has the same magnetic pull on her it once possessed. Baby Shark’s Big Show! never once has shown up on the televisions of my friends who are young parents, who adore Bluey and have seen Frozen literally hundreds (or thousands) of times.

But your experience is not mine, and perhaps Baby Shark still holds a special place in your (kid’s) heart! So, what can you (and, I’m assuming, your children — hopefully) expect from Baby Shark Live! when it rolls into Spokane’s First Interstate Center on July 2?

The premise is simple: Pinkfong (the pink fox, not the corporation — kind of like how Lightyear is about Buzz Lightyear the man, not the toy) and Baby Shark (the shark, not the title of the song — kind of like, how, y’know…) take audiences on a “journey into the sea to sing and dance […] to explore shapes, colors, numbers, and so much more!”

Over the course of two sets that span 80 minutes (with an intermission, mercifully giving you an opportunity to, well, do something that doesn’t involve having Baby Shark and friends occupying the whole of your peripheral vision), you (and, again, for your sake, I hope, your children) will hear select hits including “S-H-A-R-K” (B-I-N-G-O), “The Wheels on the Bus,” “Jungle Boogie,” “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” and — of course — multiple renditions of “Baby Shark” itself.

If this doesn’t sound exhausting, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am (and I sat through the Yu-Gi-Oh! movie in theaters when I was 16 having never seen an episode of the show or played the game). However, consider this: What if taking your kids to Baby Shark Live! instills a genuine love of live music in your kids? What if this means they’ll be excited to see more shows, perhaps featuring artists you love, in the future? What if seeing the show means your Baby Shark-loving child achieves peak Baby Shark-dom, and never asks to hear it again?

The possibilities are endless. All you have to do is see Baby Shark Live! and endure experience it for yourself. ♦

Baby Shark Live! • Sat, July 2 at 2 pm • $27-$67 • All ages • First Interstate Center for the Arts • 334 W. Spokane Falls • firstinterstatecenter.org • 509-279-7000

Article Source: Inlander