“Baby Shark”, the irresistible earworm loved by most children, became the most viewed YouTube video of all time in November 2020 and, just over a year later, became the first video of YouTube to exceed 10 billion views. The song, created by the South Korean educational company Pinkfong and performed by Korean-American singer Hope Segoine, premiered in 2016 and became a viral sensation in Asia, but it didn’t reach the collective consciousness of Americans until 2019. Pinkfong gave welcoming children from all over the world to share their “Baby Shark Dance moments” with the company to celebrate the latest “special milestone”.
The most viewed video on YouTube shows two children doing the “baby shark dance” as the cartoon shark and his family, including a mustachioed “grandfather shark”, swim serenely and then attempt to chase the children. At the time of this writing, the second most viewed video is Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito,” which held the title before “Baby Shark,” with 7.7 billion views. Even with K-pop megastars constantly breaking ground in other areas, it can be a long time before another video catches up.
The 2016 song’s catchy and rather repetitive hook is surely part of its success, but it has also benefited from returning to popular culture time and time again ensuring that it becomes a cultural touchstone. In addition to celebrity covers by James Corden, John Legend, and Bebe Rexha, “Baby Shark” had a tour in 2019, a viral dance challenge, a slot on Just Dance 2020, and a Nickelodeon TV show airing in 2021. Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott also threw their daughter Stormi a baby shark-themed birthday party in 2019. The song became the rallying cry for the Washington Nationals, a US professional baseball team. An NFT collection based on Baby Shark was also released in December 2021.
Pinkfong’s US CEO Bin Jeong told CNN in 2019 that the company did not expect the images to go viral to the extent that they did. He said: “Those who do it, do it on their own.”
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