Decoder Ring

Decoder Ring: “Baby Shark”

Origins of an earworm.

Illustration of a shark with its jaws wide open.
Benjamin Frisch

Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every month, host Willa Paskin takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians, and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means, and why it matters.

“Baby Shark” is a world-conquering sensation—a music video for toddlers with over 2 billion views that’s also a Top 40 hit. “Baby Shark” is everywhere right now, but 2019 isn’t the first time the song has gone viral. In this episode of Decoder Ring, we swim back in time to decode the milieu in which the current “Baby Shark” emerged, talk to an American children’s musician who presaged the current phenomenon and a German camp counselor who helped spawn a similar craze a decade ago, and speculate on the origins of the song, which may have as much to do with the origin of blockbuster filmmaking as it does popular music.

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Links and further reading on some of the things we discussed on the show:

Pinkfong’s “Baby Shark”
Johnny Only’s “Baby Shark”
R&B cover of “Baby Shark”
• Sophie Turner performing “Baby Shark”
• Charlie Harding’s podcast Switched on Pop
Alexis Madrigal’s reporting at the Atlantic
• Chris Molanphy’s Hit Parade podcast
• The K-pop group Red Velvet’s “Baby Shark”–inflected commercial
• Alexandra Müller’s original “Kleiner Hai” video (uploaded as Alemuel)
• Official music video for the dance version of “Kleiner Hai”
• French version of Baby Shark, “Papa Requin
• An example of a more violent version of “Baby Shark”
• The theme from Jaws
• Lalo Schifrin’s disco version of the Jaws theme
• “Jaws Is Working for the CIA” by the Investigators
Girl Scouts chant “Jaws”

Email: decoderring@slate.com
Twitter: @willapaskin

This episode was written by Willa Paskin and edited and produced by Benjamin Frisch.