In January, every news outlet that covers YouTube ran a story about how Baby Shark was the first video on the platform to surpass 10 billion views, and every parent on the planet simultaneously made the same joke:
The ThoughtLeaders Slack channel was no exception:
But, if you are a parent, you know too well that there isn’t only ONE Baby Shark video. Anyone living with young children is not being tortured on a daily basis by just one version of this catchy song, but by thousands of different versions.
In fact, on our platform we are tracking 7,828 videos with “Baby Shark” in the title across 1,981 different channels.
The video that reached the record view numbers was from the channel called Pinkfong Baby Shark - Kids' Songs & Stories. The channel has released over two thousand videos, but the Baby Shark Dance video, published in June 2016, has received 10x more views than anything else on the channel.
But what about the competition? Here the official ranking of the top 5 Baby Shark songs, sorted by number of views:
This top 5 however only skims the surface of the Baby Shark obsession. Honorable mention should go to Luis Fonsi (of Despacito fame) who makes a cameo at number 7. There is a truly bizarre Superhero Baby Shark version at number 14. A remixed version is given adult choreography by Phil Wright at number 20. Pinkfong also released a Baby Shark hand washing tutorial for kids at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
By the way, if we add up the views of just the top 20 Baby Shark videos on YouTube, that view tally jumps to over 21 billion. Those are some powerful sharks.
The Pinkfong sensation is far from the first iteration of Baby Shark on YouTube. The song was originally uploaded in 2011 by Johnny Only, an American kids entertainer who was familiar with the song as a kids camp favorite.
In an interview with CBC, Only explains how he changed the song’s lyrics to make it more appropriate for a toddler-aged audience:
"There was none of this, happy pastoral scene that we see now," he says. "If the shark attacked and got their arm, lost an arm, doo doo doo, and they hold their arm behind their back. Lost a leg, now they're hopping around on one leg. Lost a head, blood streaming, screaming for help, or then, you know, a heart attack or maybe they're trying to revive him with CPR or something like that. Different hand motions each time and you just keep going as far as the imagination can take you…. I patterned it off of a famous children's toddler artist, Raffi. If you listen to Raffi material, there is absolutely nothing that would offend any grownup or any parent of a child. It's just so pastorally clean, and as far as I could tell on the internet, I was the first one that did that, you know?"
Despite the role he played in bringing this song into the wider consciousness of the internet, Johnny Only’s channel still only has 5.77K subscribers.
CNN explained how the song grew into an international sensation:
The kids' song, masterminded by South Korean educational company Pinkfong and performed by Korean-American singer Hope Segoine, debuted in 2016 and was a viral hit in Asia but didn't jam itself into Americans' collective consciousness until 2019. Since then, it's been turned into a Nickelodeon TV show, a cereal, a live show and the rallying cry of the Washington Nationals throughout their World Series-winning season. It even made the Billboard Top 40 at one point and inspired the Jamie Tartt chant on Apple TV+'s "Ted Lasso.”
Pinkfong, the company behind what became the most popular YouTube song of all time, is a Korean education company. Its parent company, SmartStudy, was founded in 2010 in South Korea. It was founded by Kim Min-seok Park Hyun-woo and Ryan Seungkyu Lee, three former game developers who saw the potential of exploring the world of education. By all accounts, they didn’t set out to create a viral hit. However, the company has been savvy about riding the wave (sorry) of the song’s success, with key brand partnerships with companies like Kellogg's and Nestle, and launching a line of official Baby Shark merchandise.
Baby Shark is inescapable. Don’t forget that Jaws created the modern blockbuster, as the first film to earn $100 million at the box office. (This episode of Decoder Ring actually suggests that the Steven Speilberg movie inspired the catchy song in the first place). What is it about sharks that makes it impossible for us to look away?
This isn’t the last we have heard from these sharks. New reports announced that Baby Shark will get the big screen treatment in a movie set for release next year. Bear in mind that the video already spawned a TV show, Baby Shark's Big Show!, co-produced by SmartStudy and Nickelodeon. The series launched in the US in December 2020 with the episode "All I Want for Fishmas". The feature length film is being produced for the Paramount+ streaming service.
On a more personal level, I write this as someone who has just ordered a Baby Shark costume from AliExpress for my two year old. However much you might try to resist the menace of Baby Shark, it is guaranteed to get into your head and swim around in there for days (do-do-do-do-do).