Meaning Behind the Song “Baby Shark”: How a Campfire Chant Swept the Globe

For years, it has been inescapable, the doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doos finding their way into every aspect of life.

Videos by American Songwriter

No one anticipated the children’s song “Baby Shark” would take the world by storm, but when it did, the chipper tune infiltrated every day. It became a meme, a regular sports anthem, and eventually went on to soundtrack a revolution. But where did the song begin and how did it catch on the way it did?

Fireside Origins

“Baby Shark” was born in a post-Jaws climate, and was often set to the franchise’s iconic dun dun theme music. The tune’s origins are relatively unknown, it just kind of appeared one day and transformed into the ditty it is now.

Regularly sung around fires at Christian sleep-away camps, it was a song everyone, with any shred of musical talent or not, could sing. It often included refrains about being eaten by the song’s titular fish and getting to party it up in heaven with Jesus afterward.

The Pinkfong Breakthrough

It wasn’t until 2015 when the South Korean educational brand Pinkfong released its version that “Baby Shark” exploded into the public ear. It caught on quickly, spreading across the internet like wildfire. Then came the “Baby Shark” dance, a hand-clapping choreography that quickly became just as inescapable as the tune.

The music and its subsequent video introduces a family of sharks – a baby, a mommy, a daddy, a grandma, and a grandpa – in between the doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doos. Together, they all go hunting, seeking out smaller fish to eat. The fish manage to escape as the song comes to a close with Safe at last / doo-doo / doo-doo / doo-doo, and then It’s the end / doo-doo / doo-doo / doo-doo.

By the end of 2020, the original uploaded song had surpassed 7.5 billion views on YouTube and showed little signs of stopping.

Sharks Everywhere

Soon “Baby Shark” was everywhere. The song inspired a cereal flavor, sparked an onstage musical production, and soundtracked proper hand-washing technique during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Baby Shark” found its way into movies, onto talk shows, and even infiltrated sporting events where fan-favorite players borrowed the tune as their walk-on song. And why? Because there are few songs as instantly recognizable or irritatingly contagious that the whole family can enjoy.

A Protest Going Swimmingly

“Baby Shark” has even gone on to fuel demonstrations. In 2019, protests ignited across Lebanon against the country’s government, and the children’s tune was not far behind, becoming a rallying cry in the streets.

“Only in Lebanon would a song like ‘Baby Shark,’ which is now being played at every crowd gathering, become the anthem of a revolution,” Rabih Alameddine wrote in an opinion piece for The New York Times (via Common Dreams).

“Heeding the calls for change, the government rescinded the WhatsApp tax soon after announcing it, and on Monday, it announced its agreement to a list of demands,” Alameddine explained. “But skeptical protesters are refusing to budge. In the meantime, the Lebanese are showing the world how to hold a great demonstration.”

Rania Khalek, a journalist who was on the ground in Beruit during the protests, told Common Dreams about the moment. “The music has been epic, it’s like a constant rave downtown … It’s so Lebanese!

“Lebanese people love to dance and love to party,” Khalek added, “so it makes sense that protests would turn into a big festive party with sound systems and, in some cases, DJs blasting old songs, new songs, the national anthem, and various chants against corrupt officials.”

(Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)

Leave a Reply

Songs You Didn’t Know Feature Captain & Tennille’s Toni Tennille