There are many tunes and melodies that float into our audio perception and spark a memory igniting our vocal chords in an outwards bellow. The historic earworms might be from our childhood youth, or linked in our memories to a pertinent, formative experience. It’s funny then, when these songs become distorted, and remade for a 2021 audience. Camp songs of our earlier years all of sudden take on a digital ring as they chime from YouTube on devices around the globe.
The story referred to here is one of the now infamously popular children’s songs ‘Baby Shark’. The catchy repetitive melody was shot to global stardom in 2017 by the Baby Shark Challenge hashtag on Twitter. The song, which features lyrics such as ‘Baby shark’, ‘do do do do do do do’ and ‘lets go hunt’, was accompanied by an even catchier dance in the viral YouTube video released by South Korean children’s entertainment company PinkFong.
PinkFong is owned by parent company SmartStudy, a company for online educational resources for children, and has a history of making fun and friendly YouTube videos for kids from songs and gestures in the public domain. This is disputed however by American singer Johnny Only. Only claims credit for the song’s current form that PinkFong adapted from, arguing against their suggestion the song was already available for public use.
The ensuing legal battle has been playing out in the Seoul Central District Court, with the South Korean Copyright Commission also involved in the court case. Only argues that the original traditional camp song PinkFong is referencing is much more gory and involves the dismemberment and death of the narrator. The pop song beat is usually combined, as in the PinkFong video, with clear actions and gestures associated with the song lyrics.
Only says he edited the song’s content, making it much more kid friendly for his younger audience during his time as a toddler’s entertainment presenter. Leaving out the more terrifying aspects of a shark attack, Only substituted the much more age appropriate lyrics of ‘safe at last’ and ‘it’s the end’ – also found in the PinkFong YouTube video.