SINGAPORE: So unless you’ve been living under a rock or your Wi-Fi is down, you’d know that Pen Pineapple Apple Pen (PPAP) took over the Internet this week. For the uninitiated, PPAP is the infectiously-catchy music video by artist Piko-Taro that has earwormed its way to becoming one of the most successful viral videos in recent memory.
Since first publishing on YouTube a month earlier on Aug 25, PPAP has amassed almost 12 million views on its original site to date and the numbers are climbing. The virality of Piko-Taro’s original video has been helped by humour and entertainment platform 9GAG’s Facebook page where their post of his video has drawn more than 62 million views.
And talk about post-modernist “official” backstories suggesting the classic “a play within a play” concept for our hyper-digitalised modern times, the animal-print clad Piko-Taro is really a fictional character played by entertainer DJ Kosaka Daimaou, who is actually 51-year-old Mr Kazuhiko Kosaka. His character Piko-Taro first began life as a stand-up comedian at live shows.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a ridiculously peculiar song about merging a pen with an apple and a pineapple would reach such viral milestones on social media platforms in such a short space of time. To be fair, PPAP did come with a warning. “This will be your new ringtone” it announced right from the start. Most importantly, it has the viral video catchy earworm formula down to a pat. Throw in an addictive beat, ludicrous lyrics, an easily imitable dance routine and an inescapable earworm tune that people will not be able to get out of their heads, and bingo, you have a sensation ready to rival PSY’s Gangnam Style.
Yes, this is not the first time someone relied on irksome pop gimmickry for instant worldwide fame and success, and it certainly won’t be the last. Polarising reviews on the issue aside, it’s a cheesy phenomenon the world can’t ever deny and will never get enough of. So here are five of our favourite “stuck in your head forever” catchy earworms that we all love to hate. Listen with caution. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
MACARENA BY LOS DEL RIO(1995)
If you were old enough to stand without help from mum or dad in 1995, chances are you did the Macarena. The cheesy Latin-inspired dance-craze-slash-earworm all but defined the mid-1990s, playing everywhere at weddings, malls, birthdays and gatherings. Everyone knew the Macarena - your classmates, your parents, your school bus driver, your favourite hawker stall uncle.
The one-hit wonder spent a terrifyingly long 14-week stint at the top of the singles chart and by 1997, sold more than 11 million copies of the tune worldwide. With gyrating nubile young beauties and two middle aged men happily singing about a girl named Macarena who cheats on her boyfriend with two friends while he’s being drafted for the military, the infectious song and its iconic dance moves really need little introduction or analysis, even these 21 year later today.
Crossing borders faster than a pandemic, Macarena went viral globally, when “going viral” wasn’t even a term yet. Whether you’re one or 100, from Singapore or Swaziland, we’ll bet our last jug of sangria that you’ll find yourself bopping in-sensibly whenever the song comes on today. Have another listen, wince and hey Macarena!
THE KETCHUP SONG BY LAS KETCHUP(2002)
Just when everyone thought they managed to finally get the above-mentioned Macarena out of their heads, along came The Ketchup Song (or Aserejé in Spanish) just a mere few years later. Easily picking up from where the Macarena left off, the instructional dance anthem became an instant party favourite around the world and topped the charts all over the world. The staccato Spanish pop anthem gave ungainly dancers an easy in with by-the-numbers hand-waving actions and knee-knocking gyrations, while encouraging global fans to chant the gobbledygook lyrics and pass it off as Spanish. Little known fact: the lyrics are reportedly transmogrified from bits of the 1979 classic 'Rapper's Delight' by the Sugar Hill Gang.
BARBIE GIRL BY AQUA (1997)
It’s official. We’ve been singing Barbie Girl for 19 years now. Thanks to kooky Danish quartet Aqua, all our childhood memories of playing Barbie and Ken dolls were destroyed in just over three minutes when they released their crazy earworm of a Eurodance track. It was such a worldwide hit that you really couldn’t go anywhere without hearing someone singing along to the high-pitch bubblegum vocal stylings of lead singer Lene Nystrom, which simply meant that it was impossible to get the song out of our heads.
With lyrics like “I'm a Barbie girl in a Barbie world/Life in plastic, it's fantastic/You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere/ Imagination, life is your creation/Come on Barbie, let's go party!”, some have argued for the world to look past its catchy tune and delve into the song’s underlying deep social commentary.
Others, like Mattel, the toy company that owns the Barbie copyright were filing copyright infringement lawsuits (which were later dismissed). Either way, almost two decades on, both Aqua and Barbie Girl are here to stay. It has been reported that the pop act will be reuniting next year to tour Denmark in celebration of the 20th anniversary of their breakthrough hit. That very hit that will forever be immortalised in the cannons ’90s pop culture, with lyrics that are unabashedly still remembered till this very day. Yes, Barbie Girl is so bad that it’s good. And we dare you, yes you who just rolled your eyes but ended up singing along, to challenge that.
CRAZY FROG - AXEL F (2005)
There are annoyingly catchy but fun earworms and then there are just downright loathsome jingles. Before Pepe the frog Trumped US election talk and became social media’s symbol of bigoted hate, there was another frog that was eliciting its own special type of scorn. Crazy Frog, originally (and aptly) known as The Annoying Thing, is a computer-animated character originally created to accompany a sound effect produced by Daniel Malmedahl.
Amongst other things, it spawned a worldwide hit single which remixed Harold Faltermeyer’s Axel F- the electronic instrumental theme from 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. As if this “ring ding ding ding ding” unhinged amphibian ruining the theme from Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop wasn’t abomination enough, the earworm went straight to number one on many charts all over the world. Most annoying creature for a most annoying tune that you most annoyingly cannot erase from your consciousness.
GANGNAM STYLE BY PSY (2012)
Let’s be honest here, we're willing to bet our last jar of kimchi that even you've attempted the now iconic “horse ride” dance moves in the privacy of your bedroom when you thought no one was watching. Psy’s Gangnam Style was K-Pop gold that's always destined to be the international phenomenon that became.
The song's music video went viral overnight after it was posted on YouTube in July, 2012. By December of that same year, Gangnam Style became the first YouTube video to hit one billion views. Since then, it has been viewed over 2.6 billion times (as of Sept 2016) making it YouTube’s most watched video after it surpassed Justin’s Bieber’s Baby.
The hilariously laughable dance moves, the gimmicky vocal hook, the random Korean intersperse with English, the unabashedly over-the-top Gangnam Style has got all the ingredients to be king of all annoyingly catchy earworms as it successfully breaks down all barriers of language, creed and music sensibility. All together now, “heeeeeeeeeeey, sexy lady! Opp opp opp, Oppa Gangnam Style!”