Is “Baby Shark” the most popular song in the world? An investigation

It’s taking over the world. Da-doo da-doo-doo-doo.
It’s taking over the world. Da-doo da-doo-doo-doo.
Image: Courtesy of PinkFong
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It’s a new year, but that hasn’t dimmed the popularity of 2018’s most viral ditty, the inescapable children’s bop “Baby Shark,” that inspired a global dance craze. In fact, the song—whose target audiences is aged 3 and under—seems to have somehow become even more popular.

The shark-themed ear-worm, originally released in 2016, entered at number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first time this week, after it became eligible due to changes in how the chart weighs older songs. Its Billboard position, ranking above songs by the likes of Ariana Grande and Drake, is due to a combination of streaming growth and the drop-off in seasonal songs post-holiday. “Baby Shark” also netted 3,000 digital downloads in the past week.

Billboard ranks songs using a weighted combination of streams (paid, ad-supported, and programmed, in that order), in addition to radio airplay and sales numbers. That means it doesn’t count the number of times the song’s accompanying music video—a crudely animated song-and-dance video that tells the shark family saga—has been watched.

In its various official versions (which include Halloween sharks, Christmas sharks, disco sharks, and countless others) Baby Shark Song videos have been viewed a whopping 4 billion views as of January 2019, according to the song’s creators, the Korean children’s video platform Pink Fong. This includes views from Amazon, iQiyi, and Youk. The YouTube version of the original video alone clocks in at over 2.1 billion, making it the 26th most-viewed video on the platform.

That’s also not including the tens of thousands of viral dance tributes hashtagged #BabySharkChallenge, a global phenomenon inspired by the original video that began in 2017 in Indonesia and the Philippines. The dance spread to Asia after several K-Pop bands hopped on the bandwagon, and took off worldwide in 2018, inspiring challenges from adults and children across the globe. Today, (Jan 10) there are over 114,000 videos bearing the #BabySharkChallenge hashtag on Instagram, and 66.7 million on TikTok, an app for creating and sharing short videos set to music.

Even the Late Late Show host James Corden staged a version of it recently:

In addition to those numbers, the song is currently at #6 on the UK Official Singles Chart; it topped Spotify’s Global Viral 50 chart in September 2018; and Pinkfong as an artist has been among Billboard’s top 20 Emerging Artists for 11 weeks straight.

Taken as a whole, with 4 billion views across video platforms, 20.8 million streams in just the last week, and over 68 million hashtag tributes on Instagram and TikTok, Baby Shark has been played nearly 5 billion times. (For context, there are just under 680 million children ages 0-4 in the world right now.) Indeed, taken together—with its Billboard position, video views, and still-robust social media hashtag—”Baby Shark” may well be the planet’s most popular song right now.

Alas, it’s difficult to say whether that is truly the case; this investigation doesn’t account for additional social media platforms, or streaming platforms outside of what Billboard considers. Nor do we consider the hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of times the song is being played by those who downloaded it, or have set the tune as their ringtones or doorbell sound effect.

In any case, there’s no denying that Baby Shark is one of the most viral cultural phenomenons of our time. Certainly, no parent of a toddler would dispute it.