By A.J. Willingham, CNN | [COMBO Editor’s note: Shanties are a type of work song – think “Day-O” only for European seamen!] It’s folly to examine why some things go viral on the internet, and by doing so one risks discounting the beauty of the simplest answer: They just do. Nothing makes sense. Roll with it.
Or at least, that’s the easiest thing to tell yourself when “The Wellerman,” a 19th Century whaling song, has been knocking around in your head for a week straight.
The jaunty tune about sugar and tea and rum is the center of a very cool, well-executed trend on TikTok started by Scottish musician Nathan Evans. His version of the song, which was previously brought into modern popularity by the group The Longest Johns, has garnered almost 5 million views on the video-sharing app TikTok.
“I think it’s because everyone is feeling alone and stuck at home during this pandemic and it gives everyone a sense of unity and friendship,” Evans, the 26-year-old singer from Airdrie, Scotland, told CNN.
“And shanties are great because they bring loads of people together and anyone can join in. You don’t even need to be able to sing to join in on a sea shanty!”
Since Evans posted his song on TikTok in late December, other musicians have used the app’s duet feature to add their own voices and instruments to the mix, resulting in a harmonic kaleidoscope of renditions that have gained their own popularity. Other sea shanties took off as well (there is some difference in the definition of these maritime songs, but we’ll just stick to shanties for now). Everyone was having a good time.
Then, things got weird. TikTok users started creating dubstep shanties. Smash Mouth’s 1999 “All Star,” already a god-tier meme in its own right, got the shanty treatment. Awareness of this new nautical trend migrated to Twitter and other social media platforms. “The Wellerman” rose up the Spotify charts.
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Includes videos and Tik-Tok versions –