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What the Baha Men Mean to Music, yes, the Baha Men

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

I was over at my sister’s house the other night because my nephew had gotten a guitar from someone and I was there re-stringing it for him. Once I was done, I started to play a little, showing him some scales and things he could practice to build up the callouses on his fingertips. The lesson didn’t go long but the interesting thing that happened was after showing him a couple of songs that he could learn by playing along to them, he and his sister took over the sound system. It’s really amazing to me how young kids can now play practically any song at any moment just by yelling. They don’t even need to know the song name, my niece just slurred out for Alexa to play Elsa and “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel came on.

What went on to further surprise me was that afterward she put on “Who Let the Dogs Out” and they both preceded to bounce around yelling the chorus every time it came on. I turned to my sister and said, “wow, kids still love this song, huh?” She just gave me a look that said, no shit. I find this interesting because I remember when the song came out, I was twelve and a little too old to where the song was almost immediately uncool but even at that time I knew it was like what the “Macarena” was for kids my age. There have probably been dozens of these songs over the year, I know “Baby Shark” is practically a preschool lesson plan these days and it makes me wonder how their teachers can even stand it. This is a sentiment that must be given note because poor parents and teachers would probably have trouble taking any real message from these songs after hearing them on repeat for years much like a worker on the “It’s a Small World” ride would with that song.

In looking into the song, I was surprised to find out it was a cover, a song written by Anslem Douglas, who convinced the Baha Men into recording it and since then there have been many legal battles over the rights. I also found out that the song wasn’t initially as big as I remember but has grown in popularity over time due to its appearance in a Rugrats’ movie and the fact that it is constantly played at sports games. The final thing I learned is that it’s on a number of worst songs list, namely Rolling Stones most annoying list for which it took third, a ranking I don’t in any way disagree with.

What I realized listening to that song with my niece and nephew that evening was that it was still new and fresh to them, they hadn’t had it ruined yet, it was still fun because realistically, it’s a fun song. It’s been ruined for so many of us for so long, we can’t even relate to having that joy for it now. At some point, it is something that is a sensation we know to be true with many songs, even good songs that come to take on a different, usually less seductive meaning because of the way they can be overplayed and I think that can make us jaded. I know I am.

Many months back I was at this tiki bar watching college basketball (so long ago I was at a bar). It was a fairly touristy place and there was usually live music but the band was on break so they were just playing a random playlist over the sound system. It was the typical stuff, “Brown Eyed Girl”, “Chicken Fried” of course Jimmy Buffett, and I couldn’t help but snicker at the two couples next to me singing along to every word, especially when they started dancing around, shouting along with the chorus to “5 O’clock Somewhere.” It was just too stereotypical, mid-western tourists on vacation in Florida, singing along while drinking shitty over-priced margaritas and I’m sure their unironically worn Hawaiian shirts had a nice pair of socks and sandals to go alone with them. The thing was, they were having a blast and it was because of the music and even though they were complete kooks, it didn’t matter.

So many times we all get caught up with the trend of it, I know I do and I don’t necessarily think it’s just the case of being a stuck up music prick because I know I have a lot of fun with my friend making jokes about our favorite artist and the typical tropes of the music industry, fuck who doesn’t enjoying roasting DMB sometimes but at the same time I love the song “Crash Into Me”. In the end these people were kooks for sure and I’m sure my niece and nephew will grow out of “Who Let the Dogs Out” just like I’ve grow out of so many songs and in turn found others I cherish but for that moment at the bar and for that moment in my sisters living room, those tourists had it, just like my niece and nephew had it, it was the pure joy of music, the love of a song so much it comes bursting out of you, so maybe we can learn to appreciate that.

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