I was watching BBC Breakfast this week, because I’m very intelligent and grown-up and also my hatred for Piers Morgan 1.0 was bad enough, but now that the beleaguered ham has started to sometimes be on the right side of a debate for popularity and get credit for it, I hate him even more, so I can’t watch Good Morning Britain. But I digress.
The presenters had a good old laugh with him – it was that bit at the end of the news where after two hours of thanklessly questioning politicians, announcing number of UK deaths and then non-ironically doing a segment on why anxiety is on the rise, they get someone on whose cat sings opera or something.
And, well, fair enough. But this was not longer after the GMB hosts, the aforementioned Morgan and his long-suffering but ultimately compliant co-presenter Susannah Reid, chatted to those four lads who went viral because they Instagrammed a picture of themselves wearing thigh-hugging trousers on a night out. The much-mocked snap of their attire, which had already been memed into the next century, was eventually turned into a sea shanty meme itself.
Are you keeping up with the crossovers here? When a meme makes it onto breakfast television, it’s the kiss of death. It’s no longer underground. Soon it’ll have its own mediocre pre-watershed chat show and its own brand of tea towels.
It all started with Scotsman Nathan Evans posting the now famous video on TikTok of himself and pals singing ‘The Wellerman’, which is, let’s face it, a banger of a ‘shanty (chalk that up as something else I didn’t think I’d write in 2021, alongside “the man dressed as a sort of moose at a drag night has stormed the Capitol Building”). From there it just went bananas. I enjoyed Evan’s ‘The Wellerman’: it sticks in your head and you find yourself singing it for days on end afterwards. It stirs something in you. I guess that’s what they’re meant to do. But now sea shanties have gone wild.
A man has done ‘All Star’ by Smash Mouth as a sea shanty, despite the band previously playing Covid-infested gigs and expressing questionable assessment of the dangers of the virus (or as frontman Steve Harwell put it at said concert: “Fuck that COVID shit!”). There are remixes of it (imagine hearing this when clubs finally come back) and other clips where people have edited themselves into his video. And I still can’t get the tune out of my head. What was enjoyable is now a permanent ear-worm. I am part sea shanty.
That was probably already too much, but now ’00s rockers Nickelback have done one. So have comedy rappers Goldie Lookin’ Chain and indie band Glass Animals, and even US chat show host Jimmy Fallon and his house band The Roots had a go. Like the writer on a US sitcom, we’ve taken the sea shanty thing too far and wrung the fun out of it until nobody can stand it any more.
If we do need our fix of Celtic music (and I often do), I’m voting for Irish fiddle music to take off and go viral. Great fun, sounds brilliant in a pub, and is slightly less foreboding. Think the scene below decks in Titanic, when Rose realises the poshos upstairs are awful.
The good news is that Nathan Evans, who does seem like a lovely guy, now has a record deal. The bad news is: there are undoubtedly more sea shanties coming your way. When you think about it, actually, it’s little wonder sea shanties have gone wild in 2021 of all years. They came about to raise spirits as people endured the rough seas for months on end, or went down with a sinking ship. It’s something we’d all be forgiven for feeling in the current climate.
They’re probably better in person, though, no? A question for the shanty heads: which one do you sing when you’ve reached land and everything is OK again? Either way, I can’t wait to be a drunken sailor early in the morning – I’ll allow you one more IRL sea shanty for that. But never on a screen again. I want to be roaring the words in a pub with everyone linking arms, sweat pouring down the walls, and the barman declaring all drinks on the house. See you thar!