Some songs can be wonderful “music to your ears”- literally. The songs that we love are a genuine pleasure to listen to. Then there are songs that can make you cringe, but are played so often that you can’t seem to escape hearing them.
Case in point: “Baby Shark”. You know it. You’ve heard it, probably too many times.
It’s an earworm song- the kind of song that has a catchy enough tune to make it repeatedly play in your head like a broken record.
But just in case you haven’t had the pleasure of having “Baby Shark” stuck in your head until you’re ready to jam a fork into your ear to dig it out of your brain, here’s one of teh earlier remixes:
While some people out there actually like the song, the vast majority of us can’t stand it. It’s annoying as hell, but one town has weaponized it to their advantage.
West Palm Beach officials have begun playing “Baby Shark” on an endless loop in order to discourage the homeless from sleeping around the city’s Lake Pavilion.
The Lake Pavilion is an elegant, glass-walled structure that is a popular venue for weddings, business meetings, & community events. Outside of the building is a spacious patio, which has recently been crowded with the homeless that have adopted it as their living quarters.
Now to be clear, poverty and displaced individuals without a home are no laughing matter, people in hard circumstances deserve the same dignity & respect that anyone else should receive. Period.
The crux of the issue, however, was that larger crowds of people have been bedding down on the patio, which caused distress for those hosting special occasions at the venue. Park and Recreation Director Leah Rockwell explained to The Palm Beach Post that the city is concerned about paying customers having a positive experience hosting their event at the Pavilion:
People are paying a lot of money to use the facility. Thousands of dollars. We want to make sure people paying this money had a facility that was clean and open and continue to use it in the future.
The dilemma: what could West Palm Beach town officials do to discourage the homeless from setting up camp in an area that is used to private events?
Their solution: enter “Baby Shark”.
Music -specifically, really annoying and/or repetitive music- has been used in the past as a means of a psychological motivator. For example, in 1989 the US military was attempting to seize the Vatican’s embassy in Panama in an effort to capture dictator Manuel Noriega who was hiding there.
After a week of the U.S. playing Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” on repeat, Noriega surrendered (no offense, Rick). I give him credit for lasting a week; if I was in hiding, it would only take an hour of “What Does The Fox Say?” on repeat before I’d be begging for mercy.
West Palm Beach has been employing this unusual auditory tactic by playing “Baby Shark” on a constant loop throughout the night.
In a public statement to CNN, City spokeswoman Kathleen Walter explained that the music is being used in order to encourage people to seek “more appropriate” shelter:
The music volume complies with City code, and is a temporary measure, as we are exploring the possibility of having set hours for the Great Lawn and Pavilion.
In addition to “Baby Shark”, they’ve also been playing another colorful ditty: “It’s Raining Tacos”. Now personally, my kids & I love this song… but we may be biased due to our passion for tacos. It’s another earworm gem:
Again, you’re welcome.
The music has proven to be effective in achieving the town’s intended result, but it’s obviously drawn a lot of criticism as well. Opponents of the strategy rightfully feel that it’s a harsh way to deal with a larger issue that requires not just practical measures, but compassion.
As city commissioner Richard Ryles explained to Good Morning Tampa Bay:
There is a fine line between being humane and inhumane when trying to deal with the homeless.
In addressing the valid concerns of those who disagree with this approach, city officials have stated that the musical deterrent isn’t their only method of addressing the issue of homelessness.
They are also building subsidized housing, providing job training & offering mental health services.
Though the use of the music may be inhumane when dealing with people already facing challenging circumstances, can you imagine how effective it might be in other arenas?
Let’s just say -HYPOTHETICALLY, of course- that your mother-in-law has a knack for popping in at the most inconvenient times… throw “Baby Shark” on full-blast and see how quickly she’ll head home for some Tylenol.
How about when you’ve hosted a party in your home & there are those few guests that linger too long? “Rain some tacos” on their ears on a loop, & watch them scurry on out.
If you’ve got teens that sleep way too late, hook up a speaker & get “Baby Shark” blasting. No pillow over the head can block that audio assault.
Obviously the “Baby Shark” method isn’t effective with the younger crowd that loves the song, but you could always try the opposite approach:
If your kids are bickering in the car, just blast your own favorite music.
It doesn’t matter what song it is- if it’s old enough for you to like it, they will HATE IT. They’ll stop arguing because they now have a common cause: complaining to you about how bad your music is. Mission accomplished!