The viral masterminds behind 'It's Corn' have been at this for over a decade
It’s increasingly difficult to be online these days without becoming acquainted with Tariq, better known as the “corn kid.”
His interview with the web channel Recess Therapy was originally released at the beginning of August, and quickly blew up on TikTok and YouTube.
Then it was made into a song.
The song created an ouroboros of a viral moment within a viral moment — and has been used in over 400,000 TikTok videos since its release. The official music video for “It’s Corn,” released last Sunday, has already amassed over 1.6 million views on YouTube.
Many have celebrated the cultural moment for its earnestness and simplicity; just a boy and his love of corn. But for song creators the Gregory Brothers, making a viral sensation out of the everyday is nothing new.
The family band — Michael, Evan, Sarah Fullen and Andrew Rose Gregory — are responsible for some of the biggest viral songs of the past decade. You might remember the song created from the moment an awestruck man witnessed double rainbows while out on a mountain.
Or the “Bed Intruder Song,” that repurposed a news interview with Antoine Dodson, and ended up becoming the most watched YouTube video of 2010.
A cursory glance through their YouTube channel history shows an expansive, decade-plus catalogue of songs made from non-songs.
How have the Gregory brothers been able to strike viral success over and over again? They think it’s a perfect mix of many factors, including the right kind of original content.
“I think our videos are really about finding amazing moments on the Internet and celebrating them and amplifying them. They’re about highlighting other people’s interviews, original words. And I think that is what has given our videos staying power,” Andrew Gregory said.
He also thinks that random, sometimes absurd subject matter piques people’s interest in ways other music can’t.
“When you turn on Z100 or another pop radio station, 99.9% of the songs are about love. And when people listen to our songs, they can finally hear a song about corn, or they can listen to people in waiting.”
“There are a lot of love songs in the world, and nothing against love songs,” Michael Gregory says. “We’ve written plenty of them ourselves. But there were not enough, muffin songs, corn songs, songs about riding your bike and being impaled by javelins because you were playing Happy Wheels.”
Music industry analyst Tatiana Cirisano says that part of their success is their deep understanding of online culture — aside from being talented musicians.
“They seem to have this really uncanny ability to understand when a meme has kind of reached the saturation point where enough people know about it, but people aren’t sick of it yet, and it’s the perfect moment to kind of turn it into a song,” she says. “And the songs are undeniably catchy.”
But she also attributes the success of songs like “It’s Corn” to TikTok — a platform which didn’t exist when the Gregory Brothers started to “songify” viral moments. By its nature, TikTok doesn’t just encourage people to consume viral content — it invites them to build upon it with their own creative spin.
“It’s going to spread farther and wider and kind of have more of a cultural impact because people are engaging with it in their own way,” Cirisano says.
And it’s exactly this kind of reach that the Gregory Brothers makes their work accessible to so many.
“You could literally be a hermit. You can have left society for four years or decades. You could come into society. You can be having your first day in society,” Michael says. “Somebody brings you to a laptop and shows you this one video. And I think you would understand and maybe cry it at the beauty that civilization has created while you were gone.”
In this case, the beauty that civilization created was a collaboration between The Gregory Brothers; the host of Recess Therapy, Julian Shapiro-Barnum; and of course, Tariq, who will be getting his own equal split of royalty revenues.
“Our main focus is always and from the beginning has been to make sure that people, the people in viral moments, benefit from the viral moment. I don’t know if that makes me a meme socialist or a meme leftist, but I think that is the best thing,” Michael says.
For some there might be one thing better.