How a 'Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen' earworm took over the internet

By Heather Chen
BBC News

  • Published
ScreengrabImage source, Piko-Taro
Image caption,
What a time to be alive

You are about to witness viral history in the making and none of it will make any sense to you.

Infectiously-catchy earworm 'PPAP' (short for Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen') was performed by animal print-clad DJ Piko-Taro, a fictional character played by Japanese entertainer Kazuhiko Kosaka.

And it goes like this:

"I have a pen. I have an apple. Apple-pen!

I have a pen. I have [a] pineapple. Pineapple-pen!

Apple-pen. Pineapple-pen. Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen."

But how did the 40-year-old DJ come up with such a bizarre song about fusing a pen with an apple and a pineapple?

"When I was making this music with play, I was [just] singing it too soon," the newly-crowned internet star explained in a tweet to fans from an account created for his newly-coined character.

Image source, Science Photo Library
Image caption,
The humble pineapple is the focus of this bizarre catchy tune

Why has it gone viral?

It has all the ingredients for a viral video formula: an addictive beat, silly lyrics and a hilariously simple dance routine to back it up.

And it was only a matter of time before the minute-long song, first uploaded onto Piko-Taro's official YouTube channel, quickly spread to Facebook.

While the original video has gone on to amass more than 4m views, entertainment portal 9GAG's Facebook video surpassed that to draw more than 44m views.

Image source, Twitter: Pikotaro
Image caption,
'I have a pen... I have an apple...'

One man's catchy viral song may be another man's burden

"I'm ruined - I will never get this song out of my head," lamented Facebook user Carlos Andrés Silva in a comment.

Nelson Rivera Adrian Paige agreed, voicing concern for the number of times he has looped the video. "I am both highly amused as well as extremely confused."

Other users like Daniel Hou who watched the video pointed out Piko-Taro's unique wardrobe.

"Am I the only one who noticed that this guy is the real-life version of Borsalino [Kizaru] from One Piece," he said, drawing reference to the popular flamboyantly-dressed manga-anime character.

But one man's catchy viral song may prove to be another's jarring burden.

"Please stop sharing this annoying song, it's exploded on my feed and is driving me up the wall because it's so irritating to listen to," said Facebook user Hiro Kenshida in a plea.

But who is it really for?

At time of writing, few mainstream Japanese news sites have covered this particular earworm, even though it has been widely picked up internationally. It has not particularly trended on Japanese social media.

He has already been dubbed the next Psy and it could even be that this was precisely what was in mind - one catchy ditty, pushed by digital influencers but with the precise aim of becoming a global phenomenon.

Image source, Facebook: 9GAG
Image caption,
Who wore it better: Borsalino of Japan's famed One Piece manga-anime series or Piko-Taro?

But the hype did not stop there.

Then the imitations began

Hundreds of tributes and covers of Piko-Taro's tune have also appeared on Facebook, each gaining cult followings of their own.

Many Japanese stars, including popular duo Riko and Rika, came up with vines of their own.

There's even been a heavy metal tribute as well as a cover from Thai social media star Happy Polla.

What a time to be alive.