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The ‘Corn Kid’ is a grim reminder of the internet’s exploitative affair with marketing gimmicks

Be it the iconic Disaster Girl or the Double Rainbow Guy, the concept of ‘viral sensations’ pretty much had a one-track mind in the webcore age of internet 1.0. Back then, meme-worthy reactions were celebrated and quickly moved on from as another replaced them. In 2022, however, one does not simply become an internet star without falling into the consequential rabbit hole of branded content strategies.

Such is the case of Tariq, the ‘CEO of Corn’ who undoubtedly made the internet a better place by expressing his deep love for—you guessed it—corn.

Who is Tariq the Corn Kid?

Tariq, also known as the ‘Corn Kid’ or ‘Corn Child’, debuted across social media platforms when he was first interviewed by Recess Therapy, a chaotically-wholesome web series hosted by actor and comedian Julian Shapiro-Barnum. Dubbed as the internet-friendly version of Bill Cosby’s Kids Say the Darndest Things, the series essentially documents casual chats with children between the ages of two and nine in New York City—sporting over two million followers on Instagram.

It was 4 August 2022 that the internet was first introduced to Tariq’s poetic obsession with corn, which he so happened to be eating at the time Shapiro-Barnum interviewed him at Brooklyn’s Smogasburg, an open-air food market in Prospect Park.

“Ever since I was told that corn was real, it tasted good. But when I tried it with butter, everything changed! I love corn,” Tariq was heard saying as he adorably chomped down on his ear. “Look at this thing! I can’t imagine a more beautiful thing!”

The boy then concluded the interview with a sitcom-style outro by stating, “I hope you guys have a corntastic day!” What? It’s a nice little pun about “cowne,” okay?

When the video of the hilarious exchange was uploaded to Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter, it went viral in no time—garnering over 23 million views on Instagram alone. Corn Kid became an iconic king who “restored faith in humanity” as netizens swore to “protect him at all costs.” At a time of uncertainties, Tariq essentially reminded the internet of the little things in life which struck a wholesome chord with many.

The controversial legacy of the Corn Kid

Shortly after Tariq floored our FYPs and hearts alike, netizens all across the world started expressing their own love for corn by incorporating the starchy vegetable into everything from breakfast recipes and wardrobes to tuft rugs and even computer keyboards.

Then, on 19 August 2022, Michael Gregory—a creator who is part of the musical group The Gregory Brothers that whips up absolute bangers by editing and adding autotune to news broadcasts—uploaded a catchy remix of the Corn Kid’s viral dialogues to TikTok. Dubbed ‘Corn but it becomes a song and unites world’, his rendition has garnered 58.6 million views with over 348,000 videos to its credit on the platform today.

Safe to say, the bop has now become the official anthem for ‘corn boy summer’.

@schmoyoho

intro song for any meal/snack with corn 🌽 - from iconic interview on @doingthings

♬ It's Corn - Tariq & The Gregory Brothers & Recess Therapy

But 22 seconds wasn’t nearly long enough to convey Tariq’s love for corn. On 29 August, The Gregory Brothers dropped an almost three-minute song titled ‘It’s Corn’.

“Hey folks! We’re so excited to announce that, in partnership with Tariq, his family and @gregorybrothers—we’ve launched ‘It’s Corn’, the official song of this crazy corntastic moment we all created together! All proceeds are being split with Tariq and his family. So, please support and give it a listen! It’s streaming everywhere💕🌽” Recess Therapy captioned a TikTok post featuring clips of the music video.

Although much of the internet was enthralled with the banger hitting Spotify and Apple Music, some users started casting their doubt on the ethical division of royalties. “On Spotify, Tariq is only listed as a performer, not a writer, when the lyrics are his,” one user commented. “This should be amended for obvious and financial reasons.” Another user hoped the caption was a typo. “Because I think most people know having credits on the lyrics is far more lucrative than performing credits,” they admitted.

“Give him his writing credits, y’all are actually insane to not do this from the get [go],” a third wrote, while a fourth mentioned: “There are already covers. This kid needs a lawyer.”

Over the course of a month, Tariq’s words have been tapped and, dare I say, commodified, by brands and hyper-accelerated marketing culture alike. To date, several companies and organisations like DashMart and Feeding America have jumped on the exploitative bandwagon and that’s just a scratch on the grim surface of things. Heck, he’s even been featured in a Chipotle advert designed just to go viral on Twitter.

“Marketing gurus are using the video to outline content marketing strategies on LinkedIn,” Know Your Meme wrote in an explainer article. “The San Francisco Chronicle is attempting to piggyback off the video’s success to promote restaurants that serve corn. Music blog Consequence of Sound is making Taylor Swift album announcement parodies with Tariq’s monologue.”

It should also be noted that Tariq has joined Cameo, a website that lets you hire public figures to create personalised videos that make “memorable gifts.” According to the Daily Mail, Tariq allegedly charges $140 per video, $700 per business video and $3 for a single message. The University of Nebraska, whose team name is the ‘Cornhuskers’, also purchased a Cameo from Tariq on 25 August that has now racked up over 14,300 likes on Twitter.

At the other end of the conversation, however, many have criticised the ethics of a child appearing on the platform. “We saw an adorable kid, Cameo saw a market,” a user commented on the platform’s TikTok announcement about the addition of the new star. “The money better be going to the kid, not the parents,” another wrote, as others wondered why there is a need to “capitalise” on his joy in the first place.

@cameo

Most wholesome thing on the internet arrived on Cameo. Corn Kid for president. #cornkid

♬ original sound - Cameo

On 25 August, Tariq also made a second appearance on Recess Therapy where some noted how his contagiously-innocent vibes were completely different and felt “forced,” as opposed to the authentic joy he expressed in the original video. “Bro’s fed up with corn now,” a netizen commented, highlighting how he was seemingly immersed in a self-conscious air this time around.

“The organic magic of the original video is missing, leaving behind a video that feels like a fanservice-filled reboot of a classic,” Know Your Meme went on to note.

Collectively, Tariq’s case links back to the time viral TikTok dances choreographed by black creators were quickly co-opted by white influencers—who, in turn, reaped all the financial gains and went on to have massive careers of their own without crediting the original dancers. On these terms, NYLON also mentioned that The Gregory Brothers is a musical group featuring all-white members.

At the same time, the publication noted how the discourse in question has risen only after Tariq’s family tried to monetise on his wholesome obsession with corn—despite brands doing so since the viral clip started having the internet in a progressive chokehold.

At the end of the day, Tariq is a kernel of truth reminding us of the internet’s exploitative relationship with marketing gimmicks and the questionable concept of “repurposed” content that will continue to milk the heck out of unadulterated joy down to the very last penny.

What makes or breaks a TikTok sound? A look into the best bops and biggest flops

Since its inception, TikTok has provided us with tons of memes, viral dances and questionable beauty trends—has anyone actually tried vabbing? Moreover, the platform has also reassured us that clocking off at the end of the working day with a simple ‘Hehe bye’ is formal enough. Each of these TikTok creations live happily in our own personal For You Page (FYP), patiently waiting for their time to shine.

One of the most explosive forms of content that’s found its home on the video-sharing app has been original and, let’s say, eccentric songs, with most having been based off of already-viral audio clips. In order to help you gain a better understanding as to why this phenomenon is so popular, we’ve compiled a list of the very biggest bops and flops the TikTok sphere has brought us so far—and why some have landed a special place in netizens’ hearts, while others simply didn’t.

The bops

Let’s begin on a positive note, literally.

1. ‘It’s corn’

We couldn’t possibly start off this list without mentioning the song that is currently stuck in everyone’s mind. Uploaded to TikTok on 19 August 2022, the self-titled ‘It’s corn’ remix has quickly become the internet’s favourite food related bop of the year and is undoubtedly one of the most popular audio clips ever to circulate the video-sharing platform. 

This unique tune was created in homage to a viral interview that was shared on the platform on 4 August by popular TikTok account Recess Therapy. The account hosts a number of clips formatted in the ‘guy with a microphone’ interview style that has become increasingly popular on the app. The host, Julian Shapiro-Barnum, asks various children between the ages of two and nine for their advice, insight and, of course, food recommendations.

In the interview that inspired the song about corn, Shapiro-Barnum chats with a young boy about his new found obsession. The boy exclaims, “I really like corn, ever since I was told that corn was real, it tasted good!” He then goes on to have a mouth-watering revelation, declaring “when I tried it with butter, everything changed!”

This is where meme music enthusiasts schmoyoho enters the chat. The popular account is run by The Gregory Brothers, a quartet who specialise in producing comedic music. Having previously broken the internet with their rendition of ‘Chrissy, wake up!’, they turned their attention to something slightly different this time.

By simply adding a few backing vocals, guitar notes and a piano, schmoyoho produced an unforgettable banger. The video has already amassed over 4.6 million likes and is trending on every major social media platform. Stranger Things actress Grace Van Dien—who played the infamous Chrissy of season four—even deemed the sensation tweet-worthy, simply writing, “it’s CORN.”

@schmoyoho

intro song for any meal/snack with corn 🌽 - from iconic interview on @doingthings

♬ It's Corn - Tariq & The Gregory Brothers & Recess Therapy

2. ‘I wanna go home’

Next up is a classic fan-favourite, ‘I wanna go home’. First uploaded onto TikTok by a meme page in May 2022, the sound went viral almost immediately, clearly resonating with introverts across the globe.

@esosaadun1

😂🙄 #esosaadun

♬ original sound - ESOSA||CONTENT CREATOR

The sound bite originates from the track ‘It’s a Holiday’ by Nigerian gospel group, Destined Kids. Of course, we’re sure they could have never predicted the viral potential of this song—especially considering the rather emotional nature of the lyrics.

And yet, it’s become one of the most used sounds on the platform, with the original video having received over 2.5 million views at the time of writing.

The most viral videos that use the ‘I wanna go home’ audio tap into feelings we all can relate to. Scenarios such as: when your friendship group is expecting a big night out, and you’re just watching the clock, waiting to get back to your bed. Or even worse: that moment after you’ve eaten a big meal and you wish you were able to instantaneously teleport home and slide into some pyjama bottoms.

3. ‘Internet drama pt. 1 (Is this available?)’

‘Is this available?’ is potentially one of the most mesmorising bops we’ve been blessed with. In 2020, Canadian singer, musician, and video producer Lubalin shared an unusual-yet-brilliant musical rendition of a Facebook Marketplace interaction gone wrong, and TikTok absolutely loved it.

In what can only be described as hauntingly beautiful, Lubalin recites a text conversation between two individuals. The conversation begins as you would expect, with someone reaching out over text to enquire about a Marketplace offer. However, this soon escalates into an incredibly confusing, albeit hilarious, disagreement when one of the individuals decides they no longer want to be contacted.

The final message in the chat warns, “I’m no longer interested. Please stop contacting me now. I will contact the Attorney General if you do not stop.” We’re assuming their ‘Do Not Disturb’ button was broken.

@lubalin

that escalated quickly... #sodramatic #humor #oldpeoplefacebook #boomer #musician #producer

♬ original sound - Lubalin

This TikTok sound can only be described as if an online text disagreement was set to the soundtrack of ‘Bring Me to Life’ by Evanescence, it’s no surprise that the 90s rock band is currently experiencing an online renaissance and resurgence in popularity.

The flops

It’s nothing personal…

1. ‘He’s a 10’

Sadly, not everything produced for the platform can go viral—‘He’s a 10’ is one of these examples. Produced by singer Jaymmac, it was inspired by the June 2022 trend of the same name which consisted of people filming themselves either alone or with friends, contemplating how someone might appear a 10 but in reality they’ve most likely got a couple of noteworthy ‘icks’.

Some viral examples of this trend have been: “He’s a 10, but he listens to alpha male podcasts—ok he’s immediately a 2” or “He’s a 10, but he only posts me on his ‘close friends’.” You get the idea.

Jammac’s song doesn’t subtly hint at the trend—it literally participates in it. The opening lyrics read, “He’s a 10, but he only lasts a minute in bed. He’s a 9, but every time he always asks about my friend.”

@jaymmac

#fyp #hesa10but #hesa10 how many can we get!!!

♬ HesATen - Jaymmac

In 2021, American singer GAYLE received similar criticism for her song ‘abcdefu’. This cheesy style of music has often been attacked by gen Z netizens who seem far more interested in the Vine-esque, meme-like audios. There’s a reason ‘It’s Corn’ did so well…

2. ‘I like you, have a cupcake’

Last but not least, let us present you with the audio that drilled its way into our minds and then resolutely refused to leave. Based on the ‘I like you, have a cupcake’ excerpt taken from the animated show Fish Hooks that aired on Disney Channel during the 2010s the sound was predominantly used by TikTokers to publicly declare their love for certain celebrities. In the clip shown below, Chris Evans’ wide array of hair styles appear to be the object of a fan’s affection.

@chrisevanssonsgf

buzzcut, beard, long hair vs. mustache chris… #chrisevans #fyp #chrisevansbiteme #fishhooks

♬ i like you have a cupcake_fish hooks - ___

But you know what they say, ‘all that glitters is not gold’—after a while, the audio began to rattle some cages. Not long after it trended, a number of content creators included the clip in their ‘worst ever TikTok sounds’ listicles.

While ‘I like you, have a cupcake’ is far from unbearable, it fails to satisfy the ‘brain itch’ other adversaries have managed to tickle so well. Guess netizens will have to find a new trend to hop on in order to declare their love to Evans’ hairdo.