Why Is Everyone Singing Sea Shanties?! Here's the Scoop on the TikTok Trend

Kelly O'Sullivan
·2 min read

From The Pioneer Woman

If someone had asked us to predict 2021's hottest trends, singing sea shanties probably definitely would not have been on our list.

Yet here we are, wondering what to do with a drunken sailor early in the mornin'. And, unless you happen to be a seaman from the 1800s or a frequent TikTok user, you probably haven't the faintest idea.

Keep reading to find answers to all your questions about sea shanties that none of us ever thought we'd be asking!

What are sea shanties?

A sea shanty is a type of song that was popular on board large sailing vessels, like merchant and whaling ships, in the 1700s and 1800s. Shantymen (yes, those were a thing) would lead the other crew members in song while they worked.

Photo credit: Print Collector
Photo credit: Print Collector

As you'll soon find out, sea shanties are undeniably catchy—but back in the day, they served an important purpose beyond entertainment. Whether the crew was hoisting sails or hauling nets, the rhythmic beat of a sea shanty would help pace the task and keep everyone working in time with each other. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a shantyman was an essential part of a ship's crew, and a good one "was worth four extra hands on the rope."

Who is responsible for this?

Shantymen, obviously. But the sudden revival of sea shanties can be directly linked to Gen Z's favorite social platform: TikTok.

According to KnowYourMeme.com, "sea shanties" began growing popular on TikTok after multiple popular vocalists on the platform began inviting others to participate in duets with traditional music."

The earliest shanty singalongs can be traced back to July 2020, but the trend really took off when Scottish singer Nathan Evans posted a video of himself singing "The Scotsman" on TikTok in late December.

Since then, professional vocalists and amateur singers alike have flooded the platform with their own rousing renditions of traditional folk songs. One of the most popular, for reasons unknown, is called "Wellerman."

If you've somehow found yourself singing along, you're not alone.

Seriously—everyone is doing it.

Why are sea shanties so popular?

Your guess is as good as ours. Why does anything become popular? Probably because people are bored and, honestly, this is pretty entertaining.

Sure, songs about whales and rum and drunken sailors are a far cry from the pop hits that typically accompany TikTok trends—but we're not here to judge. Maybe a big nautical singalong is exactly what the world needs right now!

What do you do with a drunken sailor early in the mornin'?

Well, first you shave his belly with a rusty razor. Then you put him in a long boat till he's sober. And if that still doesn't work, then—per the song lyrics—you stick him in a scupper with a hosepipe bottom.

Sorry, we don't make the rules!