- A trend on TikTok juxtaposes images of animals with the lyrics of Raffi’s “Bananaphone.”
- The meme format appears to have originated in a 2020 Reddit post before spreading on TikTok in June.
- “Bananaphone” exploded online in 2004 and has experienced sustained online popularity since.
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“Bananaphone,” an iconic 1994 children’s song by the singer Raffi and writer-producer Michael Creber, is having yet another meme resurgence – this time, on TikTok.
The song has a long history of resurging online, particularly on YouTube. Now, the TikTok iteration juxtaposes animals with their own banana phones.
For the uninitiated, “Bananaphone” is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a song about a banana that is also a phone. It’s full of banana-related puns like, “it’s a phone with a-peel!”
The current TikTok trend associated with the song uses its chorus, in which Raffi (whose real name is Raffi Cavoukian) sings, “Ring ring ring ring ring ring ring, ‘bananaphone’ (boop-boo-ba-doo-ba-doop)!”
Users flip a still image of an animal – typically a pet, but sometimes a stuffed animal – back and forth to the rhythm of those lyrics. When Raffi sings “bananaphone,” an image of a banana appears as the animal’s phone.
When the “boop-boo-ba-doo-ba-doop” moment hits, TikTok videos following the trend cut to a video of the animal doing something funny.
@queenofcaffeine beans loves bananas ##cat ##bananaphone ##kitten ##fyp ##foryou
@fxnnmchxgh everyone complement annie in the comments pls she’s a good dog ##bananaphone ##dog ##puppy ##cute ##greenscreen ##greenscreenvideo
This ‘Bananaphone’ meme rendition appeared on Reddit first
This particular version of the trend doesn’t appear to have actually started on TikTok, but can be traced back to a Reddit post made by u/haiiid2 on the r/okbuddyretard subreddit, a Reddit meme page with over 913,000 subscribers. In 2020, that user posted a video edit with the same format that TikTok users are following now.
Comments on the original Reddit post seem to indicate that the video spread to meme pages on Instagram and there are multiple re-uploads of it on YouTube as well.
The format appears to have first popped up on anime and video game corners of TikTok in early June, with people posting edits involving animated characters from shows like “Bungou Stray Dogs”, “Toilet-bound Hanako-kun,” and “Neon Genesis Evangelion.”
The next week, in mid-June, the trend spread to the fandom for “Genshin Impact,” an extremely popular gacha video game, which is a genre that incentivizes players to purchase in-game items with virtual currency. At the same time, a version of the trend featuring stuffed animals spread among animal-focused accounts.
Around June 15, the trend began to pick up stream in more mainstream TikTok communities, with people using images of real animals rather than anime or gaming characters.
@bandaidbonez ring ring ring ring ring eign rign ##greenscreen ##greenscreenvideo ##bananaphone
‘Bananaphone’ has a storied online history
“Bananaphone” is one of Raffi’s most well-known songs, but it’s particularly popular in online meme culture.
In one example, a viral animation featured a Gundam – a mecha, a giant robot, from the popular anime franchise of the same name – and a character from the manga series “Azumanga Daioh.” Another was a flash cartoon originally uploaded to Newgrounds, a pre-YouTube video-sharing site, in May 2004. Both viral videos were soundtracked by “Bananaphone” and featured banana phone imagery.
The song had continued popularity on YouTube in the 2000s, sparking several videos that have millions of views to date. One video with 22 million views, uploaded in June 2007, matches images and animations to the song’s lyrics. Another parody that uses animated models of the “Potter Puppet Pals” (a “Harry Potter” puppet-based YouTube series) characters also amassed millions of views.
While TikTok’s “Bananaphone” trend is relatively simple, it demonstrates how a ’90s children’s song remains one of the longest-running meme anthems in online culture.