This year has already gotten off to a strange start, and now, what CNET calls another "unexpected development": #ShantyTok. Meaning, TikTok has been inundated by sea shanties, work songs crooned by sailors in centuries past on merchant vessels. The origin of the fad appears to be traceable to Nathan Evans, a 26-year-old mailman who lives near Glasgow, Scotland, and who on Dec. 27 uploaded a version of himself singing "Soon May the Wellerman Come" (aka "The Wellerman"), a 19th-century New Zealand folk song. "It went wild. I don't really know what happened," Evans says of the tune that kicked off the current craze, as well as others he's posted. Now, TikTokkers are uploading their own remixes of Evans' songs, adding instrumentation and harmonies, as well as their own shanties. #ShantyTok has also been trending online.
No one's really sure why the trend has had such mass appeal, though CNET speculates it's just a feel-good balm in turbulent times. Folk musician David Coffin—who nitpicks and tells the New York Times that "The Wellerman" isn't really a sea shanty, but "a whaling song with the beat of a shanty"—agrees. "It's not the beauty of the song that gets people. It's the energy," he says, adding: "You don't have to be a trained singer to sing ... it. You're not supposed to sing pretty." Evans just knows this type of music makes him feel good. "For me, it's quite therapeutic," he tells CNET. For what it's worth, the melodious mailman, whose TikTok follower count has jumped from 45,000 last month to around 350,000 now, doesn't just do Scottish tunes—he also performs covers of pop songs, and now that he's gaining a fair bit of fame, he's become brave enough to show off some original material. (Read more TikTok stories.)