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YouTube musicians rack up millions of views with coronavirus parody songs
With their concerts canceled and social distancing in full effect, some musicians are singing a new tune, creating parody songs about the coronavirus.
A month ago, Jon Pumper was working as a music director for a church and a satirical comedy theater; creating YouTube videos was just a side gig for the Minnesota resident. As COVID-19 cases rapidly spread across the country, things quickly changed.
Self-quarantining in his home since mid-March, Pumper suddenly had an idea.
"A lot of us have been kind of saturated in this doom and gloom, and definitely as a creative I was trying to find a way to come up with something lighthearted, something funny," he says.
One day, "My Corona Home," sung to the tune of the 1988 Beach Boys hit "Kokomo," came to him.
The song describes a serious case of cabin fever, with lines such as, "We're in quarantine, in our own corona homes/ That's where you have to go to stay away from it all."
In another verse, Pumper sings: "Dinners from a can, afternoons coloring with crayons/ It's been 13 seconds since I last went to go wash my hands."
Pumper, who had been saving up for his wedding in the fall, says penning the song - which has racked up more than 1.2 million YouTube views in a matter of weeks, was a rare "moment of joy" in a time of turmoil.
"It was just a moment to escape the seriousness and gravity of the situation. To sit in that for 24 hours when you're locked inside a home, it's just too much."
Singer Chris Mann also found songwriting to be a venting session of sorts, as he recorded "My Corona" in his bathroom on his iPhone with the help of his wife while his 2-year-old slept.
The song from the former "The Voice" contestant - who's toured around the globe and performed for former President Obama - is a spin on the The Knack's 1979 chart-topper "My Sharona."
"I need toilet paper, toilet paper, toilet paper. I'm out of toilet paper - it's my corona," Mann, 37, sings into the camera while sporting a face mask and gloves. The parody song, which he wrote after becoming "very agitated" following a grocery store run four days into his family's quarantine, has garnered more than 5.3 million views and counting on YouTube.
"It's so ridiculous. You know I've been doing this for 20 years, doing really serious music," Mann tells ITK with a laugh. "And now I'm known for singing to toilet paper. It's just the most ironic, weird moment."
Now, Mann's been churning out a coronavirus-inspired tune about once a week on average, including "Hello (from the Inside)," an Adele parody with 9 million views, and a Madonna-esque "Stay Home Vogue." The latest song he debuted on his YouTube channel is an ode to those battling the pandemic, "Thank U Frontline."
The song, set to Alanis Morissette's "Thank U," features a cameo from Mann's dad, who's a pharmacist.
"How about taking a moment to thank the frontline?/ How about thinking of others who can't stay home?" Mann sings from his front stoop in California, as images of health care workers are shown.
Mann says he's received hundreds of thousands of positive comments from fans. Asked what he might tell critics who question whether parody songs during a pandemic are insensitive, he notes that his work is "encouraging responsibility."
"Music can get us through a tough time," the performer says, "and it's never been more clear in my entire career how important music is in culture and times of need."