Who Let the Dogs Out

Ohw who let the dogs out by thebutterfly-d6o70pp.jpg

Date Aired
September 28, 2013
Running Time
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Todd plays "Who Let the Dogs Out" on the piano

A pop song review

Todd: [well...] You wanted it.

Video for "Who Let the Dogs Out"
Rik Carey: Who let the dogs out
Baha Men: Who, who, who, who
Who let the dogs out
Who, who, who, who

Todd (VO): The one-hit wonder label is often associated with outright garbage and stupid novelty songs that everyone hates.

Todd: And it's hard to think of a song in recent memory that more fully matches that description than "Who Let the Dogs Out".

Todd (VO): This song was the first real big hit worldwide smash of the 2000s—a decade which,...

Todd: ...in retrospect, was pretty damn terrible, let's admit it.

Todd (VO): Now this song was inescapable, or at least that's what I'm told. I...I don't actually remember ever hearing it. I mean, I remember people complaining about it incessantly, I remember everyone hating it and making jokes about how much they hated it. Somewhere along the line, "Who Let the Dogs Out" and the band that recorded it, the Baha Men, became our new gold standard of bad music.

Album cover of CunninLynguists - SouthernUnderground, with "Nasty Filthy" playing
DJ: ...just to pour Listerine on your wounds, we're gonna play three full hours of the Baha Men
"Baha Men": Monkey, monkey
Monkey, monkey
Monkey, monkey

Todd: But is it really that bad, when you get right down to it?

Baha Men: Who let the dogs out
Who, who, who, who

Todd (VO): Now surely, out of all the bands that I have to cover, the band that produced "Who Let the Dogs Out" can't be considered anything but a bunch of gibbering idiots, right? Well, as someone who...

Todd: ...honestly has never really had anything against "Who Let the Dogs Out"...

Todd (VO): ...I vow to go into this with an open mind. After all, no group becomes that famous, even famous for being bad, without something to recommend it.

Todd: So let's check out who these Baha Men really were, and once and for all, let's discover...[moving closer in with each word] who... let... the dogs out. Strap in.

Before the hit

Todd: You know, this was just supposed to be a stupid, quickie episode about a stupid band; but holy God, the amount of cultural research I had to do to understand the goddamn "Who Let the Dogs Out" band is staggering.

Video for "Back to the Island"
Singer: Gotta do it

Todd (VO): Okay, so the Baha Men had been around since the [early pictures] early 80s, when they were called High Voltage, which would be a much better name for an [logo for...] AC/DC cover band, which...

Todd: ...I assume is why they changed it.

Todd (VO): In 1991, they became the Baha Men, so called because they're Bahaman. Ba... Bahamanian?

Todd: I think it's Bahamian, actually. Anyway, they're from the Bahamas.

Baha Men: Wake up early one mornin'
Kiss my mama good-bye
Going back to the island
I say, don't worry, mama, don't cry

Todd (VO): Now, every Caribbean island has their own native style of music. [clips of examples, ending with performance at 50th Anniversary of March on Washington] Jamaica has reggae and ska and dance hall, Trinidad had calypso, Cuba has the mambo, the Bahamas' most notable musical vision is called junkanoo. It's named after the Junkanoo Festival, a tradition started when Bahamian slave-owners would give their slaves a few days off from work between Christmas and New Years, and they threw a great big party. Eventually, this became a huge parade like Mardi Gras or Carnivale, and it's an annual tradition in the Bahamas. The music played during the Junkanoo parade became its own genre, and it's very much related to other Bahaman music genres like rake-and-scrape and gumbe, and those are the styles that the Baha Men drew on for their first album.

Video for "Gin and Coconut Water (Jelly)"
Singer: Now this is some real island stuff here, y'all.

Todd (VO): But the Bahamas are also basically half between the Caribbean and the United States, so the Baha Men have always been strongly influenced by American music, too. Most of their first albums is modern updates of accepted Bahamian classics that you have never heard of.

Baha Men: Gin and coconut water
Gin and coconut water
Gin and coconut water
Cannot get it in America

Todd (VO): Obviously, this didn't make it over here to America, but it made them huge stars in the Caribbean. And Japan, weirdly enough, because [shot of Japanese game show] Japan.

Clip from My Father the Hero
Baha Men: Dancing in the moonlight

Todd (VO): They released their second album in 1994, and it has a very nice reggaed-up cover of "Dancing in the Moonlight". And also that year, they featured in a pointless, long-forgotten comedy film called My Father the Hero, the beginning of what turned out to be a long and fruitful career soundtracking terrible family movies.

Todd: Now you may notice that, so far, I have been describing what sounds like [album cover of Kalik] a legitimate band rooted in the proud musical traditions of their culture, and you may be wondering how this could possibly lead to [single cover] "Who Let the Dogs Out". Well, around 1997, the Baha Men entered a new phase of their career—a phase which I like to call [text appears] "hardcore selling out". [Clip of live performance of "That's the Way (I Like It)"] Yep. [Picture of...] Okay, you see this guy? His name's Steve Greenberg, he's a music executive and producer. Mostly, he's responsible for music like this.

Clip of Hanson - "MMMBop"
Hanson: Mmmbop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop

Todd: And this.

Clip of Jonas Brothers - "S.O.S."
Jonas Brothers: This is an S.O.S.
Don't wanna second guess
Footage of 1998 performance of "Get Down Tonight" in Japan

Todd (VO): He's the guy who discovered the Baha Men originally, and around 1997, he gave them a nice, happy, acceptable-for-four-year-olds pop makeover, and also some touring slots opening for Hanson. Not coincidentally, around this time, [pictures of...] the original vocalist also decided it was time to quit the band. He went to go be a backup singer for Lenny Kravitz. And he got replaced by his nephew and two other new guys, all of whom were way younger and thus brought a new style to the group—one more focused [live footage of "That's The Way" continues] towards the hip new sounds all the kids were listening to. So yeah, they went full-on teen pop. And...

Todd: ...it's not like the Baha Men were ever making any dirty gangsta reggae in the first place, you understand?

Todd (VO): No, they sold out hard. And the result was that their sales somehow actually got worse, and both Greenberg and the Baha Men got dropped from the label.

Todd: Now, in a just and sane world, that would be a fitting and worthy end to this story. [Logo for...] But at that point, Greenberg started his own label, S-Curve Records, [picture of band at Billboard Music Awards] and the Baha Men was his first act signed. Their first single was some stupid song I think Greenberg heard on a cruise somewhere.

The big hit

Video for "Who Let the Dogs Out"
"Regis": For one zillion dollars, the question is, who let the dogs out?

Todd: I consider doing these One Hit Wonderland episodes an education for me as much as my viewers.

Security guard: Who let the dogs out? Who let the dogs out?!

Todd: And in doing all this research, I really and truly began to understand for the first time why everyone hates "Who Let the Dogs Out".

Rik: Who let the dogs out
Baha Men: Who, who, who, who
Who let the dogs out
Who, who, who, who

Todd: [unenthusiastic] Who, who, who, who

Baha Men: Who let the dogs out

Todd (VO): Okay, first off, what you need to know is that this is not a Baha Men original; the Baha Men don't really have that many songs of their own.

Todd: No, I wanna take you back to the original song released a couple years earlier. It was called "Doggie" by Trinidadian singer Anslem Douglas.

Clip of performance at 2013 Soca Reggae Festival
Anslem: Who let the dogs out
Who, who, who, who
Who let the dogs out
Who, who, who, who

Todd (VO): Honestly, it doesn't sound all that different from the Baha Men version that you know and...love. (...?) But listening to it, I discovered something I didn't actually realize before.

Anslem: Say, A doggy is nuttin' if he don't have a bone
All doggy hold ya' bone
A doggy is nuttin' if he don't have a bone

Todd: Holy crap, this song is about sex.

Baha Men: Who let the dogs out
Who, who, who, who

Todd (VO): When they say dogs, they mean horndogs, as in dudes crashing your ladies' night. Drooling, barking dogs. You could listen to "Who Let the Dogs Out" a billion times and never pick up on any sexual undertones.

Todd: I think that, more than anything, demonstrates why "Who Let the Dogs Out" grates on people—it's cheap,...

Todd (VO): ...overpolished and annoying. It's the Kidz Bop version of the original, basically. As far as anyone knows, this version may as well just be literally about dogs.

Rik: A doggy is nuttin' if he don't have a bone
Baha Men: All doggy hold ya' bone

Todd (VO): It didn't even chart that high; it only reached #40, which is weird for something that ended up such a huge pop culture touchstone. Like...

Todd: ...I'm told it was popular at...sporting events, I guess.

Todd (VO): I lived many miles away from any major sports teams, so I never heard it. Apparently, it was the theme song for the Mets that year, and the US women's Olympic basketball team, also some commercials. It's a catchphrase far more than it's a song. It's basically just [brief clip of Budweiser commercial] "wazzup!" except three minutes long.

Baha Men: Ooooooohhh!
Who let the dogs out

Todd (VO): Yeah, this is pretty much exactly the kind of pop song people hate—catchy instantly, overplayed by people who accept catchiness alone as their standard of quality. It's...yeah, it's pretty bad. But I can't say it ranks very high on my hate-o-meter. It's certainly nothing I'd ever choose to listen to, and doing this episode, I learned a lot about how irritating...

Todd: ...it is, but at the end of the day, it's just a stupid pop song. It's got a silly, fun little hook, and boy, do they hit that one hook as hard as they can.

Todd (VO): It's just this, like, foghorn screaming at you, demanding that you join them in their quest to discover who let out the dogs.

Todd: Yeah, yeah, sing it with me. [Holding up Kali, singing] Who let the dogs out
Woof, woof, woof

Sing it with me, doggie. Say woof. Say woof, doggie. Say woof. Say it. [Nothing] Useless. [Puts Kali down]

The failed follow-up

Video for "You All Dat"
Jay Siegel: [sampled] Weeheeheehee dee heeheeheehee weeoh aweem away

Todd just sits there

Rik: If you want something
Baha Men: You got it
You all dat
You got it

Todd (VO): In case you can't tell, at this point, the Baha Men had found their new calling—mixing watered-down hip hop tropes and slick but soulless island-inflected music, often using familiar samples that managed to be upbeat and yet deeply annoying when listened to for more than a minute.

Todd: Or, in other words, they became [picture of...] the Caribbean Black Eyed Peas.

Baha Men: You got it
You all dat
You got it
Imani Coppola: Baby, don't turn me away
Rik: I know you hear this fifty times a day
More like fifty-one...
Me and my baby (You got it) was goin' to our own party

Todd: [clapping] Yes, thank you, give it up for the band. Remember, we have water aerobics at 3:00, shuffleboard on the lido deck, and the taco bar is open 24 hours, thank you.

Clip of "Best Years of Our Lives"
Rik: I get such a thrill when you look in my eyes

Todd (VO): After "Who Let the Dogs Out" went big, they sailed their ship full speed ahead in that direction and never looked back. [clips of "Summertime"...] Look, here they are with Aaron Carter; [..."Best Years of Our Lives"...] here they are on the Shrek soundtrack; [...and "Stanley"] and here they are soundtracking some Disney Channel cartoon show.

Stanley: Is that the Baha Men?
Dennis: That's right, Stanley.

Todd (VO): Yep. Dreamworks and Disney.

Video for "Move It Like This"

I don't think they officially became a one-hit wonder until after they released their next album, Move It Like This.

Rik: Uh, we're here to have a party.
[Various "no"s from upper-crust boys]

Todd (VO): Party? Since when do rich frat boys like ourselves know anything about partying?

Baha Men: Can you move it like this
Chorus: I can shake it like that
Baha Men: Can you move it like this
Chorus: I can shake it like that
Baha Men: Can you move it like this
Chorus: I can shake it like that

Todd: Black Eyed Peas of the Caribbean. I don't think there's anything more to say about it.

Did they ever do anything else?

Todd: Way, way, way too much.

Clip of "Holla!"

Todd (VO): For a band that never really had another hit, they kept popping back up in pop culture, mostly on the backs of terrible, terrible family movies. Garfield: The Movie, Disney's Around the World in 80 Days, and my personal favorite, [clip of...] a cover of Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" from the Crocodile Hunter movie.

Steve Irwin: When it comes to the movie, The Crocodile Hunter's Collision Course, crocs rule. But when it comes to music, the Baha Men rock! Woo-hoo!
It's Friday night!
Just grab a croc and hold on tight, man!
Crile rocking was the way to put things right

Todd: You would not have known about that if I didn't just show that to you. You're welcome.

Clip of live performance

Todd (VO): Look, they became a children's group at this point, like The Wiggles or Raffi. They showed up over and over again covering Disney songs because that's what they do now. Oh, and also, I would be remiss if I didn't share with you this masterpiece.

Todd: Their cover of Harry Nilsson's "Put the Lime in the Coconut".

Album cover of Move It Like This
Baha Men: Put the lime in the coconut
Then drink it all up
You put the lime in the coconut
Then drink it all up
You put the lime in the coconut

Todd: This should not exist.

Todd (VO): They released their last album in 2004. I...I can't really tell if they're still together or not. They...they released a grand total of two other songs over the past nine years. Ah...maybe they're hiding out of shame. But they're still basically the premier group of the Bahamas. The Bahamian culture industry has apparently produced jack squat since "Who Let the Dogs Out" came out, so there's nothing really to replace them.

Todd: Paw tells me that when he went to the Bahamas, the Baha Men were pretty much all they played.

Did they deserve better?

Todd: Um...in a better world, they would be famous for things other than what they're famous for.

Baha Men: Who let the dogs out
Who, who, who, who

Todd (VO): Look, they tried being authentic and respectable, got them nowhere; you can't blame them for cashing in when they did. But yeah, the Baha Men were a worthwhile group once, then they made their Faustian bargain and became the walking punchline they are now. I don't hate "Who Let the Dogs Out" as much as its reputation suggests I should, but...yeah, yeah, no, I'd really rather not.

Todd: [picking up Kali] Isn't that right, puppy? Who wants to go for a walk? Who wants to go out? Who's so cute? Okay, let's take you out, puppy.

Gets up and leaves with Kali

Baha Men: Who let the dogs out
Who, who, who, who
Who let the dogs out
Who, who, who, who

Closing tag song: "Who Let the Cat Out"

"Who Let the Dogs Out" is owned by S-Curve Records
This video is owned by me

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