Viral TikTok Song 'If I Were a Fish' Is a Joyous Call for Acceptance
The song “If I Were a Fish,” by Nashville-based songwriter corook, is a weird, joyous song that likens its narrator to a fish, a rock, and a sock. It is also a deeply serious anthem of belonging, and what it’s like to always feel like an outsider.
The song came about when corook, the stage name of Corinne Savage B.M. ’17 who studied songwriting and contemporary writing and production at Berklee, was at an emotional low. The artist, who identifies as nonbinary, confided to their partner, Olivia Barton B.M. ’18, that they didn’t feel like they fit society’s mold enough to be fully accepted. This feeling was compounded when, upon release of a new song, internet trolls did their worst. Barton’s advice was to feel all the feelings, and then let their weirdness come out in a song.
Savage told Barton that they sometimes feel like a fish, the kind of rare specimen that anyone who caught it would instantly recognize its singular beauty. As a human, why is it so hard to be accepted for that same rare quality? This was the inspiration they needed. “After feeling through it, we wrote this song in 10 minutes to remember the joy in being different,” Savage said.
Listen to the full version of "If I Were a Fish" by corook, and featuring Olivia Barton:
When the song was released on TikTok, the internet course-corrected in the best way possible. With currently over 15 million views and 2.5 million likes, the deceptively simple tune has gone viral, inspiring hordes of covers and reactions that run the gamut from adorable—such as a girls choir in Texas—to cathartic displays of emotion from those who, like Savage, have not felt like their rareness has been understood by society. The song has since been extended from its original 49-second version to a full-length song that’s now available on all major streaming platforms, and has led to corook booking their first shows as a headliner.
“I think there’s a mass amount of people on the internet screaming into the void, and none of us are sure if we’re hearing each other. I think that for some reason, this song, everybody feels heard by.”
The brilliance of the song lies in its ability to win you over with its apparent simplicity. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar, the song brings to mind the protest folk of Woody Guthrie and the quirky intimacy of “Anyone Else but You” by the Moldy Peaches (and immortalized in the 2007 film Juno). But by the time the chorus hits, the emotional gut punch lands: “Why is everyone on the internet so mean?” Why is everyone so afraid of things they’ve never seen?”
“I think there’s a mass amount of people on the internet screaming into the void, and none of us are sure if we’re hearing each other,” Savage told the Boston Globe. “I think that for some reason, this song, everybody feels heard by.”
While it risks sentimentality to say, "If I Were a Fish" is a testament to the power of music to shift and reshape culture. What began as a way to feel less alone has led to the overwhelming truth that we are truly not the only fish in the sea.