How ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ and a Dancing Chicken Nugget Took Over TikTok

cotton eye joe Chicken Nugget with a roblox face and cowboy hat over tiktok and youtube logos
Cotton Eye Joe Chicken Nugget Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock Mehaniq/Shutterstock

Razi Irawani has always wanted to be an actor. While waiting for the perfect role, which to him would be Kuzcoo in a live-action remake of the “Emporer’s New Groove,” he started a TikTok account in 2015, posting skits and musical videos. The Iraqi-born creator living in Denmark broke out on the platform, pulling in seven million subscribers and hundreds of millions of views. 

But one June day, his father-in-law sent him a link to “Cotton Eye Joe,” a dance party anthem from the mid-90s, and challenged him to make his own version of the song.

He created a skat-like language spoofing the erratic nature of the original Swedish band, Rednex. Dressing in a hat and mustache inspired by a forgotten “Tom and Jerry” character, he shot and edited the video in around an hour.

“I didn’t expect much, I just forgot about it,” Irawani told Passionfruit. “But then two weeks later, I saw it going mega-viral, and people started tagging me in videos where my face is on a chicken nugget.” 

Chicken Nugget, Cotton Eye Joe

In an odd set of circumstances that could only happen online, a now-deleted meme account posted a video of a chicken nugget with the face of a Roblox character dancing to Irawani’s remix in September 2023.

Over the next few months, the song started to mutate across social media. Now known as “Gadagadigadagado,” it often appears in TikToks and YouTube videos aimed at a younger demographic. Included in Roblox compilations and deep-lored stories of other foods in cowboy hats reminiscent of Skibidi Toilet, the song has billions of views.    

“It was a special voice that hit in the brain of kids and they think, okay, this is something we love,” Irawani said.

By mid-March 2024, the remix was getting one to three billion views a month just on YouTube. It soon caught the attention of Rednex, the Swedish electro dance group behind the original song.

Ranis Edenberg, who described himself as the “boss” and “music producer” of the band to Passionfruit, said that originally they “didn’t think that much of it.” It just had a “humor” in the “complete disrespect of the lyrics,” as if a “fool just wanted to sing along anyway.” 

But there was a magic to its absurdity, capturing the essence of the tune that’s been popular at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs over the past three decades. Like “Crazy Frog” or the “Gummy Bear Song,” there’s a childlike wonder to the remix that just scratches that certain part of your brain.

Instead of ringtones or radio play, modern children’s anthems thrive in weirder videos recommended by an algorithm built for watch time. 

“You know how kids are, they love to watch the same thing over and over,” Edenberg said. “It’s actually insane that it can get six billion views this year.” 

Where Did You Come From?

Irawani and the band made an arrangement, partnering to work together on the song rather than sue each other in a petty squabble. The pair agreed to a revenue-sharing deal (though Irawani wouldn’t share specifics) and signed over the master recording.

They’ve already created a music video together and the song will be hitting Spotify in the next few weeks. According to Edneberg, he expects more than “half a million dollars to all royalty takers” on YouTube.

Somehow, in the early 90s, Rednex ended up with a CD from an Irish folk song group belting a tune from the American 1800s. Adapted for the modern age, Rednex’s “Cotton Eye Joe” has been a smash hit since its release in 1994. Edenberg said it has made the group at least “$100 million or something.” Now, their song is evolving for the next young generation.

“There is this unrestrained party spirit that comes into you when the track comes on,” Edenberg said. “There is no attitude, other than to just let loose, throw your hat in the air, and spit on the floor. You don’t have to behave correctly just fucking let loose and be in the moment.” 

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