The Mario Theme Meme’s Enduring Appeal

Mario is like the R.E.M. of Internet memes. While most memes Rickroll out of nowhere, take over our collective consciousness, only to evaporate almost as quickly, performing cover versions of the Super Mario theme song seems to endure. Like R.E.M., Mario has achieved and maintained a certain level of fame without crossing over into the realm of overdone fad.

Mario Theme Played with RC Car and Bottles – Watch more free videos

What re-ignited my interest in the mighty little plumber’s music was a recent post on BoingBoing that showed the theme song being played by an RC car thwacking a series of bottles filled with liquid. The result is pretty amazing, and the fact that it got 951,401 plays in just two days shows how popular Mario remains.

But the practice of playing the theme and sharing it online goes way back (well, way back in Internet time).

There’s the guy who plays the theme on the bass was uploaded to YouTube on Jan. 10, 2006 (1,266,856 plays):

A beatbox version was uploaded a little over a week later on Jan. 18, 2006 (472,882 plays):

Not satisfied with the song being played on just one guitar, a young Zack Kim played the theme on TWO guitars and uploaded it on June 26, 2006 (10,621,146 plays!):

Two guitars? Pshaw! That’s easy. This guy played it blindfolded on the piano (Liz tells me this isn’t impressive, but I don’t care, he can’t see the keys!) and uploaded it July 17, 2006 (480,377 plays):

The piano playing provides a nice segue to another classical instrument. User freedomworksfilms uploaded his flute/beatbox combo on Dec. 17, 2006 (8,646,196 plays):

But who needs real instruments — or any real music ability — when you’ve got Guitar Hero 2? YouTuber boxxy27 created a custom version of the Mario theme in the game and uploaded it on Feb. 8, 2007 (2,481,913 plays):

Mario has two elements that make it an appealing song to cover. First, it’s ubiquitous. Everyone knows Mario and if even they haven’t played it, they’re familiar with its signature style (the song is currently No. 2 on the Billboard hot ringtone charts, and has been on there for 182 weeks). So you have a large built-in audience.

Second, the song is simple. That isn’t a knock against it, the ditty fit with the game (and technology available at the time), but it lacks heavy orchestration, vocals, blue notes or syncopated rhythms that would make it difficult to learn.

Oh, and the song is just plain catchy. Maybe R.E.M. should do a cover version.