Most of the time, a meme spotted in the wild sticks with you for a couple of seconds before you scroll down your timeline, and move onto the next piece of content. Other times, it haunts you. That’s how I feel about “toad sings chandelier,” a video that has not left my thoughts since it was passed to me earlier this week.
The video’s premise is there in the title: Sia’s 2014 hit “Chandelier,” sung in the style of Super Mario character Toad. Super Mario characters are rarely given extended speaking time — likely the most you’ve ever heard from Toad is the shrill yelping he lets loose on the Mario Kart race track, the repeated imitation of which is an excellent way to permanently alienate your friends and family. A full three and a half minutes of Toad going for Sia’s high notes stretches the imagination completely, especially when he hits the whistle tone on the chorus that sound like a dialup modem having sex with another dialup modem. The first time I heard it, my chest was going to collapse from laughing, and while I’ve mostly recovered, I never really will.
This is not the product of the actual Toad, of course, who is voiced by some heroic soul whose name I would prefer not to know. This is the work of Melancholiaah, a Houston-based musician who uploaded the Toad cover as a gag more than a year ago, and watched it take off this week. Since then, she’s dropped “toad sings shallow,” along with “toad sings all i want for christmas is you,” which follow the previously uploaded “toad sings bohemian rhapsody,”“toad sings let it go,” and “toad sings that hit or miss song for only 20 seconds.” All of these are excellent, and haunting in their own right, but I think the splitting sound of “toad sings chandelier” is the sound my brain will produce when my synapses finally sputter out into heat death.
To get an idea of how this came about, I reached out to Melancholiaah on Twitter. Answers have been edited for clarity.
The Outline: Why did you decide to try singing songs like Toad?
Melancholiaah: My friends and I have always been fans of “character sings” type videos. “Kermit sings,” “Toad sings,” “Karl from Jimmy Neutron sings” — if there’s one out there we watched it and cried to it. On a fateful mini road trip together we all just banded together to sing whatever was on like Toad; I’m pretty sure it was “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. Suddenly, everyone was like “Oh, you’re good at this.” So I decided to start making covers just for me and my small group of friends to laugh at initially, but soon found all my online friends like them just as much, then found out so did everyone else.
Did you experiment with any other characters?
Not really! I can do a pretty rad Pikachu, but not sing like it. I do small voice acting projects online though and help out wherever I can with my friends and their personal projects though, so I’m pretty versatile with my own voice!
How did you settle on him?
Sometimes, you just know who your soulmate is. In all actuality, I have always been a screamer. Outside of Toad stuff, my music endeavours go under the name “Melancholiaah” which has always stood for something along the lines of “I am always feeling melancholic and am screaming through it all.” I love growling and screaming in my actual concerts, so it was only natural I resonate with a screaming Toad. He just has a lot of passion, I like the little guy.
How do you pick a song that would be great to sing as Toad?
Whatever has the biggest range vocally. A Celine Dion moment, a little bit of a Whitney moment, a very specific “Emotion” by Mariah Carey moment. I like the build up I can do when I do Toad; it’s fun for me and I know it’s funny for others. Additionally, I love to pick classics, songs everyone will listen to. As much as I would love to cover the entirety of Carly Rae Jepsen’s album Emotion I feel only a handful of people would get to enjoy it to its fullest. I like singing songs not only I like, but a whole bunch of people can enjoy as well.
Why do you like Toad?
Truthfully, I’m a Wario girl living in a Wario world. I do like Toad though, he’s still up there in the ranks! He’s pretty cute and I remember in the old Super Mario Bros. Super Show he was so useless it was funny to me. He’s just a little creature trying his best and I can appreciate that.
How do you get yourself in the mental/physical space to hit those notes?
Here’s the thing, I don’t prep myself at all. I just kind of do it. When it even comes to my actual shows, I don’t do a lot of preparation at all and those are normally all over the map in terms of vocal range. I’m just sure to keep a big bottle of water next to me and sometimes have to refill it up to three times while doing Toad stuff, but other than that I just throw myself head first at them.
Are you professionally trained?
I get the question a lot since my range is so wide, but outside of maybe two or so years of choir class in middle school, I am not professionally-trained. I just train myself. Evidently I didn’t even have first words, my first “words” was me singing the Teletubby song, so you could say I have really just been singing all my life. It’s a second language for me.
Where did the single art come from?
When I initially started doing these, I knew I couldn’t just have a black screen and call it a day, but I also knew if I sat here and animated something for it that would be putting in far too much effort for something that is just supposed to be me goofing off. I just drew something out in like five minutes on my tablet to throw in there just to make things 1 percent more interesting.
Does it hurt to sing like that?
Not at all. As I mentioned earlier, I do a ton of screaming in my sets. In fact, it’s kind of my brand. In the music scene I’m in, not a lot of performers will scream their songs so it’s become a bit of my personal stamp to spice things up. If anything, my throat is raw for about an hour or so and then it’s feeling fine again. When people ask me this question I normally say “No, it makes me stronger,” which is totally true actually. I personally feel doing Toad stuff opens my range and trains me to be able to go further in terms of my actual voice and performance, so I’m glad I can do that in a goof off way others can enjoy too.
What was your reaction when it blew up?
It was very much a “oh no not again” moment for me, haha. I have had two other things I’ve done go viral in the past as well, one way back in 2008 and another in 2013 or so, so I feel I’m just cursed to have very embarrassing, terrible things I do blow up. Everyone either loves or laughs at everything that has blown up from me though and I’m the only one hiding in shame in the end. I am also pretty nervous to be honest!
What I do outside of Toad stuff is very different, so I fear people who are coming for Toad stuff will see me upload a live event I did performing some originals and boo it since it’s not what they came for. My music is my life and is a big mental health project for me, so I just fear the content clashing and the reception because in all actuality I’m not going to stop my true passion to only do Toad covers, haha! What a life that would be though, I wonder how Toad’s real voice actor feels to just be… Toad.
The “Chandelier” cover came a year ago, but it really took off this week. How would you describe the other music you make?
I make Japanese pop and Japanese rock-inspired music. It’s all very “anime,” I guess I would describe in the most vague way I can. I grew up in the anime convention circuit and grew up performing in that circuit as well, usually singing. There’s a very niche scene in the Western world called “overseas idols” which are performers who do things that parallel the Japanese idol scene and it’s been growing a lot the past few years.
In recent years, Japan has seen a big blow up of something called the “anti-idol” or the “alternative idol” which is an idol performer who performs unconventional, more alternative music compared to the bubblegum cutesy look of an everyday performer. I fall more into that category, my shows focusing on mental health growth through music and showing your most raw self. Hence the screaming. It’s always strange to describe it to people who aren’t already submerged into the scene, but I’m trying my best, haha!
What’s next? What other music are you working on?
For Toad, I have some Christmas bops already recorded just waiting to see the light, so I hope everyone is ready for some whistle tone to get you through the holidays. For myself, I just released my first EP a month ago and am continuing to perform it at conventions here to just get myself out there. I have more original content in the works, leaning more of a shoegaze path than the EDM path my first EP has, so I’m excited to get it out! I’m an extremely unpredictable person I have come to realize, so it’s hard to say 1000 percent what is next, but just expect some more Toad sprinkled in the mix of what I do just to keep things interesting.