‘If I were a fish’: These two Berklee College grads wrote the hit song that’s taken over social media
More than 13 million people have watched a video of Corinne Savage — aka corook — and their partner, Olivia Barton, perform the acoustic track on TikTok. Now people are singing it together in schools and in public.
The song has flooded the Internet, snagging millions of listeners with its wholesome lines and catchy hook.
If you’ve heard it — and it’s likely you have — there’s a strong chance it’s been swimming around in your head ever since, making you tap your feet and hum along.
“If I were a fish,” the heartwarming track written by Berklee College of Music graduates and musicians Corinne Savage and their partner, Olivia Barton, has brought people together in recent weeks in a way that only music can seem to do, inspiring singalongs and uplifting spirits.
“It has garnered so much attention with such a wonderful community of people,” said Savage, 28, who goes by the stage name corook and lives in Nashville with Barton.
The sensation began earlier this month, when the couple posted a video of them singing the acoustic song on TikTok, immediately after writing it together in about 10 minutes.
The lyrics, simple and sweet, go like this:
“If I were a fish, and you caught me, you’d say ‘Look at that fish,’ shimmering in the sun, such a rare one, can’t believe that you caught one. If I were a fish, and you caught me, you’d say ‘Look at that fish,’ heaviest in the sea, you’d win first prize if you caught me…”
It rolls into a chorus that questions why everyone on the Internet is “so mean” and why people react negatively toward those who seem different from themselves.
Savage, who is nonbinary, said they came up with the concept for the song after a difficult day of feeling insecure and out of place. A few days before, the singer-songwriter, who graduated from Berklee in 2017, had released a song online that received some nasty comments. That got Savage reflecting on what it means to be different and questioning their place in the world, both musically and personally.
“It’s not that the hate comments affected me, it was more that the hate comments were shining a light on something I was really thinking about in my life, which is I feel like I don’t have a place,” Savage said. “I just felt like I didn’t really have any way to identify myself in any boxes I fit in and communities that felt like just mine.”
Savage turned to Barton, their “wonderful partner” whom they’ve been with since meeting in Boston five years ago, for support. She suggested Savage take a shower, collect their thoughts, and then “do something really silly to try to make ourselves feel better.”
That silly activity? Write some music in their at-home studio together.
“She was like, ‘I want you to be really weird, because I think that’s what you’re crying about. You’re so special because you are weird, and I know that makes you sad right now, but this is awesome — you are awesome because you’re weird,’” Savage recalled Barton saying. “’So what’s the weirdest thing you could think of?’”
Savage blurted out that they felt like if they were a fish that someone caught, they’d be appreciated for all of their unique qualities. It was just weird enough for Barton, so the couple dove in. Minutes later, they had stitched together a little tune with a lot of punch, recorded themselves belting it out, and shared it with the world, which was quick to do the same.
“You can see in the video how happy I am,” Savage said. “It was really healing to be seen and heard by another human that I love so much, and this song just made me feel so happy to be who I was — who I am.”
The same can be said for millions of others. Since it was posted the original video has been watched more than 13 million times.
Because it was whipped up in record time, the couple didn’t have high expectations. But as it bounced around online, it quickly struck a chord, with fans recording their own renditions, sometimes solo and other times in large groups.
“I physically cannot scroll away. This song is a serotonin factory,” read one of the tens of thousands of comments left on the video.
“The song can cure world sadness, I’m sure of it,” another wrote.
Scarlet Keys, a professor at Berklee who had Savage as a student, wasn’t surprised to learn that Savage had cowrote a hit.
“Corinne is one of my unforgettable students over my 20 years of teaching,” Keys said in an e-mail. “I knew from that very first assignment in my Advanced Songwriting class that Corinne presented that there was something special in the room …I knew that was a voice and a spirit destined for the whole world to hear.”
Savage said “If I were a fish” resonated with people so much that the couple decided to expand on the verse they’d written and make it a full-fledged song. For a few days, Barton and Savage worked on additional lyrics as they went about their lives. Last week, they released the two-minute version of the jingle on music streaming platforms.
Savage said seeing people bring the song into their own lives, like the Texas girls’ choir that made it their new warmup tune, has been the coolest part of the surreal experience.
They think the reason it’s made such a splash — besides its catchy rhythm — is because they’re far from the only person who feels lonely in this world.
“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 said. “I think that for some reason, this song, everybody feels heard by.”
There’s also something else they learned since releasing the song. It turns out not everybody on the Internet, as the lyrics go, is so mean after all.
“I’m just so grateful that the [TikTok] algorithm decided to show me to the right people, and those people were brave enough to say, ‘Hey, I feel this, and I feel seen by this, so thank you,’” Savage said.
This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com