Honestly, I love the Despicable Me franchise. Those Minions are delightful, the kids in it are adorable and it’s a cute and unique narrative about family and fatherhood. The four movies that have been released thus far — with the fifth, Minions: The Rise of Gru coming out July 1st — have been filled with a surprisingly star-studded cast for a kid’s movie, too. Steve Carell has been Gru throughout, but there’ve been a few more niche appearances, too — particularly South Park co-creator Trey Parker’s role as the film’s villain, Balthazar Bratt.
In Despicable Me 3, Bratt is a one-time child star who, having failed to carry that fame into adulthood, becomes evil instead. He clings onto the styles of his 1980s youth, sporting a purple track suit with pointy shoulder pads, a flat-top mullet and fingerless gloves. His weapon of choice is a sonic keytar, capable of blowing away his enemies.
Obviously, Parker’s presence in the film wasn’t all that revelatory or remarkable (in fact, I hadn’t even known it was him until today). Unrecognizability is a common plight of the voice actor, but luckily for him, an element of his role has recently begun to go viral on TikTok.
For the film, Parker teamed up with frequent Despicable Me musician Pharrell Williams to create the song “Hug Me,” a total bop that plays during the credits. Keeping with the 1980s theme of Bratt, it’s a synth-inflected pop track with an undeniably catchy chorus featuring lyrics that can be interpreted into dance moves — the line “hug me, bring it in” is rather easy to depict in arm movements, making it prime TikTok fodder. Some TikToks using it involve a little dance, but often, it’s just a song to accentuate a TikTok about, well, anything.
I first heard “Hug Me” on the app last week, and after it got stuck in my head enough times (it’s now been used in more than 400,000 videos), I decided to look into its origin. I honestly thought it was going to be a B-side by The Darkness, and based on the related Google searches for the song, I can see that others assumed it was by Mindless Self Indulgence. Nope, neither is true — instead, the song was written and sung by the man responsible for inflicting 25 years of Eric Cartman upon the world.
I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising that Parker could be involved in such a banger. After all, he’s been writing musicals since the beginning of his career, including the Tony award-winning Book of Mormon. He also has a nine-year-old daughter, for whom I’m sure his involvement in the movie was quite a thrill.
But Parker usually sticks to his own creations, which was exactly why he decided to take on the role of Bratt — it was the first time anyone had asked him to be involved in something solely as a voice actor. “This was, believe it or not, the very first pitch I ever got,” Parker told Entertainment Weekly in 2017. “My instinct is usually, ‘Fuck no, I do my own shit,’ but when I got it, I was actually really flattered. I was like, ‘Wow, someone actually asked me to do something.’ And also I was kind of like, ‘Well, why the fuck has no one ever asked me to do this before?’”
As for the song’s continued longevity on TikTok, it seems to work primarily because the song is just straight-up good. Oddly, there’s no mention in any of the popular videos that Parker is involved or that it’s from Despicable Me 3, though both are cited as sources on the audio listing. Thus, it’s unclear whether people know what song they’re dancing to — mostly, it appears they just really like the song.
In any case, if you happen to see the Despicable Me 3 soundtrack album cover on my Spotify playlist, don’t judge me. It’s not my fault Trey Parker has such musical range.