As someone who regularly searches Google Trends for the word “penis,” I wasn’t too surprised to see that the term “penis music” had been trending over the last year. People like penises and they like music, so that seemed fitting. Penis music itself, however, is nearly unidentifiable. And surely, that is the point.
Per KnowYourMeme, “penis music” originated on Tumblr in 2019. There was no image or funny clip attached to the words — a simple text post saying “penis music” amassed over 20,000 likes and reblogs. It apparently grew, with memes emerging suggesting that everyone far prefers penis music to regular music. From here, someone took a GIF of Hal from Megamind dancing in a mental institution as he’s being observed by doctors and government officials and captioned it “penis music.” This is where the true essence of penis music has come alive.
Now, the home of penis music seems to be YouTube. There, dozens of videos titled “penis music” or “pp music” are listed, all of which feature some variety of animated figures dancing to a particularly obnoxious electronic track.
Often, the animated figures are from movies. Sometimes, they aren’t even dancing. In one “ultimate PP music meme compilation,” clips of Hal or Minions dancing are followed by a clip of the old man from Up. Just as he’s about to be taken to the nursing home, he asks the nurses if he can have a moment with his house. The moment he slams the door shut, video game-esque electronic music plays and his house rises from the ground. In the actual movie, this music isn’t present, of course, but the meme clearly suggests that penis music would be the ideal sound to encapsulate such a mood.
Some digging led me to find that the primary song described as “penis music” is indeed a real track: 2009’s “Rubberband” by Jackal Queenston, one of many aliases of Canadian electronic musician Emma Essex (before the alias was retired, Jackal Queenston was said to be a jackal/German Shepherd hybrid who smoked cigarettes and wore Nazi military uniforms, so make of that what you will).
Through its many incarnations in the last two years, penis music now exists entirely as a self-referential meme. In some ways, it’s almost like Rickrolling someone — when you hear that irritating, energetic sound, you know you’re being doused with penis music. Right before the pandemic began, DJs were even surprising their audiences with it.
What makes the song “Rubberband” so penis-y, though? Is it its annoyingness? The enthusiasm? I think more likely, it’s the immaturity of it all. The song isn’t itself phallic — it instead harkens that sophomoric but ultimately ageless desire to yell “penis” at inappropriate times. It’s irritating, yes. But don’t you wish you had that kind of spirit left in you?