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Brian Jordan Alvarez' internet ear worm says 'you deserve to sit'

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Let's do a fill in the blank. Sitting. Sitting is the opposite of - well, if you're stumped right now, then you are obviously not among the millions of people who have heard this song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SITTING (FEAT. TJ MACK) [JOSH MAC VERSION]")

BRIAN JORDAN ALVAREZ: (As TJ Mack, singing) Sitting. Sitting is the opposite of standing.

SHAPIRO: That is the singer and songwriter TJ Mack, who is not a real person. Brian Jordan Alvarez is. He's an actor who's created a bunch of personas on social media. And his character TJ Mack has been around for a while, but I had not heard of him until this tribute to sitting took off.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SITTING (FEAT. TJ MACK) [JOSH MAC VERSION]")

ALVAREZ: (As TJ Mack, singing) Sitting. Sitting is the opposite of standing. Sitting is the opposite of running around. Sitting is a wonderful thing to do.

SHAPIRO: Brian Jordan Alvarez, thank you for joining us to talk about this very important news story.

ALVAREZ: (Laughter) Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I could not be happier to be talking to you about this right now.

SHAPIRO: TJ Mack - he is a man who loves sitting.

ALVAREZ: Yes.

SHAPIRO: He has a barking laugh that often erupts in the middle of a sentence.

ALVAREZ: Yes.

SHAPIRO: He's also got a particular look. Can you paint a picture for us?

ALVAREZ: TJ Mack has big, beautiful eyes, a really broad smile, sort of a short face.

SHAPIRO: It's all enhanced by a social media filter.

ALVAREZ: Yes.

SHAPIRO: What else should we know about him?

ALVAREZ: You know, the funny thing is TJ Mack has considered himself a pop star. So what's so funny about this is I'm doing this character and he's talking about being a pop star. Now it's actually happening in the real world.

SHAPIRO: He's an actual pop star.

ALVAREZ: It's a dream.

SHAPIRO: He has a kind of vague, unplaceable Spanish accent. Should we be offended?

ALVAREZ: I don't think so. You know, I'm Colombian, and I have a huge extended family in Colombia. And we go constantly. So I think there's a lot of inspiration in there from aunts and uncles and maybe even my grandmother, honestly.

SHAPIRO: You've made more than a hundred videos as TJ Mack. So when the "Sitting" song came to you, did you think like, oh, this is my "Unchained Melody," this is my "Canon In D," this is my "Like A Prayer"?

ALVAREZ: I did feel like it was special, you know? And the funny thing is usually - you know, my videos are very off the cuff, and I do one take and I post them. And this particular song - I did a take. And for some reason, the sound didn't record. So I did it again. And the second time I did it, it was a bit tighter and cleaner. It had all this structure sort of from the forced rehearsal. But, yeah, I did have a suspicion that this would be the big one.

SHAPIRO: So there are a million remixes. One in particular by the musician Josh Mac that we heard earlier even made it to the radio. But there are covers in literally every genre - thrash rock, folk singers, country western, full choir singing in multi-part harmony.

ALVAREZ: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #1: (Singing) Sitting...

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #2: (Singing) Sitting is the opposite of standing.

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #3: (Singing) Singing is the opposite of running around.

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL GROUP: (Singing) Sitting is a wonderful thing to do.

SHAPIRO: What has it been like to see all of these people reacting to your ridiculous song?

ALVAREZ: It's been incredible. You know, and the funny thing is, I do all these characters. And so now I have this song, and the song has a structure. It's got bones, right? And then you're sort of seeing the song do characters. So the song is becoming all these different songs that it could be in this sort of multiverse of "Sitting" madness.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SITTING (FEAT. TJ MACK) [JOSH MAC VERSION]")

ALVAREZ: (As TJ Mack, singing) Sitting is actually good because you deserve to relax. It's kind of like a nap. It's kind of like something else, but it is actually just sitting.

SHAPIRO: Brian Jordan Alvarez, this is truly the most important question to ask you. This song has been stuck in my head on a loop for days, and I know it's not just me. There is a viral video of somebody literally coming out of surgery, and the first thing out of their mouth is...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing) Sitting. Sitting is the opposite of standing. Sitting is the opposite of running around.

ALVAREZ: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: So Brian, what advice can you give us all for getting this song out of our heads?

ALVAREZ: I think keep listening.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

ALVAREZ: I think keep letting it go deeper and deeper. And it's going to work itself out.

SHAPIRO: You know, one of my colleagues said, he must be really annoyed that this is what has made him this famous. But I get the sense that, no, you're leaning into it. You're really just devouring it all with gusto.

ALVAREZ: (Laughter) I am overjoyed. You know, I've done little songs like this my whole life. And I have, in many ways, dreamed of different versions of this moment. So I'm grateful.

SHAPIRO: Well, does TJ Mack have any parting words of wisdom for NPR listeners?

ALVAREZ: (As TJ Mack) I think that just, like - I don't - I didn't expect all of this. But, you know, in your life, you can't - sometimes you're going to feel like, OK, I got to go walk around or something. But actually, like, that is, like - you can actually just take that opportunity to just sit and just chill or whatever and talk to your wife or something.

SHAPIRO: Wow. That was such an exclusive interview. I feel like I should get a Pulitzer for this act of journalism that I just performed.

ALVAREZ: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Actor, comedian, filmmaker Brian Jordan Alvarez, aka TJ Mack, it's been a pleasure, and I hope I never have to hear this song again.

ALVAREZ: (Laughter) Thank you so much. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SITTING (FEAT. TJ MACK) [JOSH MAC VERSION]")

ALVAREZ: (As TJ Mack, singing) You deserve to be sitting. Sitting is the opposite of standing. Sitting is the opposite of running around. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
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