A new TikTok trend claims the Mario Kart soundtrack can “toad-ally” help with your productivity

This is an illustration of the video game character Mario studying at a desk; Yoshi appears to be running outside in the background.
Illustration by Agasha Kankunda

While Gen Z kids were spending their childhoods playing Mario Kart, they likely never thought the in-game music would help them focus on studying. 

That thought is now on the minds of many students on TikTok, as the sounds of the cartoon go-karting game have been praised as an accelerator for finishing homework.

The trend of working while listening to the Mario Kart soundtrack found a home on TikTok, a video sharing mobile app which has been a host to a large portion of 2020’s pop culture. Wanting to be productive and curb procrastination, many viewers of the viral video decided to give it a try.

“I literally can never focus and I think it [has] genuinely fixed me,” said TikTok user “kaitlyncraigen,” sharing her experience that went on to get over 900,000 likes.

@kaitlyncraigen

@papyrmoon THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS ABSOLUTE BREAK THROUGH

♬ Coconut Mall (From “Mario Kart Wii”) – Arcade Player

The video game soundtrack turned productivity tool became viral on TikTok in mid-October, after user “papyrmoon” made a skit about how it caused them to power through their workload. Follow-up spin-offs from other users praising the idea further spread the trick.

“I was put off at first until I tried it myself and I was surprised that it actually worked,” said Kadija Osman, a second-year Ryerson journalism student. “I think the music made me go into overdrive and it put me on edge, which is when I get the most work done.”

The upbeat and high-tempo song “Coconut Mall” has been the focus of the Mario Kart craze. The song first appeared in the 2008 video game “Mario Kart Wii,” and appeared in a 2011 version of the game as well. 

While some have praised the song for giving them a breakthrough in productivity, it’s not the solution for everyone who wants to focus for longer periods of time.

“Because there was so much background noise and so much going on in the song, I found it to be a bit too distracting,” said Taylor Webb, a second-year Ryerson environment and urban sustainability student.

Not everyone sees the benefit of listening to high energy Mario Kart music –  or any music at all – while working. Studies have shown that music can actually be counterproductive for people. 

University of British Columbia’s study reported that on music listening among software developers, 37 per cent and 11.8 per cent of participants in their two surveys said they don’t listen to music while working. Some of the main reasons the participants chose not to listen to music were because they felt they  “can’t concentrate” or it “decreases [their] productivity.”

However, 63 per cent  and 82 per cent of the software developers said they do listen to music while working, saying it “cuts down background noise” and “lifts [their] mood.” Many of the answers mentioned how they felt more productive with music.

Of the group of developers that preferred music, a majority of them said they liked instrumental tracks like classical, dance or soundtracks of games or movies.

A 2012 study  on the effect of background music on attention performance found that while people perform best under silence, music with lyrics can be more damaging to people’s productivity than without.

“[When listening to] music with no words in general, I’ve seen a difference in how I work and how much work I get done,” said Luca Fathollazadeh, a second-year Ryerson political science student.

Genres like classical or lo-fi are popular among people that love to have music in the background as they do work as well. YouTube channel “ChilledCow” has gained popularity over the years for its internet “lofi hip hop radio” station, which plays instrumental “beats to relax/study to.” The channel posts video content as well as live streams that act as online radio stations for its listeners. ChilledCow has received millions of views, and usually averages a live viewership of five-figures.

Music streaming platform Spotify also has supported a “Focus” genre on their service, which includes 63 curated playlists. Amongst these playlists includes notable genres such as classical, jazz, lofi, electronic, and white noise – genres that have been known to calm people down. 

According to a study done by Harvard Health, music can enhance the function of neural networks, slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce levels of stress hormones and inflammatory cytokines. Although every healthy human brain can perform all the complex tasks needed to, patients who were randomly assigned to listen to music needed less calming. 

“Lofi is the prime calm-down, wind-down music for me,” said second-year Ryerson psychology student Brandon D’Amico. 

“It’s a great choice for anyone in need of music to listen to while studying, sleeping, or just relaxing in general. Its versatility is really what makes it so appealing to me.” 

By Jack Wannan & Andrew Yang