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The story behind ‘Cheese Tax,’ the viral dog song stuck in everyone’s heads

"You gotta pay the cheese tax/ Every time you’re cooking/ When the cheese comes out/ This puppy comes looking."

Tax Day is coming up fast — April 18! — but for certain dog owners, every day is Tax Day. Or at least, that's how Matt Hobbs sees it. He's the Atlanta-based songwriter behind the viral hit "Cheese Tax" that's struck a chord with everyone who's had a pet come running at a sound they associate with snacks.

Hobbs' ode to the extra bite we are suckered into handing over when confronted with begging is so relatable that that his original video has racked up a combined 21 million views and counting on social media.

As a dog mom who has a hard time saying no to those pleading eyes, I can relate all too well. So I was eager to connect with Hobbs as he rides the high of his biggest viral moment to date.

"We’ve had a number of other songs that have done well, but not necessarily sparked this kind of a trend," he tells me over the phone. "I had no idea that this was going to be this popular. I’m grateful it resonated so much."

With the "Cheese Tax" song taking over countless people's feeds, it's inspiring all kinds of creative responses. Hobbs attributes the success to a "team effort." Who's the team? His two senior dogs, Leni and Mar Pup, and him. "Like so many people, I sing to my dogs and endow them with these characters," he says. "And so I try to keep the songs as close to those organic, authentic moments as possible. In this case, Mar Pup demanding cheese. She's so cute and so fluffy. But she’s very serious."

Mar Pup (also known as Marley) is almost 14, so she takes heart medication daily, which Hobbs hides in — you guessed it — a piece of cheese. He said the hook for the now-famous song popped into his head while he was administering her medicine that way one morning.

"I thought about 'Master of the House' from 'Les Mis,' and I thought about a Disney villain. Marley is like, 'I’m just a little puppy, but I’m staring you down.' So that was where the vibe came from. And then the lyrics came out quickly."

As a musician, Hobbs is amazed at the success he's found online. And yes, "Cheese Tax" may lead to lucrative opportunities as brands come knocking on the heels of this hit (during tax season, no less!). Kraft Singles has even released a limited-edition "Cheese Tax Pack."

But Hobbs says this niche was all born out of pandemic-related frustration. Canceled performances due to COVID shutdowns led to "a lot of hours at home, hanging out with the dogs, and then learning how to produce and record my own tracks," he says. Now Hobbs is particularly happy to be spreading joy through his account @puppysongs that's all about his greatest loves. "I grew up in New Orleans, where music is not just something you listen to sitting quietly with your hands on your knees. In New Orleans, the music moves you. It’s the moment, it’s the vibe, it’s the festival, it’s the parade. And everybody participating. So I love when music brings people together. And dogs do that, too."

In fact, music has already helped bring Hobbs together with our very own New Orleans native — Hoda Kotb! Proving her appeal transcends species, Hoda has a loyal fan in Mar Pup, who apparently can't start her day without TODAY.

Hobbs even wrote a Valentine's Day tribute to Hoda from her most devoted fan.

“To celebrate life with dogs in a world where we have lots heavier things to occupy our brains, it’s a healthy thing for me,” Hobbs says. “When I’m editing all the vocals or putting the video together, I always have these moments where I just laugh, like, this is ridiculous. I can’t believe I’m doing it.”

As light-hearted as it may seem, Hobbs takes his responsibility seriously. "The moments people share with their dogs in their homes, that’s pretty sacred. Now every time they go to the cheese drawer, the chorus pops in their head. Seeing people’s videos, it’s awesome. It’s humbling. I feel really lucky to have created something that can be a part of people’s life in loving their pets. I don’t take that lightly."

Speaking of responsibility, one thing is weighing heavily on Hobbs in the wake of his viral success.

"I do hope people aren’t giving their dogs too much cheese. Some folks are heavy-handed. I hope everybody’s being responsible with the way they administer their tax payments."

I had my brother and his dog and some friends over to watch the many inspired takes flooding our feeds and we couldn't resist jumping on the trend. Forgive us, Matt: Taxes are notoriously high in New York City.