Just a few weeks ago we were talking about trends and viral videos that came to life online, such as the very famous Gangnam Style, now a new meme that has rocked the planet, and has become wildly popular since it first appeared towards the beginning of February, 2013. With more than 40,000 videos having been uploaded to YouTube in just two weeks, and after being a trending topic on Twitter in many countries, everyone is now familiar with the dance in which people go crazy dancing to the shout of “¡con los terroristas!” in Spanish, which translated to English means, “with the terrorists!” But where did the Harlem Shake come from, and what is it really?
First, let’s take a look at the etymology of the name. The Harlem Shake is a type of hip-hop style dance born in the early 80’s in Harlem, NY, characterized by exaggerated movement of the body that, according to the dancer who made it up, Al B, attempts to emulate what a drunk person dancing would look like combined with a mummy tied at the hands and feet. It wasn’t until early this last decade that the dance really became famous because it was used in music videos such as Let’s Get It, by the rapper G Dep, in which a little boy does the Harlem Shake.
Now, let’s jump ahead to last February 2nd. A comedian video blogger named Filthy Frank uploads a YouTube video in which he and three other people dressed in ridiculous outfits perform a really similar dance to the song Do the Harlem Shake, produced by the trap and bass music composer Baauer. One of the first video responses that the video received was from a group of students who were doing the dance in a small dorm room, which ended up developing the standard in regards to structure for the following videos of the like. From there, the concept’s success hasn’t stopped growing.
It is basically a 30-second long video in which the first 15 seconds are just someone doing a repetitive dance with their face covered, while those around him ignore what is going on. Right when the song’s rhythm begins, there is a new frame in the video that starts right where it left off, but now with everyone dancing like crazy to the music. Currently, both videos have easily reached more than 16 million views.
The thing is that in just the first two weeks of the video being published, more than 40,000 different takes on the Harlem Shake had been published, from groups of friends trying to recreate the original, to complete bleachers full of an entire sports team dancing to the sound of the music, to all kinds of business doing the dance in the office. Even Google employees made a video. Taking a look at the statistics, there are practically 4,000 videos being uploaded every day, and now three weeks after its first appearance, there are more than 170,000 videos.
As always, the reasons that have led to the proliferation of this meme are a mystery, although if we analyze the more obvious characteristics, we can understand the success behind these kinds of phenomena: It is a fun idea, catchy, and easy to do. Anyone can record themselves doing a Harlem Shake. These are most likely the main reasons.