When I mention the “Harlem Shake,” you will either know exactly what I am talking about, or you will have absolutely no idea what I am talking about.
Let me sum it up in the most general possible way — it’s the new big Internet meme.
Nowadays, in the social media era, memes and trends seemingly happen overnight — literally, overnight. You go from not know about something on one day to hearing about it from 14 different sources the following day. With Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Reddit, word spreads fast.
So the new trend? The Harlem Shake.
I actually just learned about this yesterday. It’s inspired from a song by an Electro-pop New York City-based DJ named Baauer. The song is exactly like you’d expect any electro-pop song to be; it’s loud, bass-heavy and psychedelic. Words are few and far between, and when they do appear, are uttered oddly or in another language.
However, people began taking the song to another level. Over the past week or so, our entire world population has been in a rapid fire uploading frenzy to post their own Harlem Shake videos.
The videos all follow the same formula — the song begins, and typically there are several people in the room. Only one of the people is dancing to the song exuberantly, and they’re usually dressed up quite oddly, and often wearing some type of mask or helmet. Everyone else in the room, meanwhile, is purposely acting completely oblivious to the song and/or dancing, and just going about their own business.
Then when the bass drops about 16 seconds in, the scene cuts to everyone in the room dancing like madmen, and either scantily clad or wearing costumes, and they all are going ballistic.
I watched about a dozen of these videos yesterday, mainly because I was extremely curious to learn more about this bizarre meme. And I must say, it is by far one of the most stupid things I have ever seen. And yet, every single video never fails to make me laugh. They are so ridiculous, so absurd, that they are genuinely funny.
See for yourself. Apparently this was one of the first videos to really lay the essence of the meme:
And then it kept evolving. Eventually, more people started getting in on it.
Since then, it’s blown up.
The Army is doing it. College sports teams are doing it. Professional sports teams are doing it. Firefighters are doing it. People are doing it underwater. Playboy playmates are doing it. An entire website exists just for the entire purpose of compiling all of these videos together.
You get the point.
Honestly, I think it’s hysterical. It’s so goofy and so outlandish that it’s almost refreshing to watch. All of the people who made their own versions must have had a hell of a good time doing so.
Also, the fact that they are all 30-seconds-long accommodates perfectly to our A.D.D. riddled nation. I can watch all of them to completion without having to hit the pause button a single time. It’s the perfect length.
If you search the words “Harlem Shake” on YouTube, you’ll see thousands upon thousands of variations of the video, which is impressive considering the meme is barely even a week old. That is the power of the Internet.
Although, of course Deadspin had to rain on people’s parade and inform everyone that they are not actually performing “The Harlem Shake.” According to Deadspin, the real Harlem Shake was a dance invented in the late 1980s which comprised more subtle shoulder and hip shaking, and not the maniacal seizure-like vibes you see in all of these other videos.
But who cares? It’s all in good fun. Relax, Deadspin.
And all of these articles that are hailing the Harlem Shake as the new Gangnam Style don’t really make too much sense to me either. Gangnam style wasn’t a meme, it was an actual song and music video that people genuinely enjoyed. It wasn’t something that people made parody videos to, like the Call Me Maybe videos.
The only similarity is has to Gangnam Style is that it became popular through social media. However, I guess the two are also similar in the fact that both present fun, interactive dances that are uniting people from across the globe.
In an age where North Korea is slowly but progressively building nuclear weapons, we need things like Gangnam Style and the Harlem Shake to remind us that there is also a lot of fun that can be had in today’s world.
That being said, I wouldn’t advise any of you to wander into Harlem in a Power Rangers outfit and start doing the dance in the middle of the sidewalk.
That might get you in a little bit of trouble.
Actually, you know what? Do it. And film it. And also be the Pink Ranger.
I’m glad we had this talk.