Harlem Shake: Everything to know about YouTube's viral successor to "Gangnam Style"

Categories: Poptimystic

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This is a turning point in the history of music on the internet. I know, I know, it feels like a regular Friday, but trust me, things will never be the same again. The forces of capitalism, social networking and goofing off have converged at the perfect time to create the magic that is the "Harlem Shake" phenomenon. What's so special about another internet meme that will be played out by March? That's just it: The template that has been created out of the Harlem Shake is continuing to redefine our relationship to the music that we consume. Simply put, this viral sensation is selling records, lots and lots of records.

See also:
- The ten best Colorado Harlem Shake videos on YouTube
- Dubstep for Dummies, a primer for freshly-minted dubstep fans
- Grammy tape delay versus realtime Twitter reaction: What's with the East Coast bias?

So what is the Harlem Shake?

Where did this whole Harlem Shake thing come from?

Astute pop culture enthusiasts will remember a dance called the Harlem Shake from the late '90s. Back when P. Diddy wouldn't stop, because he couldn't stop. Kids were "Harlem Shakin' it" in the background of most rap videos made around 2001. The dance was created in the '80s and performed at the Rucker basketball courts by a gentleman simply known as Al B. It consists of sharp shoulder and arm movements accentuated by your feet. G.Dep's video "Let's Get It" has some of the best "Harlem Shaking" known to man.

If it's more than a decade old, why does anyone care now?

Fast forward a decade when a 23 year old DJ from Brooklyn named Baauer (who was at City Hall a few weeks ago, incidentally, for Snowdown) creates a thunderous trap record called "Harlem Shake" on Diplo's Mad Decent imprint that borrows it's name from that dance. "Do the Harlem Shake" is a vocal sample that signals a death rattling bass drop and summons drums straight out of Helms' Deep to battle against the cheapest sounding synth horn until it all lurches momentarily to a halt to make room for the sweetest (if not first) rhythmically sampled tiger growl. Sounds tight, right? It is. It's also a pretty typical dance track, that sixteen bar intro repeats about three times and that's about all there is to it. That's not a diss; you would shake your ass to it at a party, but if it came out say last May and got a great review on Pitchfork, you still wouldn't buy it unless you were a DJ.

See also: Colorado Does the Harlem Shake: The ten best local videos on YouTube

Great. So why is it everywhere all of the sudden?

At the beginning of February, YouTube user TheSunnyCoastSkate uploaded "The Harlem Shake v1(TSCS Original)," a response video to another YouTube user FilthyFrank's video. Both videos use just the first sixteen bars of the song and last about thirty seconds. The former, however, set the format that all other videos would follow. This is so serious that über-nerd community reddit.com has published guidelines to creating a correct Harlem Shake video.

Interestingly FilthyFrank has taken the hipster way out and deemed himself "over it all." It looks like he will return to making spastic vids of himself playing multiple roles and flailing around on the ground to the sounds of really, really bad dubstep. That's fine because the Harlem Shake is bigger than any one YouTube user.

After the initial clips were posted, more than one hundred video interpretations of the Harlem Shake had been uploaded. YouTube's trends blog indicated that by last Friday more than two thousand different versions of the Harlem Shake had been uploaded. That's two thousand different sets of at least five to ten people all over the world made their own video for the same song. Even crazier, most videos were averaging views in the hundreds of thousands. By Tuesday, February 12, YouTube calculated that over 12,000 iterations of the video existed creating over 44 million views of that catchy as hell sixteen bars of Baauer's "Harlem Shake."

See also: Colorado Does the Harlem Shake: The ten best local videos on YouTube


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12 comments
Sean Gronbeck
Sean Gronbeck

The world is becoming shit. I guess just like greece and rome, america too must fall. *sigh*

Diane Stinson
Diane Stinson

The other day I was saying this is a "dance" for people with no rhythm. Looks like they are spazzing out.

Jeremy Coss
Jeremy Coss

Just another stupid Meme I don't care about

David Kotzebue
David Kotzebue

They're both 3 pounds o' ugly in a 2 pound sack.

Dan Brown
Dan Brown

It seems viral, but is it a dance? It seems more of a video technique than a dance.

tutonehcc
tutonehcc topcommenter

OMG, this is so funny.  Anyone want to meet me at Breckenridge to do some Harlem Shake on top of t-bar?

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