Awkwardly dance, and awkwardly dance some more, and awkwardly dance even more, and now freak out and have everyone around you do something random—this is the “Harlem Shake.”
Social media are full of videos that often tend to sharply spike in popularity. The “Harlem Shake” is doing just that. It has blown up Facebook, YouTube, comedy websites and even late-night talk show skits. It may be popular now, but it will soon be just another past trend in our memory bank.
The “Harlem Shake” videos are usually 30 seconds long with one person dancing in place for 15 seconds to the “Harlem Shake” song by Baauer. After a musical drop, the video cuts to the same frame but with many people dancing, jumping, wiggling on the floor, punching stuffed animals, humping or doing who knows what. Each video is edited the same, but the content is usually different.
I didn’t laugh at the first “Harlem Shake” video I saw, or even at the second or the third. Each video had more than 2 million views in less than a few weeks. Some of the funniest videos on YouTube don’t even have that amount of views in more than two years.
This realization made me wonder why the videos were so popular. It has to be that people just love how random they are. I prefer to describe the videos as ridiculous or even extremely ridiculously.
I decided to focus on the randomness. The small details of each video make them unique and charismatic. The next “Harlem Shake” video made me laugh and I probably watched five more right after that.
Josh Constine, who wrote his master’s degree thesis on cybersociology while attending Stanford, published an article on techcrunch.com, which explained why he thinks the video is so popular.
“A five-minute video?” Constine wrote. “Ain’t nobody got time for that. That’s why we’re so willing to watch just one more incarnation. The result is one of the most pervasive gags in history. A ‘Symbiotic Meme,’ the ‘Harlem Shake’ has a lesson to teach all content creators.”
He continued on to explain some sort of mathematical equation of the compositional editing, but ain’t nobody got time to read about that.
The craze could also be because of the catchy tune by Baauer, a 23-year-old DJ from Brooklyn.
According to billboard.com, Baauers’ song, also titled “Harlem Shake,” is the No. 3 song on iTunes as of Feb. 14. It is rivaling Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” and Rihanna’s “Stay.”
If this is hard for you to fathom, which it was for me, then just listen to the song a couple of times. I warn you, though, it will be stuck in your head for hours.
Or the sheer, hilariously creative composition of the whole thing is what grabs you. Each video is different but the same. Some have people dressed up in military uniforms, while others are just in a random office. The props used in these videos are funny, stupid, crazy and just random.
Some major music producers like Matt and Kim made one, and even swim teams have made videos filmed underwater.
There is no limit to the variations. A new version will come out and you will want to watch it just to see what the components of it are. This is what gets me.
According to YouTube’s official blog, there were 1,000 “Harlem Shake” videos that had been posted by Feb. 5, and that number spiked to more than 50,000 by Feb. 15 with more than 175 million views. Also, according to Google’s Search Trends Scale, the phrase “the harlem shake” has a search index score of 100. This is the highest ranking on the scale.
These numbers are outstanding, and the spike of popularity hit faster than anything I have ever experienced. But with massive trend spikes, there comes extreme drops. The “Harlem Shake” cannot, and will not, sustain such a high level of popularity.
Once people get their fix of the trend, they will be good. It will be time to find the next big thing. This is how trends work. Enjoy these videos for a bit, but I promise they will get old soon, and you won’t even give them a second of thought in a few months down the road.