Since the first videos were released earlier this year, the “Harlem Shake” dance craze has moved from Internet meme to mainstream phenomenon. They inspired a glut of new videos confirm the dance’s viral status and enabling, as Entertainment Weekly reports on Feb. 17, Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” to reach the #1 song spot on iTunes.
The “Harlem Shake” is a quirky dance move set to Baauer’s song. The conceit was introduced by Filthy Frank, then quickly went viral as the “Harlem Shake” dance craze spread on YouTube. Less than two weeks after the first videos were posted, YouTube Trends announced more than 4,000 “Harlem Shake” videos are being uploaded every day.
The popularity of the “Harlem Shake” isn’t due just to the sheer number of imitators out there. It’s who’s participating in the trend. Within the last week, the "Today" show offered a Valentine’s Day number. That video raised the dances profile, along with those made by, to name just a few, the University of Georgia men’s swim team, the Florida Gators, examples from four U.S. service academies and the TV shows “Happy Endings” and “The Stephen Colbert Report.”
Collectively, the videos demonstrate the style “rules” for what makes up a “Harlem Shake” dance are evolving and somewhat loose – and only loosely related to the 1980s dance move after which it is named.
The “Harlem Shake” generally involves a single figure who wears a helmet, mask and/or costume. That person dances alone, although surrounded by people who seem oblivious to his or her actions. The moves tend (though not always) to feature a fluid shaking of the shoulders, with or without hip thrusts. Then, as the beat drops, a jump cut shows everyone cutting loose. Those in the crowd may or may not also be wearing costumes.
Baauer’s song, which was released in May of last year, has benefitted from the attention the videos have been getting. Entertainment Weekly notes that song hit the #1 spot for iTunes singles and currently outranks “powerhouse sellers.”
EW also reports Baauer has no official comment on the “Harlem Shake” meme, although earlier the artist had previously tweeted:
“this harlem shake stuff is blowing my mind.”
Since the “Harlem Shake” went viral many media watchers have weighed in on the dance and the meme. Many, such as CBS News and the Washington Post, focused on its catchy fun, silliness and meme potential.
And now that the “Harlem Shake” meme has gone mainstream, the number of critical responses to it have increased. Both the L.A. Times and the Daily Beast, for example, see in its popularity a trend that has already peaked; others have taken on the naming of the “Harlem Shake” as such Dead Spin, pointing out the moves in the videos look nothing like the 1980s dance.
Of course, the longevity and popularity of something like the “Harlem Shake” rests with the viewers and the makers of such videos? So weigh in. Are you tired of the “Harlem Shake?” Do you have a favorite video to share? Or are you too busy practicing your dance moves for your own attempt?