By Richard Wink
February 26, 2013
Evidently there are always late comers to the meme party. In the case of the thousands of parodies that sprung up in tribute to Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ it was ‘Norfolk Style’ that rubber stamped the meme’s death. People in the county are usually slow to new cultural trends, so despite broadband being available from Barton Bendish to the Broads, it was no surprise that this was the place where the joke wasn’t funny anymore.
Now, as Psy falls another internet dance craze has inspired morons… I mean millions. A DJ from Brooklyn, New York called Baauer has seen his track ‘Harlem Shake’ condensed to soundtrack a series of increasingly tiresome displays of viral idiocy. Thankfully each video is a mere thirty seconds long, just enough for our short attention spans to cope with. I’ll concede that some are clever, such as the Norwegian Army Edition, but hundreds are horrifically lame, and this is a mere few weeks since the original video was uploaded. Already we’re reaching saturation point.
No matter how many versions you watch they all follow the same pattern: the track hits, one person dances with everyone else on camera ignoring them, and usually the lone dancer is wearing a mask. Then halfway through, the call of “Then do the Harlem shake” sets everyone in the video off, and a plethora of props, animal costumes and other bells and trinkets wiggle around . These videos are getting millions and millions of hits.
Unlike ‘Gangnam Style’, I don’t think this one will run for much longer. ‘Harlem Shake’ is merely likely to be usurped by an equally annoying viral trend. However Baauer (real name Harry Rodrigues), the man behind the track, well, he’s going to sit back for the next few weeks, roll a cigar, laugh at the insanity and cash in. Unlike Psy, an entertainer who probably dreamt of worldwide superstardom all his life, Baauer already seems bemused by it all. Baauer himself did not feature in the original video, nor have any input in its creation, which has put him in an odd position: now he’s receiving the kind of promotion that any up and coming musician could only dream of.
Why is ‘Harlem Shake’ proving to be so popular? Well, the format is simple, allowing for instant imitation – all you need a static camera, and basic video editing skills to make a quick cut midway through which unleashes the glorious playful pandemonium. This can be replicated on webcams and mobile phones, and if you want to go further it can involve as many people as you like, on the scale of a several hundred strong flash mob-like event. A spectacle is being created.
There is no substance to the ‘Harlem Shake’ and yet in a few short weeks it has had a profound impact on popular culture; Baaeur actually doesn’t need to release an official music video for the song, because it would be essentially be pointless. He doesn’t need to promote his shows. Everything about Baaeur’s career is a brave new world, yet dangerous if he aspires to be more than a one billion YouTube hits wonder. In this world of transient media crazes, will the current most popular DJ in the world be instantly forgotten?