So where to start investigating the Harlem Shake? the two best places i’ve found are the Wikipedia article and the Know Your Meme article. Both do a good job about talking about the original dance, the Filthy_Frank original video, the Aussie skate video with the (now) base elements, and all the other videos.
So what is the meme and its components? Here’s a technical breakdown by the people at TechCrunch.
One interesting question is where do some of the elements come from? Well the mass dancing and humping may be related to a set of video of naked Norwegian men humping landmarks(NSFW). However, i think there is also a subconscious influence from the dance hall style found in Jamaican Reggae videos and exaggerated in video from Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show. These elements include wall humping and headstand humping. The masks can be traced back to Filthy_Frank which has evolved into the inclusion of wearing funny hats including sombreros, snow hats, furry masks, motorcycle helmets, and whatever else people can find.
At this time, the Harlem Shake is on the downswing, with variants starting to pop up. The first is the anti-Harlem Shake which ends with everyone standing still except for one person. However, i do expect a resurgence for March Madness considering 1) the large number of colleges and universities having made Harlem Shake videos and 2) the near perfect synchronicity of the meme to a 30-second timeout in basketball.
Of course, i have to put in my plug for my favorite versions, the Charlie Brown and the Washing Machine. And a shout out to Tumblr, where someone has already started storing the different versions.
That’s it for now. Please feel free to make comments of suggestions to improving this post.
So i think the Harlem Shake has burned out now, with less infectious variant the Anti-Harlem Shake still out there. As all good media virologists do, I decided to do an investigation of its evolution and found some interesting stuff. I’ll clean it up and post it later.
I was listening to Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights” while driving in yesterday, really listening to the music and lyrics like I do sometimes. I realized that they (read: the music industry) doesn’t make songs like that any more. It’s a fast paced tune with background singers about meeting a girl, falling in something, waking up with her gone and trying to figure out what to do. He’s got nothing but memories.
No one writes that kind of song anymore. It’s all about chasing someone or breaking up with them. Before and After. And both of those things are going to be permanent. The only thing that’s temporary is the current state you’re in.
But i was reminded of Don Draper’s trip to California for the Space conference and how he ended spending what? 2 weeks out there? I have to go back and rewatch the show to see if Don thought it was temporary or permanent. I mean, he was facing getting exposed back at the office. But isn’t that how things start sometimes: you fall in love with the ephemeral and temporary and you stick with it hoping it will be permanent.
Everything’s temporal now. Maybe that’s why we don’t have songs like that because we already live stories like that IRL. People communicate what they need, not what they have. People want the stability of a relationship or the comfort that what they are going through is temporary.