If you haven’t heard about the “Harlem Shake” -- the viral YouTube video phenomenon that's taken over the Internet and inspired countless imitators -- then it's very likely you're living a fulfilling existence unencumbered by the time-sucking trappings that lurk on YouTube and elsewhere on the Internet, often just a mouse-click away.
For those lucky few, a brief primer: The Harlem Shake is an urban dance form that originated on the streets of upper Manhattan in the early 1980s. Why this little factoid matters today is that, in 2011, a Philadelphia-based popular producer of so-called “trap and bass” music named Harry “Baauer” Rodrigues produced a completely unrelated electronic music track titled “Harlem Shake,” which achieved moderate attention from fans of the genre.
Then, on Jan. 30, this single fan-created, nerdy and vaguely homoerotic video was posted on YouTube:
It establishes a general, simple and easily replicable theme: one or more people dance with an unenthusiastic hip thrust; then, at the song’s break to the bass-heavy beat, the video makes a quick cut to the same scene, except this time, the people in the video who were relatively motionless are suddenly gyrating to the music enthusiastically. The Internet world took notice. The theme of the video didn’t just go viral; it became a pandemic phenomenon. Fans of the video made their own versions of the original. Lots of them.
A recent search for the term “Harlem Shake” on YouTube produces 182,000 results. To put that into perspective: the number results for “U2,” the Irish super-group that has been around for 36 years, is 467,000.
But like all mob-created Internet trends, the inevitable backlash occurred. Some Harlem locals have called the imagery “disrespectful.” Not everyone may agree with that criticism, but it’s also not hard to make an uncomfortable connection between images of white office workers or college students gyrating awkwardly to a routine named after this:
Whatever the case may be, Internet memes or web trends like this can usually endure some critical blowback. However, what they cannot overcome is being hijacked or co-opted for commercial purposes. When real estate agents start using the meme to sell houses, it’s usually a good indication that the fuel is beginning to run out. For the lucky few that didn’t realize this was “a thing” for the past month: here’s five videos of property brokers dancing the Harlem Shake. These aren't the only ones: