Ever since Psy burst out of South Korea with the inexplicably successful “Gangnam Style”, the internet has been waiting with bated breath for its successor. And it would appear that the first viral hit of 2013 is upon us; the “Harlem Shake”.
As is true of so many YouTube videos, the concept ranges from the abstract to the downright weird, depending on your point of view. Originating as the creation of five teenagers in Queensland, Australia, a “Harlem Shake” video is a thirty second clip which samples the song of the same name by electro artist Baauer. Typically, the video features just one person dancing alone to the song, before cutting at the fifteen second mark to a crowd of people dancing (styles vary, from the minimalistic to the convulsive).
Over 40,000 “Harlem Shake” videos have been uploaded at the time of writing this, racking up an impressive 175 million views in total. Thanks to the popularity of the meme, Baauer’s single has topped the US iTunes charts, coming second in the UK and Australia, although there are some who doubt that it will have the longevity of “Gangnam Style”, and there are indicators that it is already outstaying its welcome. Over at the pop culture blog The Mary Sue, Rebecca Pahle posted a Twin Peaks version of the meme, stating that she wanted to do so “before it reaches its expiration date”.
In the past, companies have capitalised on memes for promotional services, from industry specific “Sh!t Girls Say” videos to PR firms asking “Call Me Maybe”. But Kelly Clay at Forbes advises against promoting your start-up with your own “Harlem Shake” video: “Like the famous first rule of “Fight Club,” you don’t talk about “going viral.” If that is your primary intention for making a video doing the Harlem Shake – or, well, anything else – you’re doing it wrong.” She also pointed out that companies jumping on the bandwagon at this stage run the risk of being completely “lost amidst all the noise”.