Logic is scarce in the world of Internet memes, so don’t try too hard to make sense of the phenomenon that is the ”Harlem Shake.” The trance-y track, originally released in May 2012 by New York producer Baauer, won modest acclaim in electronic-dance-music circles thanks to its strange beat, which features thumping bass and lion roars. But the song was sent hurtling into the mainstream after a Jan. 30 video by vlogger Filthy Frank helped ignite a viral-video trend.
Quicker than you could say ”Gangnam Style,” YouTube was inundated with 30-second ”Harlem Shake” videos. (By Feb. 14, iterations of the meme were responsible for 175 million views, and that same day, the song topped iTunes.) Typically, clips feature a masked individual hip-thrusting solo for about 15 seconds. When the beat drops, videos jump-cut to massive crowds who aren’t performing choreography so much as flailing about like those inflatable air dancers in front of car dealerships. (Subtrends involving chicken suits and punching giraffes have also arisen.) It’s enough to make us nostalgic for the dulcet tones of ”Call Me Maybe.”