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A Brief History of the 'Harlem Shake'

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Just what is the ‘Harlem Shake’ and why are these videos so damn popular?

A Brief History of the 'Harlem Shake'

In this article…

If you frequent the Internet on a regular basis, and in particular in the last week, chances are you have heard of the "Harlem Shake," a meme that is sweeping the nation. If you don't know how to work computers, here's a quick primer on this viral storm that has taken the web by storm.

"Harlem Shake" is a catchy trap song by Brooklyn producer Baauer (who now has over 38,000 followers on Twitter). The song features a catchy build that rises and rises and rises. Then the line "Do the Harlem Shake" hits and it drops into an even more infectious house beat with tight snares, a repetitive siren noise driving the action, and an overall ridiculous feel to it.

There is no set way to dance to this song, but YouTuber filthy Frank took to the site and uploaded a video of him and some other bros (dressed up in a Power Rangers theme, no less) just going crazy to the song. It starts with them doing pelvic thrusts, then once the beat drops insanity ensues. Take a look:

Since then, this dance has evolved into its current form. One person, usually wearing some kind of mask or helmet, will be dancing to the song as the beat builds while everyone else around them goes about their business. But once the beat drops? Mayhem. The video then splices to everyone in ridiculous costumes dancing wildly to the song. Then once the 30-second mark hits, the video turns to slow-motion for a second and ends. Here is the first video that took on this style:

Since then there have been plenty of parodies and imitations by amateurs and celebrities alike. Armies, swim teams, and even performers like T-Pain and Matt & Kim have taken on the meme. Here are a few of my favorites:


Georgia Swim Team


Norwegian Army

Jimmy Fallon

And probably my favorite "Harlem Shake" of them all, Matt and Kim's epic version from their Troy, NY show earlier this week.

Is this a sustainable trend? No way. This thing will be gone in a couple weeks guaranteed. When so many parodies flood the market like they have in the past week for this, people will get sick of the meme and it will die. I actually don't mind the videos, but I'm sure when we get the "Grandma Edition" and the "x university frat version" and the "Ryan Seacrest version"... oh wait, there is a Ryan Seacrest version...

Either way, with most memes, there will plenty of bad takes to go along with the few good ones that sneak through. But I will definitely enjoy the few good ones before the trend totally jumps the shark.

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