Harlem Shake Is the Meme of the Moment

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It started quietly online with a short YouTube video of Spandex-clad dancers gyrating their hips and shoulders. Several thousand video responses and one Superbowl ad later, it's safe to say the dance known as the Harlem Shake has gone from meme to mainstream. 

On the Media's Alex Goldman has been following the phenomenon and says what makes this meme unique is how quickly it became a part of the mainstream

"It's a testament to the memetic nature of the Internet that it started out just with this one user that had sort of a modest following. It got picked up by a couple of news outlets like Buzzfeed and once that happened the inevitable parodies began," Goldman said.

Goldman spoke to WNYC's Amy Eddings Wednesday. You can click the link above to hear their conversation.

The Original


T-Pain Version


Alex Goldman

Hosted by:

Amy Eddings


Julianne Welby


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Comments [6]

suzinne from Bronx

Why is everybody over thinking this? This is downright hilarious, and the spandex jumpsuits amps it.

Lighten up guys!

Feb. 21 2013 07:59 PM
Ian from Brooklyn

This is not the Harlem Shake, in so much as there is a backlash to this trend from residents of Harlem. I know this may sound petty, but this is the equivelant of taking a cultural dance and renaming something else that name. Here is a link to the rebuttal. I personally think that it is mocking the original Harlem Shake:

Feb. 21 2013 11:41 AM

Nathan, I think I agree more with the second half of your comment than the first. The internet has made the barrier to creating something like this very low. All it takes is some props, 5 of your friends, and 20 minutes with a video editing program. That after the first week, people were already paying homage and parody to the original and its subsequent iterations is a testament to how quickly a form can change, mutate, and comment on itself when the threshold for broadcasting and the technology to do so are readily available.

The same mechanic that drives the spread of "The Harlem Shake" also drives things like KONY 2012, for better or worse. It's a great time to be a consumer of information, because you can also synthesize, remix, recreate, and comment on that information with relative ease and an incredible reach.

Feb. 21 2013 09:46 AM
Mario C from Brooklyn

They are not doing the real Harlem shake.

Feb. 21 2013 09:38 AM
Nathan from Hoboken, NJ

Part of me is thinking - this is they we are on the decline as a nation - we used to do great things, great art, etc... but then another part of me is thinking this is pretty funny and creative along with I like how the internet has made this all so possible and easy - there is something interesting in the proletarianization of art.

Feb. 21 2013 08:44 AM
john from office

It is sad that all this new technology is used for meaningless activity and it becomes profitable. There is nothing uplifting here, no great intellectual advancement.

Feb. 21 2013 08:02 AM

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