Does the Harlem Shake Mean We'll Never Escape Viral Dance Memes?
I don't mean to get too weepy here, so soon after Valentine's Day, but I think this is true, and important: You never forget your first viral-video dance meme. I'm sorry, "Harlem Shake" partisans, but it's true. Whether it was "Call Me Maybe," all the way back in 2012, or "Gangnam Style," all the way a few weeks after that, no viral-video dance meme will ever capture your heart the way it did the first time you saw members of $College_Sports_Team do a synchronized, delightfully goofy dance to $Zeitgeist_Capturing_Pop_Song.
Image via. No, it's not the real Harlem Shake.
At least, that's my guess as to why the "Harlem Shake" backlash has come so fast--and been so thick on the ground--that most people have been introduced to the meme and the anti-meme simultaneously. Physicists are still speculating about the effects of a meme/anti-meme interaction, but in the meantime it's worth talking about the musical ramifications.
"Harlem Shake" has a lot of things going for it, meme-wise. The song, with its weird samples and dubstep-biting drop, is exactly right in a world where America's country-crossover sweetheart's big single has already co-opted all of that.
And for white, tech-obsessed liberal-arts grads (the Iowa Caucus of meme-election) the vaguely street-credible name and the slightly sinister trappings--the not-quite-human voice, the threatening tempo, the weird Bane-masked interloper--lent the enterprise the weird built-in irony that appeals to the same demographic that 10 years ago enjoyed enunciating the word "Gangster" like they were just-kidding-but-seriously cool enough to like Tupac.
So why the instant backlash?