The McBournie Minute: Still don’t get the “Harlem Shake”

The Internet has made a lot of important things happen, this blog is by no means at the bottom of that list, as I am sure you will all agree. I would put it somewhere below the Arab Spring and cat videos in terms of benefits to humanity. There have been countless interactions, collaborations and inventions that have come about simply because we built ourselves a system that allows our computers to talk to each other.

And then there’s the Harlem Shake videos. A few weeks ago, some artist named Baauer released a song that became an inexplicably big hit. It’s been at the top of the charts for quite a while, both in the U.S. and abroad. It’s really gotten big because it’s now a YouTube trend.

Even if you’ve been trying to avoid it, you know what I’m talking about.

The video begins with a straight-on shot of a room with quite a few people in it. In the first part, only one person, usually wearing a crazy hat or something, is dancing. Then, when the beat drops in, a smash-cut shows that suddenly everyone is dancing, and they are often wearing something unusual. This typically ends after about 30 seconds. Everyone is making one of these videos and posting it online.

That’s what the Internet does, it creates a meme, and then it does the hell out of it, so no one can ever do it again. It’s been the thing for “hip” offices and bored college clubs to make these videos. There are thousands of them. When The Simpsons is getting in on the gag, it’s time to move on.

I have a pretty well-established history of questioning memes, their existence, and what they mean to us as a society. My conclusion is usually along the lines of “we will look back on this in a year and wonder what the hell we were thinking.” This one easily falls into that category.

The meme must be on its way out by now, and yet it’s still everywhere. This past weekend I was at a bar, where they shot, you guessed it, a Harlem Shake video. I’m not in it, though I had had enough to think that it was a good idea. The meme has lasted for weeks, which is roughly 250 meme years. It’s made Baauer famous, and probably rich, too. Only thing is, he’s about to get sued for illegally sampling a couple songs.

Hector Delgado is a Puerto Rican evangelical preacher. Evidently, he’s had quite a life, because just five years ago, he was a reggaeton singer. That’s his voice repeating “Con los terroristas,” which I’m pretty sure is bad grammar, but translates to “With the terrorists.” Jayson Musson lives in Brooklyn, 12 years ago a rap group he belonged to put out a song call “Miller Time.” At the very end of the song, he says, “And do the Harlem shake.” Both Delgado and Musson were surprised to find out they had a hit song.

I’m always glad to see someone make it without having to go through the typical channels of success. It’s nice to see that the Internet can make celebrities as well as record labels. But the original artists should get their cut of it, just as if you sample, or use any of the words I have written here, I want compensation. We can work out the details.