The Harlem Shake began in 1981 in, of all places, Harlem. It is a dance move that involves pivoting one shoulder while making the other shoulder pop out. A man by the name of “Al B” supposedly created it, pontificating that it is more than mere dancing. It is “a drunken state, it’s an alcoholic shake, but it’s fantastic, everybody loves it and everybody appreciates it.”
While it originated more than three decades ago, it has only recently captivated the attention of the Internet. On May 17 of last year, an artist named Baauer released a track entitled “Harlem Shake.” And while Baauer’s track lasts for over three minutes, it’s the first thirty seconds or so that have gone viral — right up until you hear some large animal (I’m guessing a lion?) growl. The song features the phrase, “Do the Harlem Shake,” the repeated growling, and a mixture of house jam beats, bass drops, and funky synthetic laser sounds — kind of like if Alvin and the Chipmunks did the light saber sound effects in Star Wars.
As a side note, Baauer describes himself as “the love child of Brooklyn and the Internet” who was “born out of noise” and now creates music that is “the delectable fusion of future-crunk and leather shaken aggressively in a bottle for years.” True story.
(Also true: Baauer is a 23-year-old producer from Brooklyn, New York. His real name is Harry Rodrigues. His main musical genre is trap and bass music. Baauer has produced remixes for No Doubt, Nero, and The Prodigy. “Harlem Shake” was released by Mad Decent, the record label created by renowned DJ and producer Diplo.)
The virality of Baauer’s track began about two weeks ago when four costumed figures made a video of themselves dancing to the first thirty seconds. That original video now has over four million views. Since then, a plethora of other people have made their own videos, including the Norwegian military, firemen inside a fire truck, My Little Pony, and the “Today” show. I would say everyone but your grandma is doing the Harlem Shake these days. But that would be a lie. Because grandmas are doing the Harlem Shake, too.
Harlem Shake videos have now been viewed over 44 million times in totality. This craze has reached such a feverish pitch that some people started a petition to have the Obama Administration release its own version. (The petition was shortly thereafter removed for being in “violation of [their] Terms of Participation.”)
Love it or hate it, I am glad for one thing: now that everyone is in love with the Harlem Shake, that means people will start forgetting about Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” At some point soon, I will be over this Harlem Shake craze, too. But I can sleep at night knowing that, even if I have to encounter new version after new version for the next month, each version is only 30 seconds long. 30 second long viral videos are always superior to 4 minute long viral videos (aka Gangnam Style remakes).
And just as Puddles led the University of Oregon in a remake of Gangnam Style, the Oregon Duck has similarly led Eugene straight into Harlem Shake fever. But it does not stop with Puddles. University students have been caught Harlem Shakin’ at the EMU, in front of minivans on Ferry Street, and amongst architecture majors. The local fever became such a big deal that apparently even Oregon State and Benny Beaver felt like they had to issue their own version. Here are some of the highlights:
Oregon Duck doing the Harlem Shake in the EMU Courtyard
University of Oregon students doing the Harlem Shake down Ferry St.
University of Oregon architecture majors doing the Harlem Shake
And, of course,
OSU does the Harlem Shake
I’ll conclude with praising everyone involved for their noble efforts to keep the Harlem Shake alive and viral. Though I must admit, my favorite version is still the “Fighting Games” version, which looks like characters from the classic Street Fighter-type games put aside their violent differences and got their dance on:
Keep shakin’, Eugene.