What is the Harlem Shake?

By now I’m sure you’ve heard of the viral meme, “Harlem Shake,” even if you haven’t seen one of the thousands of videos floating around YouTube.  Whether you have or have not seen it, you might be asking yourself, “What IS the Harlem Shake anyway?”

Video Formula/Meme

The popular Harlem Shake video meme starts in some boring situation like an office.  One person in a mask or  helmet is dancing like crazy to the Harlem Shake song, while everyone else ignores them, going on with business like usual. Then, there is a hard cut and  all of a sudden, everyone is dancing to the song. It’s been done in office buildings, army barraks, public parks, and even under water! This meme is everywhere!  But what is it, and where did it come from?

History of the Harlem Shake

The dance called the “Harlem Shake”  actually originated in 1981, invented, or at least popularized by Harlem street dancer Al B . The biggest reaction to come from actual Harlem residents interviewed about the meme is that no one in the videos is doing the actual Harlem Shake, which is more of a shimmy than a flail,  like what is being done in most of these videos.  The dance came into the  mainstream in 2001, and then the Brooklyn DJ, Baauer created a song called the Harlem Shake in 2012 and released it as a free download.

The original Harlem Shake video was made in early February 2013 by two Australian boys as a spin  off of a comedy sketch by a vlogger called Filthy Frank. After that, spin off after spin off was created all throughout the month of February 2013.

Check us out!

Here is the Harlem Shake video from the recent Milestone conference with our very own Video Guy  front and center. How many others do you recognize?

Expiration Date

Like all fads, and most memes and most viral videos, there is an expiration date.  Although the Harlem Shake was unstoppably popular for the whole month of February 2013, it started fizzling by mid-March and will likely soon be out of Vogue.  Although memes are definitely fun to participate it, we do not recommend counting on them as your video marketing strategy. You would have to make a new video every couple of weeks, or risk becoming outdated FAST!  Instead, create a marketing video that is beautiful and entertaining, but that is lasting and evergreen, and use it as the backbone of your online/video campaign.  Then, you can participate in fast fads on the side without worrying about going out of style.