175 million views. 12,000 videos. Ubiquitous among dozens of countries around the world. According to Youtube Analytics, these are some of the statistics that the recent internet sensation "The Harlem Shake" has boasted as of February 15th. The Norwegian Army, the Miami Heat, and Red Bull even created their own versions of the dance for the World to see during its month of glory. While the original dance was made famous by rapper G. Dep in 2001, the viral song and dance was produced in 2012 by a relatively unknown DJ artist named "Baauer." The remarkable thing is, its popularity was gained with little to no promotion or marketing, unlike the gargantuan record companies who spend millions on promoting records.
The question on everyone's mind is: How did this silly, ridiculous, simple craze catch fire and become a social buzz word within the online culture so quickly?
Simplicity: Because of the seemingly random format, each participant is free to create their own move, ranging from the stylized to the unfashionable. Give people an easy template to work with, and they will use it if they feel it's accessible enough to use, and even exercise a bit of creativity of their own.
Humor: Costumes, costumes, costumes. If you search for the top viewed videos on Youtube of the Harlem Shake, you will find groups dressed in everything from Phantom of the Opera Masks to SuperMario Brothers, and everything in between. The groups that gained the most exposure were also the most serious and unlikely groups to do so. The Miami Heat performed one in their locker room, and while they were humorous, they might do better to stick with what they do best on the court.
Surprise: The beauty of the format is that viewers expect the climactic bass beat at 15 seconds into the song, and after it drops, something is bound to happen. You might think that if people can expect what is going to happen, they won't be drawn to watch it. However, each group creates a different dance and costume, making their video distinct.
Why should we pay attention to this?
After all, the H.S. was short lived, restricted to online media, and was disseminated from thousands of sources. However, this ridiculous format showed us that even the most unassuming professionals in the workplace long to create their own entertainment and showcase it on the web for audiences to see. Give people a stage, and they will take it. Give people a voice, and they will use it.
What we can learn from this trend is that creativity abounds everywhere. With little production experience or adequate environmental factors, people will use what they have and make something out of it.