In the wee hours of Feb. 13, 2013, the hosts of the Today show committed meme murder. The moment they aired their take on the so-called "Harlem Shake" was the moment the Internet's meme guardians pronounced the viral, trap-soundtracked dance craze dead. It was one week old.
The meme's life was so short, you'd be forgiven for not knowing it even existed. For those who didn't catch our first Harlem Shake post, here's what you need to know to mourn properly. These goofy 30-second videos all started with one person (usually in a mask) wriggling along to the build-up of a wobbly EDM track. Then when the beat dropped, everyone in the frame who'd been sitting idly would join in for some uninhibited looniness. Such videos brought joy to many souls wasting time on Youtube.
The meme is survived by the song which tied all the videos together. Baauer's "Harlem Shake" remains one of the most popular tracks in a budding offshoot of EDM called trap. Hip-hop purists will tell you that this emerging genre rips off and waters down the original "trap" music, a drug-running subgenre of Southern rap that's been around for years. But that hasn't put the brakes on the rising popularity of other trap producers like Flosstradamus or TNGHT.
According to online responders, the Harlem Shake meme was killed swiftly by this Today show segment from Wednesday morning:
Before Al Roker donned that cupid costume, the Harlem Shake had been recreated by the following parties (take a deep breath):
- Real-life firefighters
- The University of Georgia's men's swim and dive team
- A Norwegian army squadron
- The staffs of College Humor, Buzzfeed, and Mixmag
- Some far-out basketball players from the Dallas Mavericks
- A dude and his two grandmas
- and Anderson Cooper's co-workers
Anderson revealed himself to be a dance party-pooper, but the producer who's earned widespread Internet fame through the late meme didn't mind:
All those versions brought the Harlem Shake to online ubiquity, but apparently the Today show's version was what finally put the meme six feet under. This morning, Gawker's Neetzan Zimmerman pointed to a video begging people to quit making Harlem Shake videos. Another blogger responded to Matt Lauer and company's Harlem Shake with a headline reading "Today Show's Harlem Shake Marks Official Death of the Harlem Shake." Even the leading lights of trap are starting to make fun of trap's mainstream breakthrough. Perhaps Lauer himself put it best during the fade-out of the Harlem Shake, Today show edition: "We have seen just about enough of that."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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