Baauer is the 24-year-old trap-rave producer whose future-crunk behemoth “Harlem Shake” soundtracked Norwegian army drills, morning-show derp squads, school suspensions, an FAA investigation, a fiery fall, and a mass stabbing among perhaps a zillion other flash-mob dancing demonstrations, thanks to a craze perhaps orchestrated by corporations. But despite debuting at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 after chart rules changed to incorporate YouTube streams, the Brooklyn-based DJ insists that his best-known smash hasn't directly earned him money. How could that be?
Internet memes are often portrayed as the last bastion of truly spontaneous culture—almost magic things that spawn haphazardly from the digital mire. This may have been somewhat true with early internet memes. (After all, what corporation would want to co-opt Goatse?) But today memes are as corporate as any other form of popular culture.
The Harlem Shake has been declared over time and time again.
The meme that's made Bauuer's incorrectly named "Harlem Shake" the number one song in America two weeks in a row is finally getting the federal investigation it deserves. Sort of. One of the more recent versions of the meme, made by the Colorado College Ultimate Frisbee Team – takes place aboard a Frontier Airlines flight. It starts off innocently/predictably enough, with a lone frisbee player dancing in a lacrosse helmet. Then, as always happens in these videos, the whole plane joins in, including other members of the team in various costumes, plus a confused-looking but game old man. Harmless fun, in an awful sort of way, right? Wrong, according to the FAA, who have launched an investigation into the video.
Anyone with eyes and a memory that goes back at least to the early '00s advent of Bad Boy Records knows that the meme or whatever it is of people convulsing arhythmically that is currently masquerading as the "Harlem Shake" is not the Harlem Shake. A filmmaker named Chris McGuire took to Harlem for man-on-the-street reactions and what starts as a jokey sort of montage gains intensity for the impassioned anti-appropriation sentiment the nu-Shake provokes. "It's not no dance, it's really a lifestyle," says one guy. "It's actually an art form, a dance art form that doesn't have the respect it deserves," says another. "Injustice," says yet another.