YouTube Harlem Shake: The 4 Best Renditions and Why the Dance is So Popular

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article misidentified the original creater of the first Harlem Shake video. The 00:36 version uploaded by Filthy Frank was not the first meme of the Harlem Shake. It was uploaded at 17:38 p.m. on February 2, more than 2 hours after the internet meme uploaded on the same day at 15:17 p.m. by the SunnyCoastSkate boys.

The world may have finally had enough of the internet phenomena of “Gangnam Style,” but a new video fad has taken over known as “The Harlem Shake.” Several videos that display groups dancing in outrageous outfits to a fast tempo song have instantly gone viral on YouTube.

These videos have received millions of viewers and the dance continues to gain popularity. What has sparked such an odd obsession? A case can be made that people simply enjoy things that can make them laugh. Also, if making one’s one version of “The Harlem Shake” can bring someone to instant fame via the internet, then it is no wonder that the world has engaged the latest dance craze.

The rendition of this “Harlem Shake” originates from electronic music producer Baauer. The popular videos only last for about 30 seconds. They usually feature a group in which one person begins to stand out and dance. When the regular beat drops after the cue “Do the Harlem Shake,” the rest of the group joins in, wearing a variety of costumes and masks and performing wild dance moves.


The first Harlem Shake parody video was uploaded on Feb. 2 by YouTube user "Filthy Frank." Since then thousands of versions of the Harlem Shake have been uploaded to the site. According to YouTube Trends, over 12,000 similar videos have been posted as of Feb. 11, and have received over a total of 44 million views. In addition, 4,000 Harlem Shake videos are posted each day.

Celebrities have quickly jumped on board with the pop culture phenomena. The TODAY Show, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show have all made their own Harlem Shake memes. The “Harlem Shake” has since become the number two song on the iTunes charts, and its popularity does not appear to be fading any time soon.

How has the “Harlem Shake” amassed such a large following? The answer lies simply with YouTube. The video social media site has served as a portal in which any one can become an internet sensation, provided that they are creative enough to attract enough viewers and traffic. As silly as a 30 second dance routine may seem, it has invited response by millions through the medium of social media. Just like “Call Me Maybe” and most recently “Gangnam Style,” “Harlem Shake” has ignited a massive pop culture event that everyone wants to participate in.

Some of YouTube’s best “Harlem Shake” spoofs:

The Colbert Report:


The Norwegian Army:


University of Georgia Men’s Swim Team:


Sea World San Antonio, Texas:


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Shawna Gillen

Shawna is currently studying Political Science and Psychology at Marist College. She has a passion for politics and is an aspiring lawyer. In her spare time she likes to play club women's rugby, and contributes as the Co-News Editor for Marist's student newspaper.

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