What is the Harlem Shake, you ask? The answer is in the videos

I rely on my kids to keep me abreast of important pop culture trends. They are particularly adept at highlighting my shortcomings in that department. Thus is the context for the following conversation that occurred last night between my 17-year old son and me:

Boy: Mom, do you know what the Harlem Shake is? (said in a “if you don’t know you might be the last person on earth who doesn’t” kind of way)

Me: (feeling confident) You mean the Harlem Shuffle? Yes, it’s a Rolling Stones song. (slightly smug, also excited that the boy was taking an interest in the classics)

Boy: (overly exaggerated eye roll) So you don’t know what the Harlem Shake is.  (statement, not question)

Me: Oh. Maybe not.

He showed me a few examples of the Harlem Shake on YouTube, after which I still didn’t quite “get” what it was. On the train this morning I took the opportunity to educate myself further. I determined that there are two main components to the Harlem Shuffle:

1. One person, often wearing a mask, begins to dance. Those around this individual appear to not notice the person dancing.
2. Approximately five seconds later, the video cuts to the same scene, but this time everyone is wearing a crazy costume and dancing.
3. That’s it.

The whole thing is over in about 30 seconds, but variations of it are all over the internet, all done to the song by the same name. I investigated the origin and traced it to a rapper who took a line from another song for the hook (although I find it rather indecipherable, maybe because it's in Spanish). While the song used in the videos was released last summer, the concept of everyone on earth making their own version of the video and posting it online is only a few weeks old, so in my defense that is practically real-time for me and pop culture phenomena.

While compiling the versions below, my daughter commented about one of them, “I can tell this one is going to be stupid.” Well, they’re all kind of stupid, but that's the fun of them. Enjoy!

Here is the original:


Sea World:

Army edition:

Georgia Swim Team:

Retirement Home:

Northwestern Football team:

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