The Harlem Shake
I know you groaned as you read that. For better or worse, in February 2013, the Harlem Shake took the world by storm. For those who were living under a digital rock for that amazing two month period where this viral dance reigned supreme, let me break this bad boy down for you – Harlem Shake videos are characterised by one or two people in the frame of the video moving at a relatively leisurely pace while the song (Baauer’s creatively titled ‘Harlem Shake’) built itself – and let’s be honest, all of us – up. As the song finally drops, the video quickly, but not at all seamlessly, cuts to a wild dance party, where people (sometimes in costume) dance manically. The original doesn’t have the video cut, but does have some solid costumes. Shortly after, videos were popping up left, right and centre of friends, social groups, even the army performing their own take of the dance trend. I can safely say I have watched almost every one of these videos. I legit went nuts for these videos. Because I am a mature and cultured adult. To be fair, we ALL watched a fair few of these and had a quiet – or not-so-quiet – giggle at the clips. But true to form on the interwebz, the Harlem Shake was short lived and slipped into absolute obscurity faster than you can say “DO THE HARLEM SHAKE!”
Sidenote – I have ventured down a dark rabbit hole researching this one and am praying for a Harlem Shake comeback.
We’ve all heard it. We’ve all sung along. Hell, we’ve all done that one dance move from the video clip with the hands and the legs. But where the fuck did this absolute gem go? This song by South Korean rapper Psy was released in July of 2012 and gained momentum quickly. It became the most viewed YouTube video, becoming the first one to gain a billion views on December 21, 2012. It was parodied, it was covered, it was tributed on Glee (and if that’s not an honour, I dunno what is). Psy’s follow up single, Gentleman, was far less successful. It hit the airwaves around the same time it’s predecessor hit one billion views and couldn’t keep up with its older brother’s success. Psy has since had continued success in his home of South Korea, smashing the local charts and becoming the South Korean tourism ambassador – he’s even collaborated with rapper Snoop Dogg on his single Hangover. Since then (‘then’ is 2015 for those of you playing at home), our favourite suit-wearing dancing Korean has been keeping a low profile. His widely acclaimed hit, however, still brings the best of us to the middle of a dancefloor at any wedding.
This one is one of my personal favourites. Not because I’m a terrible human (though feel free to not ask for references on that one), but because it was the most transparent ploy for digital attention I’ve seen since Kim Kardashian’s….life. In 2012, our Facebook feeds blew up with news about militant Ugandan leader Joseph Kony. Reports varied from war crimes to forcing children into sex slavery, most of which were outlined in the Invisible Children produced film Kony 2012, which aimed to shed light on Kony’s atrocities. Shortly after its release, internet campaigns went absolutely viral pushing people to donate money to not for profit organisations for the victims of Kony’s crimes – an incredibly worthy cause, no one can doubt. My issue came about three months later when the campaigning really started to soften up and anti-Konyers were satisfied with people watching a video, pressing the like button, or occasionally sharing a post related to the abhorrent acts – awareness was all they were after. So many times did I push my self-righteousness onto people (most of which were acquaintances who probably deleted me from every facet of their lives) that awareness or hitting ‘like’ means very little without genuine financial aid or political action. Again, awareness was all activists were after. Well, we were all made aware and we all promptly forgot. Five years later, in April 2017, Ugandan and US military forces stopped their search for Kony, claiming he no longer posed as a threat to Uganda. His 88 wives and 42 children are believed to be doing well. Just so you’re aware.
That time Apple automatically downloaded the new U2 album onto everyone’s iPhone
Yep, I bet you forgot about this one. The album was that good huh? (that’s a whole other story though). Songs of Innocence, U2’s 13th studio album was widely released in 2014. Apple boasts that it was downloaded through their channels by 33 million people, which is some pretty great fucking spin. In fact, Apple and U2 agreed to release the album on the digital platform and automatically download it to people’s devices when connected to wifi. Unsolicited subjection to Bono. Thank gawd I’m an Android girl. Not only did this perfectly average album sneak its way onto our iTunes playlists somewhere between Jay Z and Angus and Julia Stone, but it was damn near impossible to get rid of. The Dublin formed band copped a fair amount of criticism from other musicians, including Patrick Carney and Nick Mason (of Black Keys and Pink Floyd fame) for effectively giving their music away for free, stating that the band sent the message that music is free and the gesture devalued music. To be fair, this gesture also devalued our playlists. But again, that’s a whole other story.
Black and blue/white and gold dress
The ultimate test in perception. A seemingly normal lacey bandeau dress that divided the internet into three courts – black and blue; white and gold; and who the fuck pairs that dress with a blue bolero? (three guesses which camp I was in) The photo of the dress surfaced in February of 2015 and saw internet users debate over the colours of the garment, originally sold through Roman Originals. Some saw the washed out photo as gold and white while others saw it as black and blue – it was later confirmed to be the latter. The viral photo became a debate in colour perception. In the first week of the photo being uploaded to Tumblr saw 10 million tweets mention the dress with a plethora of hashtags in its honour. The photo phenomenon held us all in its grips for weeks after, with subtle references to the divisive dress inserted in every argument thereafter (“Oh, and I bet you thought the dress was white and gold, too!”), but the bodycon ensemble is seldom seen or heard of today.
I’ll admit, I am the proud owner of an iPad with Flappy Bird installed and ready to go. Yes, form an orderly line ladies and gents. The mobile game, developed in 2013 by Vietnamese programmer Dong Nguyen, gained popularity in early 2014. The game’s graphics mirror those of Super Mario on the old faithful SNES which perhaps explain the game’s popularity. The rules are simple – tap the screen repeatedly to keep Flappy Bird from dropping and hitting the ground or green pipes. The game’s popularity was shortlived, with Nguyen pulling the game from app sites on February 10th 2014, citing the game’s addictive nature. Yes. This game was digital crack. And I was a fucking gun at it, too. There was no real known end point for the game, but dozens of rumours circulated the internet about the game’s ending – Mario meeting Flappy Bird at level 1000 is the most popular with ghost videos popping up showing the pair facing off. Shortly after the game was discontinued, iPads and iPhones with the contraband game were being auctioned off for ridonk prices – especially for Apple products. People were selling their gadgets for extortionate prices because it contained the pixelated flappy. Eventually eBay and other P2P selling sites had to put the proverbial foot down and rule that because electronics must be resold with the original factory settings restored. You will find me lurking the dark web in hopes of selling my Flappy Bird pad.
Ice bucket challenge
This one blew up across 2015 – 2016, despite having originated in Boston in 2013-2014, and lingered longer than most others on this list. The idea behind the chain letter style videos was to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease and its debilitating symptoms. Participants were filmed as a bucket of icy cold water was poured over their head, with the sharp icy feeling believed to mimic the pain felt by those living with MND/ALS. Participants would then nominate a friend, family member or colleague to perform the same challenge within the next 24 hours. The videos and trend definitely raised awareness of the condition across the world, with the ALS Association is the US stating that before the emergence of the viral videos and the challenge, only half of America’s population had heard of the debilitating condition. The challenge sparked criticism, though, when it was found while there were hundreds of thousands of ice bucket challenge videos, few participants were actually donating money to work towards a cure or treatment and it’s been suggested the challenge and videos were too self-congratulatory and narcissistic. Lincoln Humphries, a regional TV news presenter, posted this clip after he was nominated, urging people to give to charity in a more general sense, rather than going through “mild discomfort with a bucket of ice and water”. The AFL in Australia launched The Big Freeze – a yearly fundraising event at a football match in June where local celebrities and sporting figures send themselves down a giant slide into a pool of icy water on the national stage. A terrific event that garners plenty of interest for an incredibly worthy cause, but I daresay without it, there’d be very little focus on the videos, the challenge or the cause itself.
The Kylie Jenner lip challenge
Possibly the most ridiculous plastic surgery coverup I’ve ever heard ever. In early 2015, Jenner’s enhanced lips garnered plenty of attention, with many in the Twittersphere pointing towards lip fillers as the cause (duh!). Jenner responded by saying she use lip liner to overline her lips when applying her make up each day. That legit is not a thing. What sprang from this, though, was a pretty silly and dangerous turn of events. Fans across the world started using shot sized glasses to suction their lips into to induce blood flow to the lips to swell them and create their own Kylie Jenner lip kit. Results varied from puffy lips with mild tingling due to the increased blood flow, while many participants experiences massive swelling to their mouths, and some even had the glass used to create the fuller lips break in their faces, leaving them with considering scarring on their lips and cheeks. While Jenner never claimed to have employed this method herself, critics of the teen have suggested Jenner should have been honest with fans about her cosmetic procedures, rather than leave young and impressionable fans to their own creative, yet harmful, devices. The lip challenge simmered down considerably when Jenner admitted during an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians she had, in fact, undergone lip augmentation (cue shock) to enhance the volume of her lips and used this as a platform to launch her own line of lip glosses. They were really more of an investment. Can you really see these lip kits selling as quickly?
Chris Crocker aka the “Leave Britney Alone!” guy
This was definitely my favourite from 2007. The video was released in two parts via Crocker’s YouTube and MySpace pages (yep – MySpace…remember that?), the first part was an open letter style plea to Britney Spears, begging her not to take the same path of Anna Nicole Smith who’d died earlier that year. The second, and more infamous video, featured Crocker engaging in a tirade against the likes of blogger Perez Hilton and producer Simon Cowell for their criticisms of Britney’s onstage performance at the 2007 MTV VMAs in Las Vegas. The post showed Crocker in hysterics, urging critics to, you guessed it, leave Britney alone. The video garnered international attention almost immediately, with Fox News, CNN, and Jay Leno (among many more) giving the clip plenty of air time. The video, and Crocker’s passion, became the target of a number of satire videos for months following the video’s emergence, but it was officially dead in the digital water by year’s end. And while people might not have left Britney alone, we’ve all definitely thought twice before casting aspersion on any new release.