The first time I heard the Harlem Shake was off the Dance(RED) compilation from Tiesto. Both Lincoln and I pegged it as a great song, probably the best of the album, which was stacked with tracks from numerous mega-popular DJs. That was about 4-5 months ago. Now, everywhere you look on the internet, there’s a 30-second video of people flailing to the Harlem Shake. Admittedly, there were a few that were funny, but most were just downright horrible. Yet, this mini-fad has launched Baauer, and his track, into the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Virality in the Internet Age has changed the definition of popular music. In the past few years, several songs have gained prominence because of internet virality, Gangnam Style and Call Me Maybe to name a few. Now, a 5 second snippet of a song can send it soaring into the charts, which in some respects, is unfair to other artists. Baauer currently has more #1 hits than many of his dance music contemporaries: Avicii, Tiesto, Deadmau5, etc. Now this doesn’t mean that Baauer is undeserving of the #1 spot; the Hot 100 measures song popularity, not song quality, and so being a viral hit, Harlem Shake deserves to be at the top of the chart.
The fact is, the Hot 100 has always been a flawed system, if you’re looking for the best song at the time. There is no consensus on what could be the best song at any certain period, seeing the diversity in everyone’s music taste. The Hot 100 does what it is supposed to do: measure song popularity through radio airplay, sales, and streaming numbers. Yet, I can’t question the legitimacy of a song blowing up because of a sound bite, rather than the entirety of the song.