The Harlem Shake craze is all of two weeks old, and already it's become one of the most inescapable--and inexplicable--memes in recent memory.
A search on YouTube for "Harlem Shake" turns up 8.8 million results: according to the site's Trends blog, there were 40,000 unique videos with more than 175 million views on February 15. There are almost certainly more now.
But has it crossed over the line between "all the rage" and "over it"?
As early as February 13, the Atlantic Wire was suggesting the meme had worn out its welcome when Today uploaded their groan-worthy version. The LA Times declared it dead or dying on February 16, with a list of reasons the overexposed meme was just over (and two thirds of readers seemed to agree, responding to a poll in the article).
If you ask us, the Harlem Shake lost the plot when it went mainstream. Part of the charm of the videos was their very lo-fi style: a single shot, usually in wide-angle, no bells and whistles, just a guy dancing in a helmet and then a giant dance party. Many of the videos featured a single slow-motion moment, but that was as fancy as it got.
So when Pepsi uploaded a video of its various beverages taking the place of the dancers, it was something of a bridge too far. The meme had gone from viral sensation to mainstream as a corporate giant hijacked it for advertising purposes:
(A version featuring Jeff Gordon, crew and his Pepsi Max racing car is truer to the spirit of the original videos.)
And A&W restaurants made a bizarre attempt at their own version, featuring Rooty the bear and in a black and white "History of the Harlem Shake" (circa 1974) video.