It just goes to show—put your music out there, and you never know what will happen.
Last summer, a relatively unknown electronic/trap music producer going by the stage name Baauer released a relatively ignored EP containing the song “Harlem Shake.” The song (and producer) remained in obscurity until a couple of weeks ago, when some people took a 30-second clip of the song, did some crazy dance to it, and put it up on YouTube. The idea turned into a meme, as thousands of copycats did the exact same thing (as discussed earlier this week by our writer Jon O’Brien). And WHAM-O! “Harlem Shake” is suddenly a global craze, and people are scrambling to find out who this “Baauer” guy is.
But that’s just part of the puzzlement. Not only is the “Harlem Shake” meme burning up the Interwebs, but now the song has thrown the U.S. charting system for a loop, coming literally out of nowhere to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart this week, knocking Macklemore & Ryan Lewis out of the Number 1 spot.
How did this happen? Isn’t the Hot 100 about radio airplay?
Ahhh, there’s the twist.
You see, the Hot 100 combines data from radio airplay as well as record sales—and as fate would have it, just this week, the chart began incorporating YouTube streaming data, as well. Hence, “Harlem Shake” becomes an instant chart-topper, and quite possibly the first single atop the Hot 100 that is not currently receiving wide airplay. (Although I suspect that’s about to change.)
Timing is everything. (What are the odds that your un-promoted song suddenly becomes a YouTube craze, right at the very time that Billboard changes its charting criteria?)
Of course, as last year’s YouTube sensation PSY can attest, instant fame does not guarantee lasting career success. Baauer basically won the lottery here, and a lot depends on how he parlays his winnings, so to speak. If he can maximize this new-found fame by producing more quality material, he might just be able to ride the wave for awhile.
Time, of course, will tell. In the meantime, the “Harlem Shake” sensation is certainly fun to watch. And, as many people are demonstrating in front of countless webcams—it’s also fun to dance to.