The Week In Pop: Watch Us Whip Through The History Of Dance Crazes, From Chubby Checker To Silentó
Chances are you’ve watched Silentó Whip, watched him Nae Nae at some point this summer. Perhaps you’ve even Whipped, Nae Nae’d, or done the Stanky Legg yourself. The then-unknown Atlanta teenager born Ricky Hawke — which is a much better pop-star name than Silentó — uploaded “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” to SoundCloud back in January. He’s since experienced explosive viral popularity, been mimicked incessantly on user-generated video sites, signed to Capitol, danced with the cast of Black-ish at the BET Awards, sold nearly 900,000 MP3s, racked up 150 million on-demand streams, won the approval of NBA tastemaker Riley Curry, and watched himself Whip and Nae Nae all the way to #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart. “Watch Me” is a legit song of the summer contender and seems likely to enter the pantheon of tunes people dance to at weddings, in a group, with minimal semblance of coordination. Silentó is two years younger than the Macarena, but he’s keeping alive a tradition that goes back decades: novelty dance hits.
“Watch Me” is truly a dance craze for this age. Rather than introduce new movements of his own invention, Silentó combined a bunch of pre-existing maneuvers into a sort of greatest hits package, a carefully curated timeline of other people’s Vines set to Bolo Da Producer’s infectious bloops and bleeps. (For reference: The Whip, the Nae Nae, and the Stanky Legg.) As has become customary for songs like this, the rise of “Watch Me” had a lot to do with fans filming themselves dancing along, a phenomenon chronicled in the official music video and in this goofy footage from Good Morning America:
But for all its exceedingly modern components, “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” feels like the oldest kind of hit. In fact, even the combination of pre-existing dance moves goes all the way back to Chris Kenner’s 1963 composition “Land Of A Thousand Dances,” popularized by Headhunter & The Cannibals in 1965 and and Wilson Pickett in 1966. (Even if you don’t know any of the dances, you know its “Na na na na na” chorus by heart.) There’s a real sense of unity in coordinated dance moves, a sense of oneness with your fellow humans. So a new craze springs up every few years, often heralding the arrival of a new generation. Even setting aside old jazz moves like the Charleston and newer routines like the ones from “Single Ladies” and “Gangnam Style” — what do you call those, exactly? — there’s plenty of history to revisit. Let’s limit our list to songs named after a dance and Stanky Legg down memory lane…
Chubby Checker – “The Twist” (1960)
Checker didn’t originally write or record “The Twist,” but his version brought the song to life and shot to #1 — apologies to Hank Ballard, who I’m sure has enjoyed his royalty checks throughout the decades. The move is simple: Twist your hips one way and your arms the other way, and repeat ad infinitum. Checker scored another hit with “Let’s Twist Again,” which went to #8 in 1961. His “Pony Time” generated a another hit dance called the Pony, referenced in Wilson Pickett’s “Land Of A Thousand Dances,” Nick Lowe’s “I Knew The Bride,” and the Go-Gos’ “We Got The Beat.” There were so many of these dances in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll — the Mashed Potato, the Alligator, the Watusi, etc., etc., etc. — and most of them were chronicled in “Land Of A Thousand Dances.” But thanks to the simplicity of the movement and the timeless quality of Checker’s vocal performance, “The Twist” is the one that endures.
The Bangles – “Walk Like An Egyptian” (1985)
Again, the simplest dances are the ones that tend to last the longest, and as the Bangles tell it, there’s barely anything to walking like an Egyptian.
Marcia Griffiths – “Electric Boogie” (aka “Electric Slide”) (1989)
Bunny Wailer of Bob Marley & The Wailers wrote and recorded the original “Electric Boogie” in 1976, but Griffiths scored a hit with it in Jamaica in 1982. Her remixed version from 1989 is the one you hear everywhere. Ric Silver, who choreographed the Electric Slide dance in 1976, once made it his life’s mission to wipe fan-made Electric Slide videos off YouTube, but in 2007 he caved to fair use doctrine. So now videos like this one can exist:
Bart Simpson – “Do The Bartman” (1990)
Michael Jackson did not write this song, contrary to popular opinion.
Brooks & Dunn – “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” (1992)
The song that singlehandedly brought country line-dancing back…
Rednex – “Cotton Eye Joe” (1994)
…and the one that turned line-dancing into a jock jam. Notably, though, “Cotton Eye Joe” might be the oldest of all these songs. It dates all the way back to the Antebellum era. The Rednex version isn’t that old, of course — it just feels like it.
69 Boyz – “Tootsee Roll” (1994)
To the left! To the left! To the right! To the right!
Los Del Rio – “Macarena” (1995-97)
Think of it as a Latin line dance. Or don’t think of it at all. (Bonus: “Macarena Christmas“!)
Freak Nasty – “Da’ Dip” (1996)
Confusing: “Da’ Dip” involves putting your hand upon your own hip, but Freak Nasty says “I put my hand upon your hip.”
Terror Squad – “Lean Back” (2004)
The anti-dance craze.
Dem Franchize Boys – “Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It” (2005)
Snap music’s signature anthem.
Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em – “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” (2007)
Soulja Boy is one of the few dance fad initiators whose influence extends beyond one hit single, but most people still know him as the guy who instructed his listeners to “Superman that ho.”
Lil’ Wil – “My Dougie” (2007) + Cali Swag District – “Teach Me How To Dougie” (2009)
Named after Doug E. Fresh, the Dougie initiated in Dallas, home of Lil’ Wil. The Wiki definition is priceless: “a hip-hop dance generally performed by moving one’s body in a shimmy style and passing a hand through or near the hair on one’s own head.” Lil Wil’s “My Dougie” was a certified hit, but Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How To Dougie” is arguably the best-known ambassador of the dance. When Cali Swag’s M-Bone was shot and killed, people did the Dougie at his funeral.
GS Boyz – “Stanky Legg”
Before Silentó incorporated the Stanky Legg into his multi-headed beast, there were the GS Boyz, holding it down.
Baauer – “Harlem Shake” (2012-13)
No, it’s not the real Harlem Shake, but alas, it’s the one that will go down in history: standing still while Baauer builds to the drop, then flailing about like you’ve lost your mind.
Silentó – “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” (2015)
The sound — and the movements — of Summer 2015.
Future tried the whole everything-to-everyone approach on last year’s Honest and faltered on the charts. Only by streamlining his sound and focusing on his base did he manage his first #1 album. The fucking incredible DS2 enters the Billboard 200 on top this week, having accumulated 147,000 equivalent units, 121,000 from pure sales. That’s more than double Honest’s 53,000 opening sales frame.
Taylor Swift’s 1989 remains at #2 with 50,000, but just barely. Two other albums tallied about 50,000 units: last week’s #1, Tyrese’s Black Rose, is at #3, and Tame Impala’s fantastic Currents is at #4. The Tame Impala record — to which we devoted an extensive feature earlier this month — recorded 45,000 in pure sales, a big leap from Lonerism’s #34 debut on 12,000 in first-week sales.
Country veteran Alan Jackson’s Angels And Alcohol debuts at #5 with 48,000. Billboard notes that it’s Jackson’s 14th top-10 LP. Then it’s more country, as Jason Isbell’s recent Album Of The Week honoree Something More Than Free enters at #6 with 47,000. Read our Q&A with Isbell.
Next up is Meek Mill’s former #1 Dreams Worth More Than Money at #7 with 39,000. Three more mainstays round out the top 10: Ed Sheeran’s x (#8, 32,000), Sam Hunt’s Montevallo (#9, 30,000), and Kidz Bop 29 (#10, 24,000). Can you believe 24,000 equivalent units lands you in the top 10 these days?
Over on the Hot 100, OMI’s #1 “Cheerleader” fends off the Weeknd’s #2 “Can’t Feel My Face” for a second straight week. Then it’s Silento’s “Watch Me” (#3), Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” (#4), and Wiz Khalifa/Charlie Puth’s “See You Again (#5).
The big story on the singles chart, though, is Fetty Wap. “Trap Queen” stands strong at #6, while the Monty collab “My Way” shoots from #87 to #7 upon its release to digital retailers. That means Fetty becomes the second male this year to land two simultaneous top-10 singles after the Weeknd did it last week. Billboard points out that Fetty is the first male rapper in a lead role to pull off the feat since 2011, when Lil Wayne lodged the Drake collab “She Will” at #2 and “How To Love” at #6. (Speaking of Drake, presumably his remix of “My Way” is not charting because it’s not for sale on iTunes.) Fetty’s “679” is also at #18, making him the first rapper with three simultaneous top-20 hits since Eminem’s 2013 trifecta “The Monster” (Feat. Rihanna), “Rap God,” and “Berzerk.”
Rounding out the top 10 are Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” (#8), Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance” (#9), and the Major Lazer/DJ Snake/MØ hit “Lean On” (#10). And Billboard expects to see both Fifth Harmony and Kid Ink’s kinda-sorta-OK “Worth It” and 5 Seconds Of Summer’s excreble “She’s Kinda Hot” in the top 10 soon.
Jordin Sparks – “100 Years”
I never thought I’d say this, but I am legitimately stoked to hear the new Jordin Sparks album. A few weeks back we heard her channeling Sade, and now here’s a glorious ballad worthy of the Janet Jackson comeback album.
Jess Glynne – “Why Me”
The voice behind Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” continues her hot streak. The level of controlled passion here is astounding.
Natalie La Rose – “Around The World” (Feat. Fetty Wap)
So Natalie La Rose is the new Jason Derulo, reciting her name at the beginning of every song and repurposing old, classic hits into sleek, modernized hits? Works for me; although she’s not living up to her source material, she’s running laps around Derulo.
Florida Georgia Line – “Anything Goes”
I don’t believe in musical guilty pleasures, but I’ve always felt a certain tinge of shame whenever I enjoyed a Florida Georgia Line song. This one, though, is a no-qualifiers-needed great pop-country song. SMH at “Victoria’s Secret ain’t a secret no more,” though.
Austin Mahone – “Dirty Work”
Close your eyes and you mind find this dark-synth/lite-funk workout mildly enjoyable. Open your eyes and the ultra-douchey Office parody will turn you against Mahone forever.
Zac Brown Band – “Holiday Road” (Lindsey Buckingham Cover)
From the Vacation soundtrack — a crappy remake for a crappy remake.
Macy Gray – “B.O.B.”
Macy Gray wrote a love song for her vibrator.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Macklemore relapsed into pill addiction during his rise to superstardom. [Complex]
- One Direction’s Zayn Malik has signed to RCA to make #realmusic. [Vulture]
- Kelly Clarkson performed a slowed-down cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” [YouTube]
- Album sales in general were down 11 percent last year, but country album sales were up 11 percent. [NY Post]
- Speaking of Swift, was that Katy Perry’s Left Shark we saw during a recent performance of “Bad Blood”? [Mirror]
- In other Swift news, the Houston Astros have presumptuously rescheduled her Houston concert just in case it conflicts with a playoff run. [Billboard]
- Jewel’s folk music comeback is on. [Rolling Stone]
- Ed Sheeran’s Wembley Stadium concerts will be edited into a TV special to air on NBC. [Rolling Stone]
- Also, here’s video of Sheeran talking about the time he sharted on stage. [Vulture]
HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME
When the whole news team lit … pic.twitter.com/uY0Xbsm04S
— Old J Simpson (@AllegedlyQ) July 25, 2015