The idea of a “viral hit” long ago stopped being something that just happened to a song and became, through contrivance and orchestration, a core part of the marketing plot. We can see this today, the air thick with the tang of desperation, as tracks are propelled by endless Musical.ly videos and vloggers shamelessly bankrolling themselves with “promoted content”. Songs are announced as viral hits on launch, semantically bulldozing through what “viral” actually means. (Mannequin challenge, Rae Sremmurd and the meme-powered viral hit)
The quote comes from a good overview, and critique, of the viral video concept by Eamonn Forde:
Black Beatles by Rae Sremmurd has overtaken Chainsmokers’ Closer to top the Billboard Hot 100, having become the soundtrack to the “mannequin challenge” that’s been clogging up your Facebook and Twitter feeds in recent days, wherein people push themselves to the limits of human endurance by standing still for a minute or so. It’s reached a frightening level of ubiquity now that Garth Brooks and the Broadway cast of Aladdin, among others, have given it a spin.
There’s something fitting about this passing of the baton, as Chainsmokers rose to prominence with the flatpack meme of #Selfie in 2014, while Closer was a huge hit off the back of an anemic retread of “user-uploaded videos of awful dancing” that powered The Harlem Shake to the top of the US charts. Meme begets meme, refracting forever into the distance.
Ruslan (Y11, 2016) provided me with two interesting examples of viral-style videos from JSM (JustSomeMotion). The first (second too?) is a German ad - the viral concept has long been adapted by marketing agencies as a means of boosting a campaign's impact (these two have 1.5m hits on YT from the official upload alone); we're more receptive when not thinking of an ad as an ad.
This example, and the one above, also include an element of the audience-in-video approach and the general ploy of replicability:
Of course, the viral term may date from the internet, especially web 2.0, era, but the concept has a long history, including those 80 videos that used dance moves that kids could replicate in the playground (often after a solitary viewing on the Thursday evening Top of the Pops!). Most readers can probably act out at least some of the camp classic YMCA by The Village People - a 70s disco hit!