I like to consider myself a red pill type, a nearly paranoid writer who reflexively questions everything. I know that major labels secretly sign artists and then pretend like they're still independent. I know that superstar artists make songwriters sleep in tents until they come up with hit songs. But I didn't see this coming and I feel stupid for it.
2015 was the year of the whip. Silento's anthem racked up more than half-a-billion views on YouTube, but the song's popularity was primarily driven by a dance that would find everyone from toddlers to Ellen doing their own versions. Like the "Harlem Shake" before it, it was the internet's "everyone gets a participation trophy" phenomenon operating at its most monstrous.
"Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" was far from a deeply artistic statement, it's essentially just a compilation of buzzing dances that happens to have music in the background, but I assumed its popularity was the organic result of a catchy hook and humanity's seemingly natural desire to dance similarly in large groups, the 2015 version of the "Macarena" or "YMCA." Nope. Not really.
As BusinessInsider uncovered, the whip's popularity was the far-from-accidental work of DanceOn, a company whose job it is to quite literally create viral dance hits. (Side note, DanceOn is co-founded by Madonna, because Madonna seems to be involved in pretty much everything gross these days.)
Here's how it works. DanceOn inks deals with artists who have dance-ready music like Silento, then has its vast network of Vine, YouTube and Instagram dance stars do their own version. In "Whip (Nae/Nae)"'s case, approximately 50 DanceOn-paid dancers posted their own videos of the song, racking up more than 500 million additional views beyond the official video itself and launching the "Whip" dance into the broader mainstream, where even more people outside the network would continue to unwittingly make the dance more popular for free.
To the degree that the whip went viral, it's because DanceOn hired people to go around the internet and inject it into our brains.
With 'Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae),' instead of one dancer driving 9 million views, 50 drove 250 million — and more outside the network." - BusinessInsider
Well shit. My daughter was literally doing the whip last night in the kitchen and we were laughing, now I feel like a pawn in a corporate chess game. Does this mean hitting the quan and the dab are manufactured dance crazes too? No, say it ain't so. NOT THE DAB!!! It looks like in 2016 no matter how paranoid you are, you're not paranoid enough.
Maybe B.o.B. is right after all...
[By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter. Image via VEVO.]