Do re meme: the meme music playlist

Do re meme: the meme music playlist / Origins / Meme theory

by Ambika Lambah

There isn’t much gravitas in your self-proclaimed appreciation of western classical music if it hasn’t made you adept at meme-speak.

Our Culture Lab team has come up with an entropic meme playlist that serves to play the role of an iconoclast to other playlists. We doubt that you’ll ever find another one that houses Beethoven’s 5th Symphony along with the Shaktimaan title song.

As a sincere attempt to erase all concerns on the validity of the songs chosen, we’d like to analyze eleven songs that are a part of the said playlist. A majority of these are fairly recent and deserve to have a sharper spotlight shed on them.

The first debilitating punch to the world of refined, aristocrat – pleasing Classical music comes in the form of a symphony known as ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’, composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in the year 1900. With the advent of giant murder hornets arriving in the U.S., we don’t see why bumblebees would want to be at rest. Thus, the news once again has revived this symphony in the pop culture universe and made it a relevant addition to our playlist.

What came first? The viral egg or the memetic chicken? Another prime example of stellar music in our collection is ‘The Harlem Shake’ which first gained notoriety as a back-breaking-derriere-popping anthem for fanatic twerk-ers. A bone of contention in this sub-genre is whether or not certain memes can be defined as a subset of viral videos. 

“ While many people use the terms interchangeably, I would like to highlight the difference between them.

The main difference between Internet memes and virals thus relates to variability: whereas the viral comprises a single cultural unit (such as a video, photo, or joke) that propagates in many copies, an Internet meme is always a collection of texts. You can identify a single video and say “This is a viral video” without referring to any other text, but this would not make much sense when describing an Internet meme. A single video is not an Internet meme but part of a meme— one manifestation of a group of texts that together can be described as the meme.”

– Limor Shifman, Memes in Digital Culture

Agreeing with this school of thought, it would be safe to say that imitation, recreation, and mutation are important features of what we define as memes and this helps classify certain memes as a separate entity and some as a subcategory of viral media with examples of both existing in abundance.

‘Harlem Shake’ did just that. The outpour of remakes of comedian George Miller’s video on both television shows and YouTube videos makes a strong case for memes stemming from viral videos.

Another irresistible vote in this list goes to mankind’s benefactor, Taher Shah for ‘Angel.’ His smizing, sensual, and evidently sensational glare takes the proverbial cake and makes us question the likability factor of it all. Is it internally categorized as a “cringe” watch? Are we laughing at Taher Shah and his erratic costume changes, or are we laughing with him? Are we laughing at all? The answer to the latter is probably yes, seeing how we choose to generate and spread the same content under the guise of memes. 

This brings us to a personal favourite: Vennu Mallesh’s heartfully crafted piece, ‘It’s My Life’. Bon Jovi WHO?? Would it be right to call Vennu’s version a rendition? Or should we dodge such controversial arguments entirely by recognizing it as a separate entity? So many questions left unanswered since the initial release of the song in 2012. Do give the video a thorough watch and appreciate the music producer’s arguably wilful head-banging.  

The fifth song we’d like to mention is called ‘HEYYEYAAEYAAAEYAEYAA’ and rightly so. An animated parody featuring ‘He-Man’ of the popular 1992 song ‘What’s Up?’ By The 4 Non Blondes has a very blond comic hero performing a techno rendition of the same in a Mia Wallace-esque hairstyle. 

Before the wrath of Dhinchak Pooja, came the soulful music of Bilal Saeed. His vocal range and new age crooning had us swooning. A relatively recent meme which rose to popularity in 2019 (4 years after its launch), ‘Adhi Adhi Raat’ is used as the background score to tons of meme videos.

Coming to bait-and-switch memes, an unforgettable song of this sub-genre is Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ and the subsequent rise of ‘Mom’s Spaghetti’ themed anecdotes. With recent headlines of Eminem donating “Mom’s” spaghetti to hospital workers fighting coronavirus in Detroit, this meme takes a rather heartfelt turn. 

” Songs, like genes and languages, evolve” – Leroi and Swire, 2006

And a good example of this (and a decent enough segue) is Daler Mehndi’s ‘Tunak Tunak Tun’. Never could the world have imagined that a music video featuring four dancing Dalers would receive such worldwide contemplation. It would be safe to say that this song was used as a tool for cultural fraternization. Tons of homemade remakes of this song have had us boogying in our seats this past decade. 

When it comes to memes, it’s hard to ignore ‘Rickrolling’ for the numero uno spot. No wonder that Time Out Magazine gave the song the 33rd spot in their ‘The 50 best ’80s songs’ list in 2018. ‘Never Going To Give You Up’ has proved to transcend all ages of meme-making ever since it’s first YouTube upload. 

An integral facet of meme videos are speeches from political rallies and news broadcasts that are meddled with and remixed as music. Take, for example, melodious remixes of Arnab Goswami’s debates. Giving genres like trap music a run for their money. Doctored videos of politicians serenading the audience with the latest pop songs in their voice are also a fan favorite. 

The last catchy tune that we’d like to talk about has to be ‘Africa’ by Toto. From the emotional rollercoaster that is the original song to Weezer’s recent cover, each rendition of Africa has had our eyes watering, lips quivering and knees shaking. No feeling is greater than that of ironically (and occasionally unironically) slow paced-headbanging to this jam.

Disclaimer: The memes linked, embedded or mentioned in this blog do not belong to The Meme Project and are not the views of the Meme Project Team. They have been used here to refer to their content or make a statement about their use.

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