Back in 2007, a 17-year-old Soulja Boy hit pay dirt after “Crank That,” a song accompanied by a catchy dance he posted on Myspace and YouTube, compelled people to record their own versions; the tune eventually topped the Billboard Hot 100. A decade later, the Soulja Boy model — creating content fans will want to ape and share — is an integral part of the song-promotion business. This year, more than ever, the music industry has incorporated Internet memes into its digital strategies, with labels and marketing firms actively attempting to create viral moments as a way of pushing singles. Here are the most notable meme-centric hits (and misses) we saw this year.
Migos (feat. Lil Uzi Vert) – “Bad and Boujee”
This infectious single by Atlanta’s Migos debuted at No. 76 on the Hot 100 in late October 2016. But in January, it catapulted to No. 1, thanks to viral memes (and a timely shoutout by Donald Glover at the Golden Globes). Tweets about the song directly mirrored its chart ascension, increasing by 600 per cent since November. Offset’s opening lines of “raindrop / drop-top” provided the ideal memeable canvas on which to paint jokes, with brands like Jimmy John’s and Wendy’s even jumping on the trend.
I eat Jimmy John's nonstop
— Jimmy John's (@jimmyjohns) December 26, 2016
Spicy Chicken keeping it hot pic.twitter.com/qDBVObG3HZ
— Wendy's (@Wendys) January 4, 2017
French Montana – “Unforgettable”
In April, French Montana posted a video on Instagram of himself holding a white cup and hopping slackly to his own music, adding the hashtag #UnforgettableDanceChallenge. Within a week, the video for his single “Unforgettable” — which featured a Ugandan dance troupe doing the same dance — racked up 10 million views, further popularizing the hashtag, with a bevy of stars (Drake, Diddy, DJ Khaled) partaking in the challenge. By August, the song’s methodical viral campaign scored Montana his first No. 1 on the Hot Rap Songs chart.
PERFORMED UNFORGETTABLE FOR THE FIRST TIME WITH MY BROS @swaelee @djkhaled #unforgettabledancechallenge #cochella A post shared by French Montana (@frenchmontana) on
Taylor Swift – “Look What You Made Me Do”
This long-awaited single seemed, uh, Taylor-made for social media. There were the snake videos Swift posted on Instagram leading to its August release (acknowledging the meme that she’s a snake) and the voicemail part of the song, featuring the very memeable lyric, “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now / Why? / Oh, ’cause she’s dead!” Those lines spawned a meme tsunami (most of it, admittedly, derisive), and despite the song being objectively terrible, it still topped the Hot 100 and broke Spotify and VEVO records.
i'm sorry, the old anakin skywalker cant come to the phone right now. why?? because he's dead!!! pic.twitter.com/ucQy3JDANa
— leia porgana (@nicolecieux) August 25, 2017
I'm sorry, the old Lizzie can't come to the phone right now… Why? Oh, 'cause she's dead! pic.twitter.com/IMgr3VeHvK
— Lizzie McGuire (@ImLizzieM) August 30, 2017
In sorry, the old Taylor can't come to the phone right now
Because rebranding is important for boosting sales and relevance
— jingle my films (@jacksfilms) August 29, 2017
Big Shaq – “Man’s Not Hot”
In August, London comedian Michael Dapaah — in character as aspiring MC Big Shaq — dropped a ridiculous freestyle on BBC radio show “Fire In the Booth.” One especially absurd lyric — “The ting goes skrrrahh / Pap pap ka ka ka / Skibiki pap pap / And a pu pu pudrrrr boom” — delighted the masses, many of whom didn’t realize it was in jest. Countless memes ensued. He released the freestyle as an official single, which debuted at No. 30 on the U.K. charts, making him the highest-charting debut artist of the year. The tune has since become a bona fide cultural phenomenon, cracking the U.K. Top 5 and currently posing a legitimate threat at being Christmas No. 1.
me: gently adds fries into the pot
the oil: pic.twitter.com/GtvnYLNRit
— legal baby (@lilbabycurl) September 3, 2017
Big Ben's Final Ting pic.twitter.com/GYs7a4hZFv
— Dolan Dark (@DolanDark) September 2, 2017
Katy Perry – “Bon Appetit”
Over the spring, Katy Perry attempted to promote her single “Bon Appetit” by creating the #BonAppetitChallenge, which asked fans to spray their faces with water. It was an awkward stunt that failed to connect with anyone. The song didn’t even crack the Top 40. The Internet is a harsh mistress.
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) May 13, 2017