Everybody Dance Now: 8 Musically Inspired Viral Videos

One of the first things budding film editors do is cut together music videos. There is something deeply seductive about the way images and music work so perfectly together. And the popularity of karaoke bars and platforms like TikTok proves that people love performing their favourite songs in front of an audience. Put these two impulses together and you get an entire generation of people who love to make pop videos and share them on social media. This is not new.

These short-form videos were what YouTube was originally created for – but it wasn’t the first platform for sharing user-generated content. .

Among the most shared videos of the pre-YouTube era we have…

#1 Numa numa

Newgrounds.com was a pioneer in hosting user-generated content and had been doing so since 1995. Back in 2004 (the year before the debut of YouTube) American vlogger, Gary Brolsma made a video of himself miming along to the Euro-pop song ‘Dragostea Din Tei’ by Moldovan boy-band, O-Zone. Brolsma’s comedy timing and enthusiasm made this short clip irresistible. It got 18 million views on Newgrounds.

This video also found its way onto YouTube in 2006, where it has received an additional 38 million views and it has spawned innumerable parodies (including by Brolsma himself) and, you could argue, proved the viability of a social media platform like Vine and TikTok.

#2 More cowbell

Another video which appeared on several platforms – in the wild-west early days of social media – only to be taken down by NBC (who own the copyright on SNL) and re-uploaded many, many times – was the Saturday Night Live comedy sketch which Will Ferrell wrote during his time on the show, back in 2001.

Apparently, he pitched the sketch no fewer than seven times before it was selected for inclusion in the show, It was catapulted to legendary status by the committed performance of that night’s guest celebrity: Christopher Walken.

Once YouTube established itself, and its content was shareable on other social media platforms like MySpace and Facebook, shareable videos became far more common and user-generated-content would become the chosen medium of an entire generation. The age of The Influencer and The YouTube Sensation began here.

#3 Lonely island

YouTube owes a lot to Saturday Night Live. One of the breakout hits of 2005 – the video-sharing platform’s first year in business – was a bootleg copy of the SNL parody The Chronicles of Narnia Rap. The popularity and shareability of this video helped establish YouTube as a go-to place in its early days. Ironically, this video was taken down after just a few months – at the insistence of NBC, who were jealously guarding their copyright.

The video – now renamed ‘Lazy Sunday’ – has since been uploaded by SNL, officially:

The rap is performed by SNL cast-members Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell, but it was written by Samberg and his off-screen comedy partners Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. This threesome had been writing comedy sketches together and producing parody rap songs since their days at college – under the collective name ‘The Lonely Island’.

#4 Daft hands

Getting back to the hand-made, shot with a phone or webcam aesthetic of YouTube, there is nothing more hand-made than Austin Hall’s 2007 variation on the miming-to-your-favourite song video. Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster had been released – with an inexplicable anime-based video – back in 2001, but Hall’s one-take wonder somehow seems to suit it better. Get past the first 50 seconds and it’ll all suddenly make sense!

This video has over 70 million views on YouTube and, therefore, is only about 10 million behind the official video.

5# Evolution of Dance

Even before YouTube had worked out its licensing protocols for broadcasting music, music was an integral part of so many of the great YouTube successes.

With an astonishing 306 million views, motivational speaker Judson Laipply took YouTube by storm in 2006. For a while, there, he was the most-watched video on YouTube! Quite how a five-minute history of dance fits into a motivational seminar … Well, you’ll just have to ask Judson.

In keeping with so many of these early social media videos, this one inspired innumerable copycats, not least in the Jimmy Fallon Show, which has featured a long-running series of double-act parodies of this dance, including Fallon dancing alongside such celebrities such as Will Smith, Justin Timberlake, and Michelle Obama.

#6 Wedding Entrance

Three and a half million people watched this video in its first two days online. That suggests Mr. Peterson Snr. has a lot of relatives … or the video grabbed the imagination of a lot of people.

There is now something of a subgenre of wedding videos on YouTube; couples who are competing to create the most outrageously shareable video of their happiest day. If you’re not sure whether this is sweet or cringe-worthy

Maybe The American Office can help you decide. 

#7 Walk off the earth

Back in 2012 the biggest hit, worldwide, and the song you probably got sick of hearing on the radio, was Somebody That I Used to Know by the Australian one-hit phenomenon, Gotye.

The song was still dominating radio station playlists when the Canadian indie band, Walk Off The Earth decided to create their own cover version, with the five of them bringing the song to life on just one instrument. This one-take special video now has 188 million views and served to launch the band on a career of recording and touring that they still enjoy.

#8 Every Walken Dance Now

Many people were surprised when movie hard-man, Christopher Walken, turned up in a Fatboy Slim video and danced. Although Walken is most famous for playing gangsters and charismatic villains of every stripe; at heart, he’s an old-fashioned song and dance man, who manages to get his characters to dance at every possible opportunity. The clever thing is, this largely went unnoticed, until Spike Jonze hired him for that Fatboy Slim spot.

Inspired by that, Huffington Post put together what we used to call a montage – but what you kids probably know as a ‘supercut’ – of every on-screen Walken dance move. Turns out, he’d danced a lot more than most people realised.

This delightful edit is uplifting and clever and a joy to behold. It may just be the best video on the whole of YouTube.