Explaining the internet’s impact on music is pretty moot at this point; it’s universally known that advancements to the streaming and sharing of songs online have transformed the music industry. No longer is a song popular simply because of its numerous radio plays. Rather, it’s the number of plays that it has racked up on programs like Spotify and SoundCloud that serve as more legitimate markers of a song’s success among listeners.
But what exactly contributes to this online popularity? Oftentimes, it’s the sheer quality of the track. Every once in a while, though, the random shit that trends online catapults a song to success. Take Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles,” for example—it’s arguably one of the best songs on their sophomore record, SremmLife 2, so it’s understandable that it’d be at the top of the Billboard charts this week. But a major contributing factor to its sudden popularity is the fact that it’s been used in the background music of our favorite Mannequin Challenges, and the brothers have been participating in it themselves. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite songs that have seen similar success and/or have gotten a second wind of popularity, thanks to you crazy kids on the internet.
Shirley Caesar, “Hold My Mule”As the newest inductee to the ever-growing list of songs that have become popular because of internet trends, this gospel track was dusted off earlier this week, thanks to a remix by DJ Suede. Now it’s got people editing videos to match the beat and coming up with lists that reference Caesar’s sermon about recognizing God’s work in creating bountiful land with “beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, lamb, ram, hogs, dogs, chicken, turkey—you name it!”
Rob Stone, “Chill Bill”Despite originally being released in 2014, this track lit up after it was used in this viral vid of a guy throwing a flaming basketball into a hoop and further gained popularity for its sample of the incessantly creepy whistling song from Twisted Nerve and Kill Bill. Now, it’s got more than four million listens on SoundCloud, as well as a remix featuring D.R.A.M. alongside upcoming rappers Denzel Curry and Cousin Stizz.
Ghost Town DJs, “My Boo”Earlier this year, two kids from Hillside, New Jersey, created the Running Man (or recreated it, rather, considering a dance with the name already exists), to the beat of Ghost Town DJs’ classic ’90s R&B cut. When a duo from the University of Maryland’s basketball team hopped on to the challenge, it subsequently went viral, bringing a second wind to the song and allowing it to re-enter the top of the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart for the first time in 20 years.
Baauer, “Harlem Shake”Harlem Shake videos were kind of funny the first couple of times, but the joke died as soon as every school in the world started doing their own. (Plus, anyone who is well-versed in dances that originated in New York City knew that it couldn’t touch the original Harlem Shake.) Still, it gave trap producer Baauer tons of mainstream attention (and money, so he says).
Psy, “Gangnam Style”More than four years after its release, it’s still the most-watched YouTube video in history with over two billion views. Even if you don’t speak Korean, and thus have no clue what Psy is singing about, you can’t deny that the song had you hopping around like you were on a horse, too.
Silento, “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)”Anytime a song already has an accompanying dance, it’s inevitable for it to blow up. “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” is no exception to this rule: It had everyone from Justin Bieber to some friendly nuns whipping and Nae-Naeing, and now it’s got over one billion YouTube views and almost 222 million spins on Spotify.
Next, “Too Close”Social media comedian Nicholas Fraser flipped this classic ‘90s track for the Vine, creating “Why You Always Lyin’?” Since then, it’s been repurposed as a go-to response to call out people who are trying to pull a fast one on you, effectively bringing back a song that’s actually about a guy who’s too, erm, excited to be dancing close to a girl in the club.
Rebecca Black, “Friday”Everyone knows where they were on the fateful day that Rebecca Black’s “Friday” dropped, with its mind-numbing lyrics and painfully monotonous vocals. So, naturally, everyone made fun of the song (and Black’s friend kickin’ it in the backseat), which actually caused it to amass to more than 100 million views on YouTube. Though she’s in the process of having a comeback, it’ll be impossible for her to overshadow the dark cloud that was “Friday.”
Ylvis, “The Fox (What Does The Fox Say)”These days, Norway is associated with game-changing electronic and pop artists, but a couple of years ago, their main contribution was this weird-ass song that questioned what exactly it is that a fox says (which, in retrospect, was a valid question). Naturally, it spawned a ton of parodies, and its accompanying music video has since racked up more than 634 million views on YouTube.
Soko, “We Might Be Dead Tomorrow”Known for its provocative ads, Wren announced its fall 2014 collection with “First Kiss,” a video that depicts 10 pairs of complete strangers kissing. The increasingly steamy video went viral (because, apparently, more than 117 million viewers enjoyed watching others swap spit), thus allowing the background track, Soko’s “We Might Be Dead Tomorrow,” to gain popularity, too.
Finnaticz, “Don’t Drop That Thun Thun”If you’ve ever had doubts about the power of twerking, look to the Twerk Team’s (yes, that’s a thing) influence on L.A.-based group Finnaticz’s 2012 song “Don’t Drop That Thun Thun.” With the help of some good, ol’-fashioned ass-shaking, the track shot up Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs chart 15 months after its release.
Carly Rae Jepsen, “Run Away With Me”It is a truth rarely acknowledged that Carly Rae Jepsen is one of the most talented pop artists of today, so when “Run Away With Me,” the second single from her sophomore album Emotion, dropped last year, it got an extra push from a random yet genius trend of editing the song’s sax intro into a variety of videos. Thus, #RunAwayWithMeme was born.
Ty Dolla $ign, “Or Nah” Feat. The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa, and DJ Mustard“Or Nah” is quite a unique addition to this list, considering that, instead of being released and then being associated with a viral trend, it capitalized on an existing trend—“or nah” Vines—to add to its own popularity. What resulted is a music video with more than 278 million views, and The Weeknd’s raunchiest verse yet.
O-Zone, “Dragostea Din Tei”Props to anyone who actually knows the name of this song, considering that it’s most notable for being the song sung in “Numa Numa” (and later sampled in T.I.’s “Live Your Life”).
Monica, “So Gone”Already an early aughts R&B staple, this Top 10 hit from 2003 got transformed earlier this year by people who posted videos of themselves freestyling over the beat. Once Chance the Rapper got hold of the #SoGoneChallenge, though, it snowballed into a heartwarming trend of people rhyming about their dedication to their loved ones, leading to a 140 percent increase in the song’s Spotify streams and staggering 829 percent increase in download sales this past August.
Drake, “Know Yourself”Drizzy is the last artist who would need a boost of viral fame, but it was a matter of time before the internet took hold of “Know Yourself”’s infectious hook. Within weeks of the song’s release, everyone from SpongeBob to Forrest Gump was running through the six with their respective woes, broadening the scope of the track’s reach.
Rick Astley, “Never Gonna Give You Up”It’s the OG on the list—the tune that raised blood pressures back in the olden days when being Rickrolled was the worst of our worries. In fact, it’s credible for one of the world’s biggest acts of troll-dom on live television: when Astley interrupted the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2008. Who knows what Astley is doing now, but good on him for having a comeback.