When we were assigned to write articles themed around music and musical culture, my thought process somehow led me to the conclusion that meme songs and their cultural impact need to be written about. Maybe I just do not possess the big bren to write academic articles, or maybe the Gen Z within me has begun to dictate every single life decision I make.
See, here’s the thing about meme songs; we’ve all heard them, but no one knows much about them, and it is only upon listening to them on Reddit meme videos that we usually recognise them. However, there are also some chads who keep up with the memes and even create playlists consisting of these songs; but do they know the history and the artists’ vision behind creating them? Probably not. In this piece, we will be taking a look at some of the most famous meme songs as well as their background and the reason for their popularity. It was a struggle choosing between the songs because there are a myriad of diverse ones to choose from; henceforth, I apologise in advance if your favourite meme song does not make it to the list. However still, I am certain that some of these songs will make the current student body quite happy (especially A2’s).
As you proceed to read ahead, it is suggested that you listen to each song side by side while reading about it; I can guarantee that it will improve your experience significantly.
- YMCA – Village People
Let’s be honest, we have definitely heard this multiple times and danced along to it more than once while forming the letters with our arms. But what does YMCA even mean? YMCA stands for “Young Men’s Christian Association,” which was usually associated with gyms that used to provide temporary housing facilities to men. Even relevant in current times, the Village People sang about the YMCA as a place to hang out with the boys. The song gave implications of a concealed and safe space for closet-gay men to leave behind the worries of societal stigmas; a place where they can be safe and free. Although the song did not contain any specific gay references, it soon became an anthem for LGBT movements.
- All Star – Smash Mouth
If any of you readers don’t remember listening to this song in the opening credits of Shrek, you need a serious introspection about your life priorities. Initially, when the band was approached by director Vicki Jenson, they turned down the request for the song. However, that changed after a private screening of the film where the band recognised how successful it was going to be. No doubt, Shrek did become quite a hit and ended up grossing over half a billion dollars at the US box office while All Star became a comforting anthem of courage and self-acceptance for a whole generation of children. Even after almost two decades since its release, All Star still ‘glitters like gold’.
- U Got That – Halogen
Needless to say, the credits for the widespread popularity of this song go to the one and only- Ricardo Milos. If you haven’t seen any Ricardo memes, consider yourself lucky because trust me- your parents would be disappointed if they found out about it (not that they aren’t already, jk). When the song was initially uploaded on Youtube, it got more than 5 million views; however, after it was uploaded by another channel featuring the song and a crossover between Ricardo Milos and Kantai Collection characters, it gained over 19.6 million views in six months. Soon, the song turned into a cultural phenomena and format for the mindlessly fun memes we see on our everyday Instagram explore pages (yes, I’m talking about you. Please complete your missing assignments; the memes aren’t going anywhere).
- Astronomia – Victone ft. Tony Igy
At this point, I’m pretty sure everyone has seen the meme of that casket being carried by six men while they dance. Guess which song they were vibing to? Yep, that’s right. It’s Astronomia. It goes without saying what a whole vibe that song is on its own but paired with that video? Unstoppable. This also explains how the “coffin dance” meme travelled all the way from Russia to Ghana. Even the much loathed Trump Administration couldn’t refrain from using this meme in their campaign against Biden. However, we can’t say whether Astronomia is a bigger meme than American politics.
- Jutt Da Muqabala – Sidhu Moose Wala
Here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you have all been waiting for. I’ve lost count of the number of times the A2 students have been found vibing to this song both in and outside school. Taking after them, we have our A1s who fully intend on keeping alive their legacy and are known to play this song at least once during the closing ceremony of any online MUN they attend. Other than the irony of vibing to this song, consistently memeing a song which demonstrates the toxic dynamics of power of privilege within our society is a really healthy way to counter these forces through the art of meme culture. Whatever the reason for its popularity may be, the fact remains that no vibe session is complete without this song.
- Congratulations – Pewdiepie
You all really thought this piece about meme songs would be complete without Congratulations in it? Sike, you thought. We all know of the epic showdown between Pewdiepie and T-series and while T-series may have won in terms of the subscribers race, the Gen Z still unitedly stood with Pewdiepie who ended the show by giving his fans one last ‘bro fist from the no.1 in the world.’ This song is, and will forever be, the anthem of Pewdiepie’s fanbase (aka the 9 year olds). Big up to all of you!
- Low – Flo Rida ft. T-pain
Trust me, it took a lot of strength to resist the intense urge of writing the title as ‘apple bottom jeans song’, because honestly, that is exactly what this song is known for. With countless memes being made off of the lyrics of this song, people can’t help but want to buy a pair of
‘apple bottom jeans’ and ‘boots with the fur’ for themselves as well.
- Mr Sandman – The Chordettes
Known as the ‘bum bum bum’ song, Mr Sandman has started gaining popularity yet again. This song has so many covers and alternate versions that it’s almost worth a book listing in itself. In the recent memes, this song has been paired with the ‘cat-opening-its-mouth-really-big meme‘ aka the ‘pop cat’ meme, which is undeniably very fitting in my opinion (although, I’m biased towards cats in general).
- The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) – Ylvis
Without any doubt, it has become one of the most beloved gimmick songs of the past half-decade with more than 685 million page views and still counting. So, what’s the story behind it? The Ylvisåker brothers, a comedy duo from Norway, claimed that the song was supposed to be a joke and the idea was for it to not be a hit. Instead, the brothers were going to use the footage of the song on their show in Norway to prove what absolute failures they were in the music business. Well, that kind of backfired but in a good way.
Sadly, I’ll have to end the list on that note. Meme songs constitute a significant part of Gen Z’s Culture, and while they may be fun on their own, they gain a new life when we discover the origins, contexts, and deeper meanings behind them. Finally, as my meme song playlists update, you shall be updated in due time as well. Stay tuned for part two!