Featured Favorites: The History of Music Memes

Considering the “***REMASTERED***” edition came out a few weeks ago, I thought I’d delve into a personal favorite video of mine, JordiTK’s “Music of Memes — through the years (1700–2017).”

This video serves as a collection of songs people across the globe use as memes. Richard Dawkins was the first to coin the term “meme” in his book The Selfish Gene (R.D.F). However, the term is now synonymous with humorous images and videos like the one above.

The variety of songs featured is rather incredible, as the music spans across three centuries, numerous genres, and dozens of artists. There appears to be unique reasons why each song became a meme as some are initially seen as funny, while others are paired with a separate entity to create a humorous effect.

The German song “Fichtl’s Lied” featured at 2:05 is poorly edited, portrays two startling men in traditional costume and is, in my opinion, a rather terrible song. The music video is so unique that people began showing it to their friends when it was released in 2012 until it grew in popularity between 2015–2016 after millions of shares on social media platforms.

Meanwhile, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” is both a beloved classic and one of the best selling songs of all time (Billboard). To the average listener, Houston’s song is likely more beautiful than funny, so how did it manage to become a musical meme? When Vine was still around, “I Will Always Love You” became a trend on the platform. Creators on Vine would take the chorus of the song and add it to something unexpected, abnormal, or for parody in order to create something funny, thus cementing the classic song as a musical meme.

Upon its release in mid-2017, Music of Memes quickly went viral and is currently standing at just under 10 million views (Socialblade). Despite its notoriety, the video itself is rather unremarkable. It contains minimal, messy editing, bad pacing, poor design, and is at severe risk for copyright claim, yet somehow still manages to captivate its viewers.

It’s easy to wonder how a technically “bad” video can be received in high regard. While viral videos are impossible to predict, the sheer popularity of memes likely put the Music of Memes into the spotlight. As previously mentioned, an updated version of Music of Memes recently came out in September 2017. This version contains more songs, much better editing, proper pacing and good design, yet is receiving more criticism than the original.

While the science behind viral videos is still a mystery, both Music of Memes videos are highly enjoyable and serve as genuine timelines. Next time a friend tags you in a video or you laugh at a meme, consider the design elements that are working together to make it funny.