Baauer Should Play "Harlem Shake" Even If He Doesn't Want to
SXSW 2013 was a deeply weird moment for Baauer. He was still an exciting New York producer with a number of highly-bloggable hits, but "Harlem Shake" was becoming an international moment.All of a sudden the guy responsible for the biggest cross-cultural meme of 2013 was spinning at all the random pop-up shows he had booked months before. I saw him play the Scoot Inn, which is little more than a PA and a patch of dirt in east Austin. A number of people who look like they don't normally go to SXSW shows filed in, and Baauer worked through his usual set of doofy trap and brain-dead rap. "Harlem Shake" was teased, but it never arrived, as if he was using the set to make a joke about his new found fame.
Photo: Kaitlin Parry
See also: PHOTOS: Baauer & Just Blaze do the Harlem Shake at Webster Hall
No big deal, right? Everyone still had a good time, and Baauer is certainly not required to play the song every night. But then there's this interview he did last week with Pitchfork, wherein the young producer had this to say: "At this point, I'm trying to go from playing the original, to just playing a remix, to maybe putting in one little clip--sort of weening off of "Harlem Shake" until I can eventually not play it at all. That would be the perfect thing."
Look, DJing is a complex art with plenty of intricacies and subtleties, but when Baauer says he doesn't want to play "Harlem Shake" anymore, what he's essentially saying is he doesn't want to double-click on the song that people want him to double-click on. Why? Because it's too popular? Because the zeitgeist is over? Because he doesn't want to marginalize himself? I guess you could understand some of those reasons, but at the end of the day when an artist announces that they're sick of their most popular song (after less than a year!) it can't help but feel a little selfish. There are boys and girls spending money to enjoy a 90-minute Baauer set--is it really asking too much for 30 seconds of those 90 minutes to be spent on the hit? It's not like "Harlem Shake" is a massive tonal shift from the TNGHT and Flosstradamus he spins anyway, why get self-righteous about a legitimately good song?