Meme culture is a relatively new thing to emerge in terms of media and media consumption, but time flies fast. Even though the grand scheme of history posits memes as a blip, there are conscious human beings that are old enough to make memes themselves that are younger than the creation of the meme format.
Music hasn’t always been a part of meme culture, but in recent years, with the way that YouTube and Tik Tok have taken over as social media spaces, it almost feels required at this point. And there are so many songs that we may not have expected to fall into this, but they have.
From the very new to the good old classics, there are plenty of songs that accidentally became memes. Although it’s impossible to name them all, here are some of the main ones.
10 songs that became memes:
‘Dreams’ – Fleetwood Mac
This is actually one of my favourite “songs to become a meme” both because it happened slowly, and because the reasoning behind it is mostly because the song itself is just so good. There were a few of them that made the rounds. Mainly, we have the video of the man skateboarding and drinking cranberry juice to the song, the cheerleader/dance captain aggressively dancing to the song, and of course, the Kermit the frog video wherein he dances and vibes to the song.
Really, all of these memes centre on the idea of, “Yes, let’s just take a minute to appreciate how good this song truly is.” And it didn’t dominate so aggressively that anyone got tired of it. Or, at least, I never did.
‘Lose Yourself’ – Eminem
OK, this one is relatively straightforward. There’s one specific meme that got made of ‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem. It’s just that it got irrationally famous and had a million copycats. It’s literally the video that most people know of someone editing all of the lyrics to repeat the one line where he says “Mom’s spaghetti”.
Of course, not every meme is going to be intellectual. This one exists to be silly, and that’s what it does very well.
‘Take On Me’ – A-ha
Oh, the era of Vine. It was a simpler time. A time when A-ha’s 1985 classic ‘Take On Me’ could randomly get famous from creator Chloe Woodard dancing and turning her head while wearing sunglasses.
Even though the clip was short, people really latched onto it. They made copies and used the song in other Vines. Again, it was relatively fun and silly, but it caught on quite quickly.
‘Yo Voy’ – Zion & Lennox feat. Daddy Yankee
OK, so I think this one is technically still in the making, or at least in the early stages of circulation. For those who are unaware of the Euphoria and Alexa Demie obsession, everyone in the world loves her. But basically, there’s a six-second clip of her dancing to this song in the passenger seat of a car while putting on lip gloss.
Essentially, that made the song boom in popularity and had plenty of people making their own versions of the clip. Someone even took the time to make a post-punk version of the song (which is un-ironically incredibly good).
‘Photograph’ – Nickelback
Again, this is a song for which most people know the meme already, because, let me tell you, it was everywhere. In case it needs to be explained, the meme was the clip of the music video, where he holds up the photograph, but instead of the photograph, it’s a graph. Just a graph.
There are a few other takes on the meme, too, but it’s mostly just the original format. It’s simple and goofy, but that’s pretty much what a meme is meant to be.
‘Angeleyes’ – ABBA
Oh, Tik Tok, the magical place. It seems that Tik Tok has done it again, and this time, with the ABBA classic ‘Angeleyes’. Look, I can’t even be mad at this one. It’s a great song, and it deserved a little more attention, which it got through the meme format.
Specifically, it started out with the audio clip of the lyrics, “Sometimes, when I’m lonely, I sit and think about him, and it hurts to remember all the good times.” It actually began as a relatively wholesome trend of people using the audio for friends or significant other photo compilations, until people used the format to include photos of random things from the Twilight cast, Furbies, Tamagotchis and countless others.
‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ – Rick Astley
Do I even need to explain this one? I think it’s one of the earliest examples of a song becoming a meme, come to think of it. To “Rick Roll” someone is to surprise them by playing the classic tune, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ by a one Rick Astley.
I think this meme might have gone out of style, mostly because it stopped being a surprise anymore.
‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’ – Kate Bush
Yet another meme that’s in its earliest stages, Kate Bush in general is gaining some traction with the kids because of the use of the song ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’ on Stranger Things. This led to it becoming a Tik Tok song.
Mostly, it seems that people are using the song to create fake-dramatic videos that are obviously outlandish, but I think the meme will develop and become more specific with time.
‘The Sound of Silence’ – Simon & Garfunkel
This is one that people probably didn’t expect, especially considering its age at the time of its popularity. But it does fit quite well with the format of a lot of funny videos. There was the one that circulated of a kid singing the song, but also, people have used it to play over a variety of “disappointing videos”.
One of the most memorable, for me anyway, is the video of the Times Square Elmo in the snow set to the song.
‘Hide and Seek’ – Imogen Heap
This one, curiously, has sort of the same format as ‘The Sound of Silence’, but not just for disappointing videos. Also, just generally surprising or dramatic ones, too. After being used in a Lonely Island skit on SNL, people really ran with this one.
One of my favourite uses of this meme is the poor lad who got a free taco, only to slip on his skateboard and subsequently drop it on the ground.