When Miley Cyrus “freaked out” in her 2008 hit, “See You Again”, she brushed it off with a response from her “best friend Leslie”: Oh, she’s just being Miley. Nothing to worry about. Five years later, you know Leslie is scarred from what’s she seeing out of her B.F.F. today. I could go on about how this latest era from Cyrus is a mess, but probably the most annoying thing to come out of Cyrus’s promiscuous pageant is the need to expose twerking to a larger audience. There was a video posted a few months ago of her strutting her stuff in a unicorn onesie, but she’s also performed the dance in concert.
Twerking consists of bobbing your hips up and down in rapid motion with a lot of energy and sexual flare. Yet, these moves are not new. It originated in the South in the mid-1990’s and I first heard of it when a song called “Whistle While You Twurk” came out by the Ying Yang Twins. That was in 2000. “Twurk” became “twerk” over the years, and in the last few, it’s been included in the lyrics of several rap singles, including “Round Of Applause” by Waka Flocka Flame (#86, 2011), “Bandz A Make Her Dance” by Juicy J (#27, 2012) and “Pop That” by French Montana (#36, 2012). Even a song on Jay Z‘s latest album includes a line directed at Cyrus, “twerk Miley twerk”, and regardless of whether you see it as him encouraging her or making fun of her, it’s still become a part of pop culture. Now, a song by the group FiNaTTicZ, “Don’t Drop That Thun Thun”, is soaring up the Hot 100 and iTunes for its use in short online videos. You never know who’s going to do it next, and that’s why it needs to stop.
I don’t personally find the dance appealing because in viewing it, it’s generally performed by females to a rap song and it gets far too raunchy very quickly. It’s also meant for a different demo than the age or ethnicity than I am. Here lies a big problem. For a dance that was originated by the black community, it sure doesn’t help that Miley Cyrus, a white singer, is the poster child for the dance. She, in turn, is providing something for a mixed audience who I’m sure doesn’t the beginnings of where it came from in the first place. I’ll let another blogger explore this in depth, but I can see where there’s a certain audience who are likely annoyed that something that was regional two decades ago is now becoming mainstream. This also may be a case where history is repeating itself.
The breakout of twerking nowadays reminds me a lot of how the twist exploded in the early 60’s. It, too, was referenced in a few songs in the decades prior to it officially being named. It was provocative at the time given that it wasn’t a traditional dance step, originating in African dance. Now, granted, you couldn’t make a viral video then, but musically, it was the go-to subject to get a hit for several years. In 1960, a cover of the song “The Twist”, originally performed by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, was a huge #1 on the Hot 100 for Chubby Checker. Four other titles with “twist” in them made the Hot 100 that year, including songs by Danny & The Juniors and Fabian, and another three charted in 1961, two of which were performed by Checker, including “Let’s Twist Again” (#8).
Then, in 1962, Parkway Records decided to rerelease the original recording of Checker’s “The Twist”, becoming the only song in the Hot 100 history to go to #1 twice. The dance itself also became even bigger in its second go-around. That year alone, seven “twist” records made the top ten, 15 made the top 40, and 28 made the Hot 100. It was inescapable, all over the radio and television. Many of those big singles were by repeat artists as well: Checker had two, Gary U.S. Bonds had two, as well as Joey Dee & the Starliters, who took their version of “The Peppermint Twist” into the top spot. Things slowed down from there as more dance routines came along, specifically the limbo, which Checker’s songs also popularized. Yet, it’s not totally gone away. It’s just reduced to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Wedding circuit, which is a-OK.
The charts are much different now then they were in 1962. Then, they were based on estimations (no bar code system/computer software) of jukebox spins, radio airplay and sales. Today, the statistics are much more accurate and instant. I don’t expect there to be dozens of songs with the word “twerk” in them, but there may be one that could launch us into a similar situation and it’ll eventually get to that point whn we’ll recall when twerking was all the rage at one point. It’s bad enough that “Drop” is growing, and chances are there’s something else waiting in the wings either from this group or another similar underground act. Now, just because Billboard determined that 30-second YouTube clips of people jiggling about to Baauer‘s “Harlem Shake” were able to count towards the Hot 100’s formula, please don’t get any ideas and try to convince the powers that be that a 6-second video of “Don’t Drop That Thun Thun” on Vine constitutes a “full song”. That makes even less sense. Then again, Cyrus trying to take it on in the first place doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either.
So, guys, gals, aspiring twerkers, please save your time and your medical bills and do other stuff. Don’t twerk hard, play hard. Don’t be twerkin’ for a livin’. You can be hip without gyrating and breaking your hips. I’m sure you’ll agree.
Let me know what you think about this in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.