Hope everyone has their anti-government mind control sugar pills handy because we are about to take a trip to conspiracy town on a subject that has impacted the United States from sea to shining sea. More specifically, from football fields in Foxboro to Seattle. Ladies and gentlemen of course you know of what I speak of; the viral end zone dance.
Now, I know what you are thinking. There are so many big issues in the world today, do we really need to talk about a conspiracy dealing with end zone dance celebrations? YES. Because Football is awesome and consumes nearly 6 months worth of Mondays, MACtion Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays while generating billions of dollars in ticket sales, merchandise, and cable packages. Hell, its shaping actual laws a la daily fantasy sports which, let’s face it, is pretty much driven by football because scoring is awesome and no one wants to count on an assist from a 4th line center to win money (oooo shots fired NHL! SHOTS FIRED). So sit back, strap on that tinfoil helmet and get ready to take a trip down the dabbing nae nae running off the plug rabbit hole.
Now if you are like me and enjoy your football thoroughly you’ve probably noticed a trend when it comes to the end zone celebrations of late. Gone are the days of Joe Horn hiding a cell phone in the field goal post and Ochocinco’s (then Chad Johnson. How droll.) faux gold jacket. Instead we seem to be treated to trendy, repetitive end zone dances first seen in collegiate stadiums around the country, then parroted in the pro game. At each stage a broader and broader audience is then introduced to this viral phenomenon. What started as a Youtube video with a few hundred views catches on with the right collegiate or pro players (aka the really talented and good ones). Then it starts with Vine, and Twitter, and Facebook posts, all sorts of social media posting their own versions and takes of dances we’ve seen hundreds of times before by then. Then the blogs, those that were in on the ground floor, pick it up for the views and the comments it generates. After that it makes its way to the daytime talk shows, the late night talk shows, internet memes and finally enjoys a slow death as grandma, grandpa and the t-shirt game get involved. Finally, you get the ironic posts and the cynical hatred that comes with anything popular and another chapter in the internet’s social history comes to a close.
Meanwhile, every step of the way, people look into the origin of the dance and discover the song and artist that spawned the whole damn thing driving up their streams and views (21st century equivalent of striking gold). The question I pose is thus a simple one; what if a corporation was behind the entire thing? From the music video that spawns the “viral” dance to the initial outlets that expose it to the right segment of the masses that spread the word to the players who decide this is a dance they’ll help gain momentum to the sports social media accounts that retweet and reblog and repost these athletic superstars who are marketing machines to elevate the celebratory dance into the viral stratosphere making it unavoidable to not be discussed in popular culture, and all its venues. In this picture of corporate synergy that would prevent any MBA professor from getting up from their desk unless they wanted the class to see their case of capitalist priapism for all to gawk at money is being made constantly at all levels in the digital commerce of the age.
Doesn’t seem quite so crazy now does it?
Now obviously something not seeming as crazy as it did is a far cry from a convincing argument so let us delve a little deeper looking at three examples in order of their appearance on the national stage; The Whip/Nae Nae, The Dab and Ran Off Da Plug Twice.
THE WHIP/NAE NAE
By now you’ve seen it. Grandma, hips ravaged by both time and birthing children (potentially at a time where forceps where still a thing used in that process) reaching up to the sky doing spirit fingers while awkwardly twisting her body an inch to and fro while her millennial grandson or daughter is giggling behind the smart phone camera. DO IT NANA! DO IT! It’s everyone’s favorite eye roll inducing dance The Whip! Or is it the Nae Nae? Or the Nae Whip? Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you know what I’m talking about because every person with an internet handle not used to spew heinous insults at others anonymously has probably posted or watched a video of this superficially infectious dance LOLing themselves into a refresh rate laden coma.
The dance originates from Atlanta based group We Are Toonz but that isn’t why we know this dance (more on that later). There is one person we have to thank for Nae Nae Nation and that man is; Odell Beckham Jr of the New York Giants.
With acrobatic catches nearly as electric as his hairdo, OBJ has burst onto the NFL landscape in 2014 as a sensation and has easily become one of the most marketable athletes in the league’s ranks, not to mention one of the best receivers in the game. Nabbing the cover on Madden 16 prior to the 2015 season’s kickoff, Beckham has been as explosive in his second year as he was during his rookie campaign which means plenty of time in the end zone. Which means, of course, plenty of time to turn the Whip/Nae Nae into a phenomenon.
So is it possible that the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year/Madden posterboy in the largest media market in America also just happened to come packaged with a signature dance that just happened to sweep the nation? I suppose. Going back to the dance’s creators, We Are Toonz, had apparently gotten in touch with Beckham back in his college days at LSU and both had appeared in each other Instagram videos and other social media platforms in 2013 so there is a plausible case to be made that this is all just happenstance. THAT’S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO THINK. All it takes is a will to be thought of as crazy and Wikipedia to connect the dots and realize the whole thing is a sham.
While We Are Toonz created The Whip/Nae Nae dance it wasn’t really them that truly made it a household name. After Beckham’s rookie season where it was clear his talent on the field was going to make him very valuable off of it it seems an opportunity was realized. Enter Silento.
Ah there it is! There’s that song you knew this was from that you got sick of on Pop radio! That’s right folks. Just so happens that after Beckham’s stellar rookie season a #3 song on Billboard’s Top 100 that deals exclusively with The Whip/Nae Nae was released in June of 2015. Hm, weird enough right? That’s before you even take into account that Silento was signed in April 2015 to Capitol Records. Capitol Records who’s parent company is Universal Music Group which just so happens to be one of two successor companies to to MCA Inc. (Music Company of America). The other? NBCUniversal who are the proud owners of the NFL’s Sunday Night Football product. Perhaps the most coveted time slot the league offers. And to make the whole thing real bonkers? Comcast just bought NBCUniversal.
I know that was a bit hard to follow so to recap: OBJ becomes a sensation who just so happens to have a marketable touchdown dance. A sensation, in a league mind you, that is changing the rules so that scoring and passing are easier and more prevalent than ever so those TD dances keep on a comin’. A record company signs a no name 17 year old off the street to popularize/commemorate/market the dance which happens to be owned by a company inextricably linked to the very media outlet that features the NFL on the biggest stage for one of the biggest cable companies on the planet who now owns that very same media outlet.
That is fucking scary.
Ok, ok. So yes, this seems a bit fishy but it all could just be happy happenstance right? Serendipity. So what that a entire economic ecosystem that feeds itself seamlessly from platform to platform exists? That shit happens naturally all the time right? Right?!
Oh my sweet little lambs. I know. You are looking over your shoulder right now wondering if that bang you heard in the kitchen was the government coming to take your interwebs or just your imagination. Fear not. The sweet delusion of naturally occurring end zone choreographed dances will be at peace soon enough. Just stay strong and we’ll get through this together. We still have two celebratory gyrations to discuss.
Ah the Dab. So simple. So elegant. An end zone celebration meant for a more sophisticated time yet the conspiracy theory for this one is much more complex than our previous TD dance. While its not exactly clear who came up with The Dab like it is with The Whip/Nae Nae what is clear is that it came out of the Atlanta hip hop scene and was popularized by the group Migos. You know, the guys who were partying with Tom Brady, Gronk, and Bob Kraft celebrating a Super Bowl W. Anywho, after local Atlanta artists began pushing the dance real hard, in particular Skippa Da Flippa (Research FTW), on their Youtube and other social media channels it made its way to the club scene towards the end of 2014/early 2015. A club scene that a certain native son was probably busy frequenting in the offseason. What native son do you ask? Why, Cam Newton of course.
Now what makes this interesting is that Cam Newton already had a pretty unique touchdown celebration, the Superman reveal. For whatever reason The Dab was added to the repertoire and suddenly a phenomenon was born. Aided by Newton’s almost certain MVP season and the Carolina Panthers 15-1 record The Dab soared and became a viral sensation. It even had the added benefit of being incredible easy to do and basically just a move you can throw in whenever the beat calls for it. Which means it had the added benefit of having a smaller risk of looking like a rhythmless honkey performing it yet still yearned for a bigger platform than the Atlanta club scene. Like, maybe an entire first place, nearly perfect season NFL football team doing the dance move on the sidelines?
But how do you get to that point? Easy. Record labels and companies are not idiots. If they were they wouldn’t be some of the most powerful companies in one of the most powerful artistic industries on the planet. The lessons taught by The Whip/Nae Nae did not and could not go unnoticed at a time when many feel like the clock is ticking on the music industry. And, just like The Whip, someone saw the same opportunity here but with a twist; instead of using a TD celebration to market a new artist what if an artist was used to market a new TD celebration? Enter Future.
Future is an established hip hop artist from….can you guesss?…Atlanta who, in the summer of 2015 just so happened to drop his third album DS2 unexpectedly to both critical and popular acclaim (wonder how that happened?). With heavy beats and lyrically repetitive tracks the accompanying music videos feature a particularly copious amount of dabbing. Sure, its not as obvious as the Whip/Nae Nae and definitely wasn’t handled as heavy handed as signing some no name on the street to commemorate a dance but it was just as effective. Future’s third album blew up and, being Atlanta base, sure as shit was in heavy rotation in the Atlanta club scene and guess who just happened to dig (*cough* got paid to *cough* not like that’s been an issue for Cam in the past) the music and moves enough to incorporate it into his end zone dance?
Now again there is a veneer of plausibility that this could be a natural occurrence. The acts are all Atlanta based which is Cam’s hometown so it is perfectly natural to assume the inspiration was genuine. Also, there is no way (even I’m not going to go that far) that Future and his record label, Epic, could’ve known Carolina and Cam were going to have the season they just did. That brings us back into the fold though because guess who else is signed to Epic? We Are Toonz. That’s right. The group that had their signature dance essentially poached by Silento and Capital records. Isn’t it just as easy to assume that Epic recognized the potential for another viral dance crazed and capitalized on it themselves? Perhaps they poured additional resources into Future’s next album to drop it ahead of schedule and with much fanfare plus a nudge in the ribs to incorporate The Dab and maybe a call to Cam’s agents to see if he would accommodate for some, ahem, considerations?
Ah but then what is the play for the parent company? Epic is tied to Sony and they don’t have a Sunday Night football package to promote. What could they be getting out of it? Oh that’s right. They just inked a deal years in the making to bring ABC, ESPN, and Disney programming to Sony Vue. I wonder if there were any provisions in there for ESPN to mention The Dab?
*Not pictured: The roughly 15 billions shots on various ESPN programs of various college coaches and players dabbing. Cam Newton dabbing. The Panthers dabbing. Grandmothers in Panthers jerseys dabbing. Babies dabbing. Michelle Beadle dabbing. Steven A. Smith yelling at Skip Bayless for pretending he doesn’t know what dabbing is and Jemele Hill calling Boston racist for not embracing dabbing enough.
Ran Off Da Plug Twice
Thus we come to the final chapter in our conspiracy theory, Ran Off Da Plug Twice aka transparent time. Unlike our previous two “viral” crazes RODPT doesn’t even try to hide its corporate roots. Atlantic Records, obviously pissed that both Capitol and Epic have rolled out national sensations feeding back to its artists decided fuck it, lets just get Plies to jog in place and call it a dance. The move comes from Plies latest single “Ritz Carlton”and it they went straight to worldstarhiphop.com to get the viral train chugging right along. Its easier than the Dab and the Nae Nae which means even your gangly ass kickers can do it as they knock through that rough 42 yarder.
Released on November 15, 2015 it looks like they timed it just right for word to spread and for college bowl season to get a hold on it which, I guess, was suppose to distract us from the terrible blowouts that plagued CFB’s postseason. Not surprisingly, like the sun rising in the East, it was all over the pro game in Week 17. No point man or strategy just “here’s a dance that’s cool because of who’s retweeting it so DANCE YOU SHEEP DANCE BHAHAHAHAHAHA!” which, of course, was punctuated by everyone’s favorite plastic molding of an NFL superstar JJ Watt’s amalgam of all three of these celebrations into one horribly corporate shark jumping.
In the end, it seems to be another successful ploy by the record companies/the NFL/the media and one that will most likely be replicated but, hopefully, this opened your eyes without completely crushing your souls.
The lesson at the end of all this? Just spike the goddamn thing to the Moon.