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Track Review

If someone you know suddenly busts out dance moves you've never seen before, films them and uploads the footage to YouTube, well, you can probably thank Silentó. This 17-year-old's song "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" has ignited the viral dance sensation of 2015 via its oft-imitated video.

There's not much to the song itself, actually. Except that if you don't know that it's name-checking a bunch of recent dance moves, you probably won't be able to make heads or tails of it. Having that interpretative decoder key, however, makes all the difference—especially when it comes to several steps that otherwise might sound problematic.

Do the Stanky Leg?

After introducing himself—"You already know who it is/Silentó”— this teen leads listeners (and viewers) through that litany of dances with names such as "whip," "nae nae," "the stanky leg," "break your legs," "bop," "duff" and "Superman."

The structure he uses to introduce each move is pretty similar: "Now watch me whip (kill it!)/Now watch me nae nae (OK!)." Elsewhere, we get instructions like, "Do the stanky leg" and, "Now break your legs." Knowing that we're not talking about a mob hit here helps especially with that last maneuver.

The video features Silentó performing these moves in a school gym full of enthusiastic, imitative students of all ages (plus a few adults, too). Those shots are intercut with images of many, many others, from very young to very old, doing their own signature takes on the whip, the nae nae, the duff, and so on.

Some of these gyrations are mildly suggestive, and a few performers' outfits could be characterized as immodest. Still, we're not in twerking territory here.

Dancing With Ourselves

Watching the video, I recalled previous dance crazes in our culture, from the Electric Slide to the Macarena to PSY's "Gangnam Style" routine. There's just something about a fun dance that invites people to imitate it and participate, and all the more so in the YouTube era.

That's certainly happening here. I think it's telling, though, that this song is called "Watch Me." After all, we're doing a lot of watching ourselves these days. It's only natural, I suppose, that a young artist would take that sentiment and use it for the foundation of a song and dance like this one.

Still, as relatively innocuous as this song and the dance craze it has spawned are, Silentó's repeated request "Ooh, watch me, watch me/Ooh, watch me, watch me" seems an appropriately (if perhaps accidentally) narcissistic message for an era in which we all just want everyone else to look at us.

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Peaked at No. 3.

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January 26, 2015

On Video

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Adam R. Holz

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