Memes might have started as silly online distractions, but their impact on the world of music, especially in 2016, is officially no joke. Look no further than the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 right now — not to mention chart action for a mid-’90s hip-hop group, a gospel singer pushing 80 and two teenagers from Detroit — to know that music and memes go hand in hand.
Below, revisit the 10 biggest music memes of 2016:
Let’s start with the meme owning social feeds — and the top of the Hot 100 right now. At the end of October, a group of high school students in Jacksonville, Florida, started the trend by standing still as a video panned across their classroom. In November, others followed suit and began setting the videos to Rae Sremmurd‘s “Black Beatles,” with the rappers themselves even posting a #MannequinChallenge video onstage at their concert. Then even your mom found out about the meme when presidential nominee Hillary Clinton accepted the challenge with Jon Bon Jovi on her private plane, and an OG Beatle, Paul McCartney, tweeted one of his own — not to mention videos from Taylor Swift, Destiny’s Child, Ellen DeGeneres at the White House and at least one of your Facebook friends at Thanksgiving dinner. With four weeks and counting at No. 1 on the Hot 100, Rae Sremmurd owes those Florida high-schoolers a private concert.
Don’t stand still. Vote today: https://t.co/jfd3CXLD1s #ElectionDay #MannequinChallenge pic.twitter.com/4KAv2zu0rd
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 8, 2016
Love those Black Beatles #MannequinChallenge pic.twitter.com/aAu9umHKI7
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) November 10, 2016
The Ghost Town DJs probably had no idea that their 1996 hit song “My Boo” would become an even bigger hit 20 years later. Thanks to the #RunningManChallenge — started by two high school students and popularized by a pair of University of Maryland basketball players — which used the mid-’90s jam as its soundtrack, “My Boo” hit a new peak of No. 29 on the Hot 100 and hit the top 10 of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for the very first time. Celebrities like Ciara and Russell Wilson (and their private flight crew) and Chris Brown got in on the fun too.
Just like Silento‘s “Watch Me” and iLoveMemphis‘ “Hit the Quan” last year, Zay Hilfigerrr and Zayion McCall kicked off the latest viral dance craze with “Juju on That Beat (TZ Anthem Challenge).” The song has flown all the way to No. 5 on the Hot 100 (so far) on the strength of viral videos.
2016 Presidential Election Memes
There was a lot of anger surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but the people of the Internet managed to find a few things to laugh about too. Some of the best musical memes popped up around the campaign — most notably the Dirty Dancing duet video that surfaced after one of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s especially contentious debates. Plus: Trump often inadvertently quoted song lyrics, making for some perfect mash-ups.
oh god pic.twitter.com/RSdpKk464S
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) October 10, 2016
“Hold My Mule” by Shirley Caesar became the soundtrack of Thanksgiving 2016, thanks to a remix of the 1988 song by DJ Suede the Remix God and countless culinary memes. In the song, the gospel legend lists off food after food — “beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes” — set to a hip-hop beat. The new version even lifted Caesar to the top of the Gospel Streaming Songs chart, so she had plenty to be thankful for this Turkey Day.
‘Run Away With Me’ Saxophone Intro
It started as just a killer sax intro to a 2015 Carly Rae Jepsen single, but it became so much more in February when Viner T. Kyle set the opening notes of “Run Away With Me” to a cartoon clip from Regular Show, in a perfect Say Anything nod. The saxophone blast heard ’round the Web then made its way into Jennifer Garner’s horn and Rihanna‘s crowd, among other unexpected places, becoming the runaway meme of 2016.
‘I’m Just Goin’ to the Store, to the Store’
Apparently Carly Rae Jepsen’s music is ultra-memeable — and this one came about literally overnight. A day after CRJ released her Emotion: Side B EP in August, which included the upbeat song “Store,” the Goth Girls Club Vine account posted a clip of four girls twerking in a megastore set to the brand-new track. Jepsen herself even shared one of the “Store” memes while promoting the B-sides EP, with a perfect scene from Mannequin. Our personal favorite is the one that seamlessly incorporates “Store” into a Mean Girls scene.
Store | E•MO•TION Side B | OUT NOW https://t.co/7FppYeYWCF (Vine: @mkygod) pic.twitter.com/xCgIVH5iTk
— Carly Rae Jepsen (@carlyraejepsen) August 29, 2016
This meme is all about the music you can’t hear. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps revealed at the MTV VMAs in August that the song that inspired his infamous vengeful expression was Future‘s “Stick Talk,” but that didn’t stop the Internet from inventing their own stories about what was going through the gold medalist’s mind.
When you’re the real Slim Shady but someone else stood up. pic.twitter.com/CtQTu7FXEa
— B®endan (@ChiBDM) August 9, 2016
When you accidentally buy the Kidz Bop version of a song on iTunes. pic.twitter.com/eJpDphHaeU
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) August 9, 2016
When you really thought this was it this time, but then Frank Ocean fooled you again pic.twitter.com/uabCHeDKKc
— Chris Herring (@Herring_NBA) August 9, 2016
One of the (many) forces that drove The Chainsmokers‘ “Closer” to hold the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100 for 12 straight weeks this year was a string of memes starting in September that showed how people positively lost their minds when the song came on. The dance duo themselves even shared one of those memes on Instagram, with a girl in a bear suit losing herself to dance thanks to the Halsey-assisted hit.
When the beat of Closer by the Chainsmokers drops … pic.twitter.com/2UQ7nHRKfd
— Wild flower (@FeaaCarmeen) September 8, 2016
Literally ME whenever Closer by The Chainsmokers comes on in public– pic.twitter.com/UMxeFMJBZ0
— Steven with a Ph (@Steven__Marquez) September 11, 2016
Who Is She?
The six-second masterpiece below — set to the tune of A-ha‘s “Take on Me” and featuring Vine user Chloe Woodard in an oversize tie-dye T-shirt and undersize sunglasses — was actually posted last year. But in February, Entertainment Weekly re-created the “who is she” magic with actor Jeff Goldblum, further re-igniting the meme. Woodard’s original clip has racked up 116 million-plus loops, while another take by Viner Marlon Webb in January has 50 million-plus plays.