Two months after Beyoncé dropped her surprise self-titled album, it’s still shaking up the music industry. Two weeks ago, album cut “Partition” reached No. 49 on the Streaming Songs chart with over 1.4 million streams in the U.S, despite the fact that the video (available for purchase with the album) isn’t on Youtube or Vevo, and the audio isn’t available on Spotify, Pandora and other similar services. How is this possible? User-generated Youtube videos, driven by a vibrant community of choreographed dance crews shaking it to the song on camera.
The “Partition” phenomenon is in some ways similar to “Harlem Shake,” the viral, dorm-room dance meme which took Brooklyn DJ-producer Baauer straight to the top of the Hot 100 the week of Feb. 23 thanks to millions of YouTube clicks. However, unlike with “Harlem Shake,” many of the most popular dance videos featuring “Partition” are created by professional choreographers, like Kyle Hanagami, who was inspired by the dance-heavy videos Beyonce included with her album.
“What I really look for in a song is for it to be dynamic, so it doesn’t get boring when you dance to it,” says the Los Angeles-based 27-year old, who uploaded a video of a dance crew he choreographed to the song to his YouTube channel on January 23, receiving nearly 400,000 views to date. “‘Partition’ is like a choreographer’s dream in that regard.”
Hanagami has been a choreographer since 2006, and began posting videos to his channel right around when the YouTube dance phenomenon began. His clips soon began to receive global attention, resulting in teaching gigs and a chance to work with Travis Payne, Michael Jackson’s choreographer.
“It’s great marketing,” Hanagami says. “I travel internationally to teach students, and the way they know to fly me around the world is YouTube.”
“Partition” moved up 73-70 on the Hot 100 last week, Beyonce’s third song on the Hot 100, joining official singles “Drunk in Love” (No. 8) and “XO” (No. 65). “Partition” sold 19,000 copies the week ending Feb. 2, according to Nielsen Soundscan, a jump of 13%; radio airplay is also up, with a 25% boost to 4.8 million audience impressions, according to Nielsen BDS. Streams grew 2% as well, although the track falls off the Streaming Songs tally this week. “Partition'”s streaming numbers are boosted by the fact that it’s a two-part track; Beyoncé comes with separate videos (one titled “Yoncé,” the other “Partition”) for each, and fans have followed her lead, uploading different videos to both sections, all of which count toward “Partition”‘s overall streaming numbers. Hanagami’s video uses “Yoncé,” the slower first part of the song, while others, like one posted by French dancer/choreographer Yanis Marshall, use the bouncier “Partition” section.
Marshall’s “Partition” Youtube video, featuring him and a group of dancers he choreographed, was shared by Beyoncé herself on Facebook, and has received more than 775,000 views to date. “She posted it around 4 a.m. Paris time,” he recalls. “It felt like Christmas, New Year’s and my birthday all at the same time!”
Marshall, a 24-year-old Parisian now living in New York, started dancing in music videos and stage musicals, and launched a YouTube channel four years ago. 200,000 subscribers and over 18 million channel views later, he’s become a choreographer and instructor with an international clientele. The “Partition” video, in fact, was filmed in Ukraine, where Marshall worked on the local “So You Think You Can Dance.” “Most of the jobs I get today are because people found out about me via YouTube,” he says.
But Beyoncé isn’t the only artist inspiring impressive YouTube videos from professional dancers and choreographers: Most recent uptempo pop hits, from Icona Pop’s “I Love It” to Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” have conjured similar clips with millions of views. It’s another example of how technology is changing the way fans interact with their favorite songs.
“A true hit song is one where the audience goes from passive to active,” says Dion Singer, EVP of creative and marketing at Warner Bros. Records. Singer works with Jason Derulo, whose kinetic new single “Talk Dirty” has inspired multiple choreography videos with million-plus views, helping the song climb 6-4 on the Hot 100 this week.
“Instead of just listening to a song on the radio, [fans have] the energy to make a dance video and put it up on YouTube,” Singer adds. “That must mean the song is really affecting people.”
The importance of YouTube covers as a medium for experiencing music is on the rise, so much so that footage from popular cover songs were used to introduce some of the nominees during the 56th GRAMMYs broadcast. Below are some of our favorite Beyonce-inspired dance covers.