The flash mob, as a concept, is far from new. It's been around for years. And people have been uploading videos of flash mobs for as long as YouTube has existed. And while almost everyone has seen at least one flash mob video, the genre is far from dead. In fact, recent successes might signal that the flash mob has yet to reach the apex of its popularity.
In a video released six weeks ago, a group of singers in Ontario staged a flash mob rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah in the food court of a local mall. As of the writing of this article, the video has amassed 27,367,750 views, which, according to sources, is a new record for flash mob videos. If you haven't seen it, and if you're not completely overdosed on all things Christmas, check it out:
For comparison's sake, consider the group Improv Everywhere, who are largely considered to be the kings of flash mob videos. Their most-watched video, Frozen Grand Central--in which a large number of participants simply freeze in place for several moments in New York's Grand Central Station--has only 24,472,619 views. The food court Hallelujah Chorus has only been online for six weeks; Frozen Grand Central has been up for nearly three years.
So what does this mean? Well, a few things, I think.
First, and perhaps least importantly, Christmas videos tug our heartstrings. We see it every year during the holiday season. And a huge reason this video is the new view-count king is because it's related to a holiday that makes sentimentalists out of the most hardened tough guys.
Second, news of the flash mob's demise has been wildly overstated. It's alive and well. And it's showing signs of becoming truly immortal. While some viral video styles enjoy a brief period of popularity before falling out of fashion--such as parody videos of the Hitler-gets-angry clip from the movie Downfall, for instance--flash mobs might be joining the ranks of the viral formats that never go out of style, right alongside cute puppies, mash-ups, and music videos.
Shortly before this record-setting video's rise, we saw something very interesting: brands getting into the flash mob act. Specifically, T-Mobile seems intent on entertaining as many British air travelers as possible through the use of musical flash mobs starring both unknowns and established web stars.
Flash mobs have come a long way in the last few years. Early mobs would simply gather and pretend to dance to nonexistent music in public places. Now we're seeing more sophisticated planning and rehearsal, more creativity in the performances, and now even the adoption of the format by worldwide brands. If you're already sick of flash mobs, I've got some really bad news for you... they're not going away anytime soon. In fact, another flash mob might have beaten the record just last week if they'd managed to get a single note off--there were so many participants that showed up (thousands) that police closed the shopping mall in the name of building safety... yikes! This record is temporary, and it will be broken... soon. I'd look for a surge of these spontaneous performance pieces--including several that are sponsored by major companies--in 2011.
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