Twerking: When Will the Madness Stop?

July 12th, 2013

(Photo: Miley Cyrus via Twitter)

By Moriba Cummings

Twerking, the controversial dance revolution, has been taking over America. While many, specifically those within the Black community, are saying this is nothing new, it seems as if the world has just begun to jump on this wave that just seems to keep rising in height. With the likes of Miley Cyrus, Leona Lewis and even Jay-Z – no, he didn’t actually twerk – contributing to the ever present relevance of this craze, it’s that much harder to escape, no matter how hard you try. But like other cultural popcorn crazes of the past, twerking’s days are numbered.

Before getting into how twerking has invaded and pervaded our lives, here’s a brief history on how it came into existence. In an unlikely association, twerking is believed to have been brought into  existence by the Arabs who controlled parts of southern Iran and eastern Africa. The connection was then made between the motherland and South America where trading routes were established and, as a result of this, twerking spread to both cultures.

The rapidly rising gyration was then transmitted to the place where many unknowingly believe that it originated: the Caribbean. While the dance itself was not created there, the name was. The term twerking is actually the product of two combined terms: jerk (the infamous Jamaican spice) and twist (the dance). In short, Tw-ist + J-erk =Twerk.

The dance and, hence, the term, made its way to the States where it has blown up to be a well-known part of hip hop and pop culture alike.

Years after its introduction to the world, twerking has become a part of not only American culture, but a worldwide phenomenon that has been considerably blown out of proportion thanks to its overexposure due to the capitalist nature of American culture – if it’s a money-maker, it’s going to be put to good use. Thus, where it really came to the forefront for hip hop fans was when the Atlanta rap duo Ying Yang Twins instructed the masses to shake their money-makers like a salt shaker. The oddball rap stars, who have dubbed themselves “Twerk Pioneers,” were the poster boys (along with Lil Jon) for the Crunk music that served as the sonic backdrop for twerkers everywhere in the early 2000s.

Furthermore, once it had been established that twerking can be used as a clever marketing ploy to gain wealth, it has been packaged in a way that almost forces one to ponder, “Are you kidding me?” Why is it even possible to read an article about the Trayvon Martin murder trial on the Huffington Post and look over to the sidebar only to stumble upon a headline with the word “twerking” staring you in the face?

The twerking revolution has taken over the airwaves as it is practically impossible to surf the Internet, especially when exploring video sharing sites such as YouTube, without stumbling upon a twerk video. While this may be considered annoying and borderline invasive to some, it actually has its pros. Twerk videos – try saying that with a straight face – often provide exposure to new music that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Regardless of being defined by Urban Dictionary as “a slutty dance derived from strip clubs,” the American population somehow remains intrigued. But why? It may be due to its widespread marketability.

It is not an accident that the Ying Yang Twins premiered their new mixtape,  A– in Session, today (July 12). The “Get Low” duo kicked off their new twerk era with their catchy tune ironically titled “Miley Cyrus.” Their reasoning: to supply Miley and her fans with “authentic twerk music.” After all, they are the “Twerk Pioneers,” right?

The desire to be considered bad in today’s popcorn culture, especially in entertainment, is paramount, and furthermore, Miley Cyrus is a product of that. Aside from critics’ accusation of the former Disney belle’s Black exploitation, Cyrus is more known as a “professional” twerker in lieu of a burgeoning music artist. Perhaps with the intention of wanting to shed the bubblegum pop image she – or possibly those around her – created during her Hannah Montana days, Miley’s resorted to twerking in hope to ultimately be considered a grown up.

Gaining the attention of America at large and one of music’s biggest juggernauts, Jay-Z, Miley’s living the life, all thanks to a conscious decision to shake her derriere on a few random occasions. In Hov’s single “Somewhereinamerica,” off his new album Magna Carta Holy Grail, he seemingly mocks Miley for her skills:

“When I was talking Instagram, last thing you wanted was your picture snapped … Cause somehwereinamerica, Miley Cyrus is still twerkin’,” he rapped before letting out a brief chuckle and chanting, “Twerk, twerk, twerk, twerk … Twerk, Miley, Miley, Miley. Only in America.”

Oh but Jay, we beg to differ. Twerking’s crossed the pond! British musician and former X-Factor UK winner Leona Lewis, who is known for her prim and proper persona, recently posted an Instagram video – damn you, Instagram! – giving fans a brief twerk tutorial.

“Some people think that twerking isn’t in the UK,” the “Bleeding Love” singer said in the video before squatting, touching her knees and, well ,demonstrating her attempt at a twerk.

Using Miley and Leona as ideal examples, twerking, though once considered taboo, has now been proven to be somewhat of a successful marketing ploy used when one’s entertainment career is in the dumps or apparently set to be headed there.

The twerk craze is vastly on the road to a speedy death due to its overexposure and over-saturation. As in the past cases of planking, the “Crank Dat” movement, “The Dougie” and anything that makes its way from underground culture to the mainstream and is commercialized in time, it will quickly transform into a boring and ultimately corny product. So it’s almost indefinite that twerking is sure to drift into oblivion in due time. Now, we wait.

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