The death of the Vine is the death of an art form. The six seconds allotted wasn’t a limiter, but a well of endless possibilities. Its future cancellation not only robs creatives of a major platform—some of modern music’s greatest moments manifested because of Vine. This was a fecund space in a decaying industry. And now it is no more, so we mourn.
As is the custom with these sorts of circumstances, let’s look back on the happier times when Vine linked up with music for gold. We pulled a bunch of Vines that turned a song into a big deal, or made an already hot track even better.
This isn’t one of those retrospective, this-song-was-actually-kind-of-good blurbs. “Run” was very much within the post-Imagine Dragons industrial rock wastebasket Long Island and Staten Island bros bathe in. No. We’re here because of umbrellas.
Denzel Curry, “Ultimate”
Curry has been consistently proving he’s one of the more talented rappers to come from the South. But hip-hop was founded on moments: After all, the genre was founded on stitching the best parts of existing songs together. “Ultimate” gave us one with its bacchanalia hook. It was a banger to sound. As the Vines suggest, tough times call for tougher bass drops.
DJ Snake & Lil Jon, “Turn Down for What”
It’s impressive how despite being thought of as a rap game carnival barker, Lil Jon has remained close to the pop music zeitgetist for nearly two decades; his signature bark is just that versatile. His most recent hit found him bending it toward dubstep, a genre that justifies its 90 percent of electro-detritus with the 10 percent of ecstasy (a.k.a. That Bass). The success of “Turn Down for What” didn’t completely re-establish Lil Jon as a cultural force, but the effort was honorable enough to earn a FLOTUS parody. Lil Jon had inadvertently made turnips relevant again.
Drake, “Hotline Bling”
Is the joke funny if the butt is in on it? The jury says yes: “Hotline Bling” is the one video on this list that seems engineered to be endlessly lampooned and appropriated. This was a Drake who was fully cognizant of his brand; his schmaltz comes through unapologetically though his dance-like-no-one-is-watching-except-Twitter dance moves against a minimalist background, one that invites the digital flourish latched on the morning after. “Hotline Bling” was a well-calculated viral hit, but it wasn’t quite good enough for his first No. 1. That wouldn’t come until this year with “One Dance,” which topped the Hot 100 without a video.
FiNATTiCZ, “Don’t Drop That Thun Thun”
Vine made the nation drop its thun thun. The FiNATTiCZ’s signature song had only sold 4,000 copies before a Vine featuring back-blowing twerking video catapulted it into a viral sensation. Sales spiked to 34,000 units a week after the video dropped and went on to push over 200,000 downloads, according to Billboard.
Nicholas Fraser, “Why You Always Lying”
Formerly known as Next’s “Too Close,” Nicholas Fraser—then a 21-year-old college student from Queens—condensed a generation’s worth of relationship frustrations into an absurd six seconds. It was a tightly edited series of ‘90s R&B send-ups and coincidences. The disconnected toilet bowl that punctuates the video has no business working as well at does. It wasn’t even supposed to be there: Fraser put it there on a whim after remodeling his house. But some accidents are miracles. And some Vines become club jams.
Ghost Town DJ’s, “My Boo”
Anyone who knows a shit about black music has heard (and maybe served ribs to) Ghost Town DJ’s lone single. If not, they definitely heard it when Ciara sampled it on 2013’s “Body Party.” This year, it ended up on Ellen: New Jersey high schoolers Kevin Vincent and Jeremiah Hall shot a video of themselves doing the Jersey club scene’s Running Man as “My Boo” played in the background. University of Maryland basketball players Jared Nickens and Jaylen Brantle did the same and the #RunningManChallenge became a brief sensation. The revival pushed “My Boo” to reach No. 27 on the Hot 100, four spots higher than its original peak back in 1996 when it originally dropped.
Zay Hilfigerrr & Zayion McCall, “Juju On That Beat”
Zay Hilfigerrr’s repurposing of the “Knuck If You Buck” will not make anyone over 20 forget the blood that was shed to “And we knuckin’ and we buckin’ and we ready to fight.” But this version does about as well as an instructional dance song can: It’s fine at the school dance but very awkward to listen to on a bus ride.
ILoveMemphis, “Hit the Quan”
In a way, iLoveMemphis made Rich Homie Quan more popular than Rich Homie Quan could. “Hit the Quan,” based off “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh),” peaked at No. 15 on the Hot 100—higher than any of Rich Homie’s singles. iLoveMemphis did so with a fraction of his budget, claiming he only spent $35 on a song that would take him to Ellen, the apparent end game for Vine stars.
Carly Rae Jepsen, “Store”
Jepsen has this knack from forming bubbles out of daily minutiae. It didn’t sell much copies for last years E•MO•TION, but it did deliver the delightful “Store” Vines. It’s grocery shopping’s biggest revolution since Cosco.
Kalin and Myles, “Trampoline”
Two Bay Area teenagers cross paths at a house party before deciding they want to make party music together when they meet again at a Justin Bieber: Never Say Never screening. One of their collaborations is “Trampoline,” an indelible enough cut to soundtrack countless attempts at synchronized dancing and amateur gymnastics. They’re too perfect and too good to last. They break up, leaving a legion of teenage girls adrift.
OG Maco, “Bitch You Guessed It”
OG Maco has tried to distance himself from his breakthrough song. But he’s overestimating his autonomy: Vine will move on when it’s ready. The manic punk-trap anthem was prime for six-second catharsis and lunacy — but mostly lunacy.
Rich Gang, “Lifestyle”
During Young Thug’s rise to Atlantan princehood, a lot of critics found plenty of euphemisms to excuse their inability to even try to understand what he was rapping in his songs. To be fair, some of Thugger’s lyrics are genuinely hard to understand. “Lifestyle,” which practically sounds like scatting, bonded everyone over that indecipherability. Yes, it helped solidify Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug as the best hip-hop duo since Clipse, but it was also notable for confounding actress Tracee Ellis Ross, who went from Girlfriends to Black-ish only to be reduced to this. Ross Instagrammed her dismay, though; the Vines that expressed similar confusion at Young Thug’s verbal cursive were often just as hilarious.
RiFF RAFF, “Tip-Toeing in My Jawdins”
Very few people are willing to crease their Jordans for a six-second, clip because no art form warrants something so heinous. RiFF RAFF’s music (and RiFF RAFF himself) adheres to the joys of hedonistic spontaneity rather than logic. The Jordans were never the point—and frankly there is no point beside redefining style within non-sequitur spaces. And that’s what Vines are for, no?
Bobby Shmurda, “Hot Nigga”
The most instantly enjoyable music Vine is also the greatest symbiotic relationship between the song and the platform: the Shmoney Dance. To synopsize again: Our hero throws his fitted cap into the air as if he’s willing it toward some saintly canonization. Then, Shmurda launches into the gangly hip sway. It was so smooth of a display of spontaneity that it took a life of its own: Total’s “Can’t You See,” Tanto Metro’s “Everyone Falls in Love Sometime,” and Disclosure’s “Latch” were some of the many songs grafted onto the dance.
By now, everyone knows that it wasn’t simply about that dance. The central charm of “Hot Nigga” was how it framed these oddly specific biographical details—Mitch caught a body about a week ago—as essential mantras. Nobody knew who Mitch was, yet he belonged to the nation before “a week ago”’s final “o” left Bobby’s lips. Yes, Vine was key to the eventual ubiquity of “Hot Nigga.” But Shmurda stream of quotables also gave Vine its own platform. Outside of the clubs, the relationship between “Hot Nigga” and Vine legitimized a new medium for democratized expression. It felt like there were endless possibilities within it. Sadly, it ended with staff cuts and an orange jumpsuit.
Silento, “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)”
Ringtone rap in the Vine era. The teenage Atlantan sidesteps any regard for lyricism for a bite-sized ear worm of a jingle. It was good enough for the kids. As a result, Silento gets a Top 10 hit, a BET Awards spot, and a predictably underwhelming sequel.
T-Wayne, “Nasty Freestyle”
Arguably the best song to arise from the Nae Nae/Whip family of Vines. “Nasty Freestyle” features more bass than Silento’s single (instrumentally and vocally) and more tangible quotables than @WeAreToonz. Lyrics are often plastic placeholders for the point of the song (to dance!). T-Wayne’s verses here are at least good for an Instagram caption or two.
Kanye West, “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”
Although Metro Boomin’s tagline has been around for well over a year, it really became a cultural moment when attached to West’s gospel splendor. Many were bemused when Kanye West proclaimed The Life of Pablo was going to be a gospel album, as if hip-hop and spiritual salvation were mutually exclusive. Opener “Ultralight Beam” immediately silence those doubts and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” condensed the two sides into a combustible six seconds. Until this past spring, the tagline was attached to Future’s dark hedonism. It became an anthem next to Kid Cudi’s gasp of sunlight.
@WeAreToonz, “Drop That Nae Nae”
After originally releasing “Drop That Nae Nae” in 2013 to little fanfare, @WeAreToonz got a signal boost the following year in a way not too far off from the resurgence of “My Boo”: Athletes love to dance. @WeAreToonz signature jam never broke into the Hot 100, but it did have the honor of capping off John Wall’s superb Slam Dunk Contest performance.
YG, “My Nigga”
Yes, dropping an ode to camaraderie with DJ Mustard during the peak of his relevance is a cheat code. But if Barack Obama doesn’t dap up Kevin Durant and “My Nigga” doesn’t break into the country’s Top 20, we don’t get to see YG finally release the fantastic My Krazy Life. And if that album never came out, we would’ve never gotten “FDT.” Rarely has the snowball effect been this beneficial to the culture.
Young Dro, “FDB”
It only takes six seconds to pull a rapper back into relevancy. Before “FDB,” Young Dro’s last hit was 2006’s palatable dance hit “Shoulder Lean.” The majority Young Dro’s comeback hit isn’t particularly memorable; all he needed was that hook, a barrel-chested cry of unapologetically prettiness. Young Dro became the voice of fragile men everywhere.