The emergence and disappearance of most memes is illogical.
Look at Twitter’s recent obsessions with Disney-Pixar brackets — or brackets of any kind. Suddenly we stumble across a joke that we reinterpret or add to and, before we know it, it’s being talked about by Jimmy Fallon or James Corden and there’s an entire Twitter Moment dedicated to highlighting the best versions. Most memes on Twitter happen to be retweeted onto your timeline and, if they’re both super popular and tied to your interests, you start to notice a pattern emerge.
YouTube operates a little differently. It only takes watching one video for the company’s complex and controversial recommendations algorithm to kick into gear. By that logic, it would only take one video to make it to the top of YouTube’s trending page to accomplish setting a meme in motion, even if that meme has been playing out for more than a year.
The meme in question is referred to as “send this to your crush with no context” or “send this to your crush without context” and was recently made very popular by Big Marvel, one of YouTube’s strangest and funniest creators. The video takes R&B artist Bazzi’s “Mine,” and follows Big Marvel as he interprets the lyrics about a man with a crush using a plastic chicken serenading a real chicken. Nothing in the video makes sense; it’s absurdism to the highest degree, but that’s the entire point of the video.
Big Marvel’s take on the joke winded up nearing the top of YouTube’s trending list, and more versions of the meme are being uploaded almost every five minutes on YouTube. Big Marvel didn’t start the trend, thought. It goes back years. There are videos from 2014 with the same title, but the meme as we know it today stretches back to at least February 2017 on YouTube; like most jokes on the internet, it all originated on Tumblr.
The video was created by Izzy Humair when she was 16, and after a Tumblr post featuring the video went viral, her YouTube account was flooded with people watching the original. It has amassed more than four million views since then, and has helped boost Humair’s main YouTube channel, which boasts just over 63,000 subscribers. Humair wrote in the video’s description that she “made this when I was 16 and it was an inside joke with my musical theatre friends and I DID NOT expect this to go beyond the reach of the musical theatre community!”
“I personally find it slightly embarrassing out of context but like IM JUST HAVING FUN so If you think this sucks then don’t watch it LOL,” Humair wrote. “There’s a reason this is posted on my SIDE ACCOUNT and not my actual one.”
Humair’s original video remains one of the most popular versions of the meme, but between its publication in February 2017 and the beginning of March 2018, it never really took off. There were brief periods of interest, as seen in the Google Trends graph below, but it didn’t become the popular meme that it was today until the first and second week of March. Ironically, it took the integration of two other popular memes making their way around YouTube for these to explode onto the scene.
The first video, published on March 2, stars YouTuber Call of Origin, a relatively small YouTuber with just under nine thousand subscribers, dancing along to Bazzi’s “Mine,” a meme that dominated YouTube a couple of months ago. Although Call of Origin only have nine thousand subscribers, the video amassed more than 450,000 views. Call of Origin combined Bazzi’s “Mine” meme with a “send this to your crush without context” title, and a new old phenomenon was born.
Call of Origin’s video was followed up by Sab, a YouTuber with more than 113,000 subscribers, who posted her own rendition of the video. It’s one of the most popular versions yet, with just over 3.9 million views amassed since it was published on March 8.
The meme started to spread, and was picked up by notable music remixer, Joe Jenkins, a popular YouTuber (previously profiled by Polygon) known for his unique song covers. Jenkins’ version of the meme also used Bazzi’s “Mine” in conjunction with the “send this to your crush with no context” title. Jenkins, who has just over 141,000 subscribers, amassed more than 675,000 views on his video.
Clearly a trend was being picked up by some of the biggest YouTubers. Bazzi’s “Mine” meme was critiqued by some of YouTube’s biggest meme review channels (including PewDiePie) and instantly became synonymous with YouTube meme culture. Traditionally speaking, once something makes its way to PewDiePie’s channel or catches the attention of popular meme reviewers, they’re likely to be replicated by other YouTubers looking to get in on the action.
That’s precisely what happened with “send this to your crush without context.” It just needed a little help from another, popular meme friend.
Other videos followed, some gaining recognition and others fading into the abyss of endless YouTube videos, cultivating in Big Marvel’s perfect combination of everything gripping YouTube’s meme culture in the past couple of months. It was through the combination of two simple but catchy memes that Big Marvel found his way to the top of the trending list and a year-old meme finally found its big success.
It’s also just another casual reminder that the popularity of most memes doesn’t make sense. We should just enjoy them as they pass us by.