In the middle of June of this year, a video was uploaded to the Chinese internet in which the video from a Red Army Orchestra performance was synced to “Waving Flag”, the song by K’naan used by Coca Cola for promoting this year’s World Cup Championship. While this juxtaposition of old and new and East and West proved novel, it wasn’t until the beginning of July when this internet meme went internet-supernova when the same footage of the Red Army Orchestra was synced to Michael Jackson‘s “Beat It”.
While the syncing of “Waving Flag” was done well this “Beat It” version was far superior, showing an understanding of musical syncopation, call and response, instrument textures and layering, and even a smoking electric erhu solo by a Chinese Red Army version of Eddie Van Halen. Furthermore, while “Waving Flag” is a song about current events and world harmony, “Beat It” features the recently passed and thus universally acclaimed King of Pop at the zenith of his cool and idolatry; this would give this internet meme a dangerous, attractive quality for while comparing the Red Army to the World Cup and its themes of global harmony and friendly competition is mostly benign, comparing the Red Army to a black man, even the most famous, one-gloved black entertainer of all time could be attracting the attention of “harmonizing” censors.
However, despite the worry some netizens expressed, this internet meme took off. Besides enjoying great popularity like all internet memes, this one has attracted many knock-offs and other variations, from current Western Top 40 hits (“Hey Oh” and “Tik Tok”) to rather obscure versions (the 90’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and “The Diva Dance” from “The Fifth Element”) to current Chinese Top 40 hits (Jay Zhou). This list of “Red Army Orchestra” internet memes concludes with the most inspired and best versions of this internet meme, ranging from theme songs from cartoon shows that emphasize the ludicrous quality of this satire (“Ultraman” and “Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles”) to a rock anthem that perfectly encapsulates the epic nature of a nation-wide call to arms and unity to chilling effect (Queen’s “We Will Rock You”).
While it appears that the Chinese online community is ready to subvert and displace the political propaganda from a few generations ago, it also appears they are ready to seek out and find culture and significance in this same time period. Also, it appears that they will have the chance to do that online–this time.
“Waving Flag” (Official Song 2010 FIFA World Cup Championship – K’naan)
Comments from Tudou:
Really fucking joyful! This kind of idiotic art should definitely be made fun of.
Your skill level is very high; laugh my ass off.
Ha ha ha!
“Beat It” – Michael Jackson
Comments from Mop:
The lip syncing is good..
Watching this makes me feel very joyful, for this is very valiant/incredible.
[Just] here to observe.
Godly syncing, the electric erhu at the end was the most niubi
louzhu, hurry and delete this, otherwise you’re going to be harmonized.
After performing at the World Cup, these brothers [referring to the people shown in the video] also sang MJ’s song, such gods! This post must become popular, [I’m] waiting to see.
Be careful of being harmonized!
Appropriately awesome, those who haven’t seen it are missing out.
The People’s Liberation Army liberate Paris!
Garbage, [is this] respectful to our forebears?
Awesome Chinese people.
Looking for the original…not the “Beat It” version.
Let them go mine coal.
After watching this, the pressure for me to express is great.
Ding, and I don’t need a reason.
The editing is not bad, haha!!! . It’s just not very smooth, [but] this is already really awesome! You must’ve spent a lot of effort upon this! However, there is too much repeat footage, it gives me a headache!
This type of mischief is not good! Don’t joke around with revolutionary themes! Too disrespectful!
How old is this thing, and you’re not even embarrassed resurrecting it to intimidate people.
I think I’ve seen this before a long time ago.
I laughed until my stomach hurt; I’m worried this will be harmonized.
”Hey Oh” – Pokerface
“Tik Tok” – Ke$ha
“The Diva Dance” – from “The Fifth Element” (1997)
“Who Let the Dogs Out?” – Baha Men
“以父之名” – 周杰伦Jay Zhou
A current Chinese hip hop pop song
“足球小子 (The Football Kid)” – theme song from a cartoon show
“Ultraman” – theme song from a cartoon show
“Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle” – theme song from a cartoon show
“We Will Rock You” – Queen
When pizza, skateboarding, ninjitsu and living life to the X-treme just isn’t enough. chinaSMACK personals.