Dance Hits That Went Viral: From Naatu Naatu to Macarena


Whether in Spanish, Korean or Telugu – some viral dance hits have won a worldwide fan base as catchy tunes. They invite you to dance along on YouTube and TikTok.

The Marian Palace, the official residence of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, served as the backdrop for the music video of “Naatu Naatu”

The hit “Naatu Naatu”, sung in the Telugu language spoken in southern India, caused a sensation worldwide: it recently won a Golden Globe in the category “Best Movie Song” , making it India's first win at the awards ceremony. It beat out songs by established stars like Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Rihanna and is now shortlisted for the Oscars. 

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan tweeted that he “woke up and started dancing to 'Naatu Naatu'” to celebrate the win. And the renowned Indian composer A.R. Rahman, who won an Oscar for his hit song “Jai Ho” from the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”(2008), described receiving the award as a “paradigm shift” in an Instagram post.  

The fast, four-and-a-half-minute song from the Telugu-produced film “RRR” (2022) became a viral hit in India at the start of the blockbuster – not least because of its sophisticated choreography, the trending on social media in India and around the world. 

The Golden Globe has had TikTokers from France to Japan recreating the song's sweeping moves. YouTube even has a hilarious mashup of an old clip by comedians Laurel & Hardy dancing to this song now. 

The song's international popularity shows that language is no barrier and music works across borders. In addition to “Naatu Naatu” , here's a look at some international hits that have the world bobbing to the rhythm – without really understanding the lyrics. 

“Naatu Naatu” (2022) < /h2>

In Telugu – a language spoken primarily in the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana – “Naatu Naatu” simply means “dance, dance”. The film RRR, which takes its name from the English phrases Rise, Roar, Revolt, was written and directed by S.S. Rajamouli. It tells the story of two revolutionaries who fought against British rule in India.  

The fast-paced “Naatu Naatu” is played during a garden party where the two protagonists, Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem (played by Ram Charan and N.T. Rama Rao Jr.) dance arm in arm, wrinkling their noses at British officials who they had humiliated. It is worth noting that the scene was shot in August 2021 against the backdrop of the Marian Palace, the official ceremonial residence of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.   

In an interview with fellow Indian filmmaker Sandeep Reddy Vanga, broadcast by Indian media, Rajamouli said, “Fortunately, because the President of Ukraine was a TV actor, they gave us permission to shoot.” The film contains some other scenes , which were also recorded in various locations in Kiev before the war.  

“Jerusalema” (2020)

Sung entirely in isiZulu, one of the official languages ​​of South Africa, “Jerusalema” is a 2019 gospel-influenced house song by South African musician and producer Master KG. Singer-songwriter Nomcebo Zikode performed “Jerusalema”. After becoming a summer hit upon its online release, the song was solidified by a music video in December 2019 that racked up half a billion views on YouTube. 

A video from February 2020 finally made “Jerusalema” a viral world hit. It showed Fenomenos do Semba, an Angolan dance troupe, dancing effortlessly to the song while holding plates of food. This gave rise to the #JerusalemaChallenge, a dance challenge in which, among others, priests and police officers – many of whom were in a COVID-19 lockdown at the time – posted videos of themselves dancing in countries as diverse as Portugal, Romania, Jamaica, Canada and Sri Lanka published.  

“Gangnam Style” (2012) 

“Op op op op – Oppa Gangnam Style” were probably the only lyric lines most of us could sing along to in this viral K-pop song. “Gangnam Style” is a Korean term for the lifestyle associated with the Gangnam district of Seoul, where people are considered trendy and hip.  

South Korean rapper Psy sang the song. The accompanying music video, with its antics and unusual dance moves, made it a cultural phenomenon. 

After the song became a number one hit in South Korea, “Gangnam Style”  went viral worldwide in August 2012 , reached number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and topped the charts in more than 30 countries including Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom by the end of the year. 

On “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” – an American talk show – Psy Britney Spears performed his dance, which he described as being based on pretending to ride an invisible horse. He won the Best Video award at the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards and the Guinness Book of World Records declared “Gangnam Style” the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion views.   

“Macarena” (1996) 

In a July 2020 poll of the most iconic and well-known songs of the 1990s, conducted by digital publication The Pudding, “Macarena” was ranked eighth. Spanish duo Los del Rio's dance hit was originally written as a tribute to a flamenco dancer and was released in Spanish in 1993. But it was the Bayside Boys' 1996 remixed version, with English verses and a Spanish chorus, that made global waves. The music video, in which a culturally representative bevy of beauties dance the famous steps, became a viral sensation – even before the TikTok era. 

But who is Macarena actually? Basically, she's a girl who decides to “give her body some pleasure” – to translate the Spanish refrain – by having fun with two buddies of her absent boyfriend, who's been drafted into the army. Ironically, one of the English lines in the remixed version reads “I'm not trying to seduce you”. By the way, a sample from the classic film “The Graduate”. 

“Lambada” (1989) 

Long before YouTube and social networks even existed, the “Lambada” caused a stir around the world. The music video for the 1989 hit by the French pop group Kaoma, whose eponymous word comes from Portuguese and refers to the waving movement of a whip, shows couples in an erotic, originally Brazilian dance. The women in the video wore very short skirts, revealing their underwear with every turn. Not surprisingly, the dance has also been referred to as a “forbidden dance” by certain circles. In some countries, such as Malaysia, the video was even banned from being broadcast on public television for fear of spoiling public morals. 

After its release in July 1989, the Portuguese song received top rankings in Europe , Latin America and also the USA, where he topped the “Billboard Hot Latin Charts” for seven weeks.

This article was adapted from English by Verena Greb.