Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Fallon Take Us Through the History of Music Video Dancing

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Appearing on The Tonight Show this week, Jennifer Lopez treated audiences to some of her killer moves.

The “Dance Again” hitmaker proved that she really could dance again by performing an impressive mash-up. Along with host, Jimmy Fallon, Lopez recreated some of the most legendary dance moves to ever grace the pop charts.

From N Sync’s memorable “Bye Bye Bye” fist-pumping and Britney’s Oops I Did It Again” heart-thumping, right up to current chart smash, Billie Ellish’s “Bad Guy” tracksuit-stomping, they ran us through it all.

Did you know that J-Lo used to be a back-up dancer? That’s right, before she became the successful singer, actress, producer, and businesswoman, we know her to be today, she was Janet Jackson’s back-up dancer – which explains why she pulls off each and every one of these dances so well!

Plus, when you scroll down to check out some of these memorable music video dances, take a second to appreciate that J-Lo is fifty!

That’s right, Jenifer Lopez, with abs you could crack your teeth on, is fifty-years-old.

I need to hit the gym…. but, first, I think I’m gonna hit the movies and catch Lopez in the highly anticipated Hustlers. The female-led ensemble starring Lopez alongside Constance Wu, Cardi B, and Lizzo is getting terrific reviews.

But before we all go and swoon over Lopez in Hustlers, let’s take a moment to appreciate how accurately she nails these music video dance moves.

Embracing ’90s grunge, Fallon and Lopez took to the stage to treat the Tonight Show audience to a performance that I don’t think anyone was expecting. And I know I’ve already mentioned them but… J-Lo’s abs!!

U Can’t Touch This

Straight off the bat, J-Lo starts the routine with a throwback to MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”

MC Hammer’s memorable number sampled Rick James’ “Super Freak” which made waves in 1981. With its dance-vibes and success in the pop charts, this song marked a pivotal change in Hammer’s career. “U Can’t Touch This” hurtled Hammer into the mainstream, leading the rapper to lose some credibility with the rap community. Winning a Grammy award for Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rhythm & Blues Song – I’m sure that Hammer didn’t mind, even if the song ruined his street cred.

Straight Up

Lopez and Fallon played homage to the breakout 1988 hit for Paula Abdul, “Straight Up.” Like J-Lo, Abdul started her career as a dancer and made no secret of that in the music video. Abdul and J-Lo might actually know each other. It turns out that Paula Abdul was actually the choreographer for Janet Jackson’s “Nasty,” “When I Think of You,” and “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” music vids.

Small world, eh? Turns out that Paula Abdul and J-Lo do know each other. I found this shot of them cozying up (well, posing together…) at the 2015 American Music Awards After Party.  

“Straight Up” really was a big deal when it was released. The song was the best-selling single of 1989. It was the music video that really made waves. It won the lot at the MTV Video Music Awards that year, with Best Female Video, Best Dance, Best Choreography and Best Editing. The video was actually directed by David Fincher – who was also the guy that directed Madonna’s famous “Vogue” video.

I mean, can you blame her? Speaking about the success of the song and music video Abdul, once told Entertainment Weekly: “It ended up defining a look and signature of the decade.”  

Walk Like An Egyptian

The next dance routine that Fallon and J-Lo brought to the table was the unforgettable “Walk Like An Egyptian” dance, made famous by the pop-rock group, The Bangles, in 1986. The Bangles first became famous with the hit “Manic Monday.” The song was actually written by Prince under the pseudonym “Christopher.” He really championed The Bangles and after seeing one of their earlier singles on MTV, he showed up at their recording studio in Los Angeles with a mixtape of songs that he wanted them to use.

Walk Like An Egyptian made and broke The Bangles.

The goofy pop song was the band’s biggest hit but served to diminish the image that they had been building. Prior to “WLAE,” the band wrote more clever, carefully constructed songs, mostly written by Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson. This number one hit was written by Liam Sternberg and threw the band into ’80s novelty stardom.  

Three years after the success of “Walk Like An Egyptian,” the new wave girl band decided to call it a day.

Not able to stay broken up for long, The Bangles got back together to do a song for the soundtrack of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Sh*gged Me. The song, “Get The Girl” led to an album released in 1999 and a tour in the Millenium. The band has been making music and touring ever since. See pictured, the band performing at LA’s ‘80s Weekend #7 festival in January of this year.

The Right Stuff

The next dance move classic that J-Lo and Fallon reminded us of was The New Kids On The Block’s 1988 banger “You Got It (The Right Stuff).”

I’m not exactly sure whether many people aspired to be just like New Kids On The Block when they pulled out these dance moves. Despite the song’s success, charting at number one in the U.K. charts and number three in the U.S., the moves led to much ridicule.

Yankovic’s parody version called “The White Stuff.” The lyrics stray from the original track in that Yankovic’s version is about oreo cookies and how great the white filling is.

Rollin’ With Kid ‘N Play

The next routine that J-Lo and Fallon took on was the other hit of 1988… American hip hop duo, Kid N’ Play’s, “Rollin With It” dance video that they made to celebrate the release of their debut album 2 Hype. 

The American hip-hop duo, Kid ‘N Play, was made up of Christopher Reid (“Kid”) and  Christopher Martin (“Play”). The pair were a big hit in the late ’80s, early ’90s. More successful than the actual music perhaps was the hip-hop duo’s stage presence and dance moves. Their signature move, “the kickstep” – otherwise known as the “Kid ‘N Play KickStep” was popular with kids across America in the early nineties.  

Macarena

We all remember this one, right? It’s been performed at every school disco since 1993. How J-Lo makes the “Macarena” look cool, I will never know..

The Spanish Latin pop duo topped the charts with this dance number in 1993.

Antonio Romero Monge and Rafael Ruíz Perdigones, who make up the pop duo, Los Del Rio, originally formed in 1962. Their most successful hit was the “Macarena” by far… but I wonder if their first mainstream hit had much to do with the sexy dancers in the video…

“Waterfalls”

The next routine J-Lo and Fallon paid homage to was the TLC classic, “Waterfalls.”

Standing in the blue waters in some kind of symbolic move that only made sense in the ’90s was key to this video. TLC’s “Waterfalls” is frequently considered to be the act’s signature song. As well as reaching number one in the U.S. charts, the track was nominated for a string of awards. The video won four awards at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards: Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Best R&B Video, and the Viewer’s Choice Award.  

“Waterfalls” tackled the issues that plagued the 1990s. Both the song lyrics and the coinciding video dealt with the topic of Aids, drug abuse, and trade. Discussing the impact of the song to Fuse Magazine, band member, “T-Boz” Watkins, said that the “video spoke for a whole epidemic.”

“Oops!..I Did It Again”

J-Lo somehow manages to make the Britney Spears’ dance seem like a strong female empowerment number.

I’ve never noticed how young she looks. Did you know that Spears was only eighteen in this video? So why is she taking the blame for breaking this dude’s heart? She’s young and should be able to be as free and as independent as she pleases!

“Bye Bye Bye”

J-Lo sure knows how to kick it like the boys in NSYNC. Lopez and Fallon recreated the legendary moves from the 2000 classic hit, “Bye Bye Bye.”

I mean, saying “bye” to someone three times whilst shaking your fist in the air should just about do it.

Even when they briefly featured on The Simpsons in the 2001 episode, “New Kids on the Blecch” (Season 12), the NSYNC boys pulled out the moves from the “Bye Bye Bye” video.

“Here It Goes Again”

J- Lo and Fallon had to pull out all of the stops when they recreated the dance moves from the 2004 internet hit music video by OK-Go

By “pull out all of the stops,” I mean J-Lo and Fallon had to literally pull out treadmills from nowhere and step on. This dance craze is what made the relatively unknown pop group, OK-Go, such an overnight success. When the Rock band incorporated the running machine into their 2004 music video, the song became an overnight success.

A decade on from the “Here It Goes Again” music video, the band is still making waves with their quirky one-take music video stylings. Of course, they have a bit more of a budget to play with now…

Single Ladies

Beyonce made being single badass again with her killer dance moves in the 2008 track “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).” J-Lo and Jimmy Fallon reminded us of this fact when they included it as part of their mash-up.

Maybe even the decade… Forget Destinys Child’s “I’m A Survivor,” when Beyonce sang Should’ve put a ring on it,” back in 2008, that became the song that everyone sang and danced away to with their gal pals after a heartbreak. Iconic is the word.

Chandelier

Fallon and J-Lo required the prop of a square cut, fringed peroxide blonde wig for this one. Perhaps more iconic than the dancing itself, was the signature hair ‘do of Sia’s when she made a comeback in 2014 with “Chandelier.”

That’s right, it was child dancer, Maddie Ziegler. Sia apparently discovered the kid-dancing-sensation when watching Dance Moms. Ziegler performed in the “Chandelier” music video when she was just eleven-years-old and toured a lot with Sia thereafter.

Wrecking Ball

“I came in like a wrecking baaaaaall, I never hit so haaard in love”- as sang by many a heartbroken person at a karaoke bar in the early hours of the morning. This choice was a bit of a twist in the J-Lo/Fallon mash-up, given that Miley Cyrus did not really do a dance routine in this music video.

Pre- “Wrecking Ball,” Cyrus was still seen as a Disney kid. Any preconceptions we had of her, however, were totally smashed in 2013 when she climbed on that wrecking ball in her skimpy white outfit and newly shaved hair-due. The move was truly iconic and gave everyone goosebumps.

Bad Romance

“Rawr, rawr goo gah gah” – Lady Gaga was talking gibberish at the start of her 2009 hit song “Bad Romance.” But if there’s one thing that Fallon and J-Lo reminded me of it’s that, with her signature dance moves, Gaga brought dinosaur dancing into fashion. Now, after exploring this list of some of the most historically iconic dance moves of the past thirty years, I wonder whether Gaga was inspired by the moves made famous by The Bangles in “Walk Like An Egyptian.”

Can you believe that this Gaga classic came out ten years ago? I guess the singer-turned-actress has changed a lot since then. I mean, I don’t think that anyone would’ve expected her to bring out a country-pop album. That’s essentially what Joanne is, right? And she was rumored to be getting it on with Bradley Cooper! Who would’ve predicted that in her “rawr rawr,” “little monster” days?

Gangham Style

Why on Earth this song and those dance moves became such a hit in 2012, I will never know. I mean, didn’t we all think that the world was going to end in 2012? Maybe that’s why we all started dancing as though we were pretending to ride a horse and shouting “eh, sexy lady” and “Gangnam Style” – like, what does it even mean?

The man who brought the Gangnam Style dance into the world in 2012 was South Korean rapper and singer, PSY.  His real name is Park Jae-sang. PSY smashed a ton of records with “Gangnam Style” – the music video was actually the first to hit one billion views on YouTube.  

Watch me (Whip/ Nae Nae)

J-Lo and Fallon started edging ever closer to the present day when they reenacted the moves from American rapper, Silento’s, 2015 smash hit, “Watch Me (Whip/ Nae Nae).”  

Despite not everyone thinking much of Silento’s dance routine, it certainly garnered a lot of interest. As of right now, the music video for the track has reached over 1.6 billion views. The success of the video was largely due to digital media company, DanceOn, who, working with Silento, reached out to content creators that make instructional dance videos and got them to make YouTube vids for the song. Over fifty creators made videos and this drew everyone’s attention to the original track. Clever, eh?

In My Feelings

Next up (with J-Lo still sporting her “Gangnam Style” shades…), the duo performed a dance routine to Drake’s 2018 hit, “In My Feelings.”  

Personally, I’ve never seen Drake look more like a big cry baby than I have in this music video. He stands outside this girl’s house begging for her back and generally it’s just a bit sad.

Drake’s all gold-grill smiles as he bounces around the neighborhood. Interspersed between shots of an African-American woman dancing, you’ve got Drake swaying around making love-heart signs with his hands. I’m not sure, exactly, what Drake was “feeling” with this track, but his cheesy love-heart dancing has made sure that this music video is not forgotten.

Senorita

Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes’ hit of the summer, “Senorita,” made it into J-Lo and Fallon’s routine. Noting how steamy the music video was, J-Lo sprays her dance partner with water.

Are Camilla Cabello and Shawn Mendes a thing or what? Personally, I think that it must have had something to do with the sexy Spanish dance moves that the pair do. It turns out that the pair are, in fact, dating! Love must have blossomed on the set of the sensual “Senorita” music video.

Waiting For Tonight

Finally, J-Lo paid tribute to one of her own songs. I mean, a professionally trained dancer herself, I don’t think that there is one Jennifer Lopez music video wherein the star doesn’t pull out a few moves.

I really don’t know how she does it… maybe it’s all the dancing. But, I swear, comparing J-Lo now with her dancing-self in the music video for her 1999 hit, “Waiting For Tonight.” Twenty years later and J-Lo looks just as banging as she did then.

Bad Guy

I mean, hoody or no hoody, J-Lo could probably pass for nineteen-years-old. The next song that Fallon and Lopez paid tribute to in their mash-up was the current pop sensation, Billie Eilish. The nineteen-year-old, British singer is making waves for her quirky personality and popular tracks. But she’s not necessarily popular due to her dance moves. The comic reenactment of her awkward dancing in her hit song “Bad Boy” by J-Lo and Fallon is pretty funny.

And she’s younger, so she defo stole awkwardly headbanging from me. Who does she think she is? I’m joking, of course, I’ve never met Billie Eilish. I wonder what the nineteen-year-old singer/songwriter would have made of J-Lo and Fallon’s imitation of her song… Would she “Snapchat” about it?

I Wanna Dance With Somebody

With confetti flying through the air, Fallon and J-Lo ended their mash-up with the Whitney Houston classic, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”  

Well, Houston didn’t exactly employ a complicated dance routine during “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Watching the original music video back, Houston just sort of jumps around with her group of friendly dance partners. Even so, lyrically, it was the perfect number to end the mash-up. The entire song is a celebration of dancing! After watching J-Lo and Fallon breaking out all of these moves of past and present, I don’t think that there’s anyone that wouldn’t want to hit the dance floor.  

You can watch the video in its entirety here! If, like me, you can’t get over J-Lo’s impressive abs, keep scrolling. Read all about how Jennifer Lopez has maintained such an impressive bod after turning fifty-years-old.