Evelyn “Champagne” King was lounging in her living room in mid-December when her niece, who’s in her 30s, called her with some good news: “She said, ‘Auntie, you better find out about this kid. Your song is blowing up on the Internet.'” To her amusement, teenagers were dancing to a remix of her best known song, 1982’s “Love Come Down,” created by Randy Vargas, a Bronx-bred producer and dancer known as Kid the Wiz. One video in particular had begun to go viral: On December 5, 20-year-old Bay Area entertainer Imani Carrier, who goes by the handle @airjunebug, posted a video on Twitter that shows him dancing to the remixed song in a parking garage.
Carrier’s routine is a mix of improvisational clumsiness and confidence, soundtracked by a beat that reimagines King’s soul classic as a sort-of playground chant. Performing popular dances like the Milly Rock and the Harlem Shake with a relatable effervescence, Carrier’s dance is less a choreographed piece than it is the manifestation of a mood. After a year that began with death, continued with the legitimization of white nationalism, and ended with even more death, Carrier’s effortless flyness made for a needed bit of vicarious living. In spite of everything, his Milly Rock is still sturdy and hopeful.
Carrier’s original Instagram post has totaled 66,000 views to-date, and Complex’s repost gave him another 200,000 set of eyes. Google Trends also shows that searches for “Love Come Down” increased precipitously after the post, hinting that it could join “My Boo,” “Black Beatles,” and “JuJu on the Beat” as the latest beneficiary of social media’s obsession with dance challenges. If so, it will have risen out of a series of coincidences and incongruences.
For one, Carrier is a Bay Area native appropriating New York moves, a fact he alludes to in his Instagram caption: “When you’re from the Bay but you’re really a NY nigga at heart.” Carrier had only recently learned the Harlem Shake from a YouTube video sent by another New York-based dancer known as Golden Child. He stumbled onto Vargas’ remix during his studies. “I ended up clicking on one of the recommended videos and there was a guy dancing to the song,” he says. “I was like, ‘Why is this song not hot right now?'”
The remix being seven years old made Carrier even more indignant. Vargas’ re-work—co-produced by fellow dancer SNS—was a direct product of Uptown New York’s Litefeet movement, the millennium’s answer to breakdancing. Its musical style is commonly recognizable by its prominent handclaps, repetitive vocal shouts, and close-circuited sampling, with Webstar and Young B’s 2006 hit “Chicken Noodle Soup” frequently credited with breaking Litefeet into the mainstream. The dancing, commonly seen in New York’s subways, involves ankle-breaking footwork, syncopated body movements, and hat tricks. (In 2013, Vargas took the regional dance movement to a national stage while competing on America’s Got Talent, though he didn’t make it past the season’s quarterfinals.)
While Vargas and Carrier parse their way through a predicament familiar to anyone who suddenly goes viral—how to capitalize off the exposure in lieu of immediate and direct compensation—Evelyn Champagne King is enjoying a prominence that never quite disappeared. “Love Come Down,” a club and radio mainstay that’s been endlessly remixed over the past 35 years, is one of the most endearing R&B songs to arrive from the post-disco rubble, where producers were experimenting with how to use studio innovations to reinvent soul (Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” are two standout examples of the era’s mutations).
The #LoveComeDownChallenge hasn’t yet yielded the the same chart results as the #RunningManChallenge, which briefly pushed Ghost Town DJ’s “My Boo” to No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 last spring, several spots higher than its initial chart run. (“Love Come Down” peaked at No. 17 in 1982.) But for Evelyn “Champagne” King, the recent revival is welcome, especially after last year’s passing of the song’s producer Kashif. The fact that King is also a Bronx native makes the renewed interest in her signature song a bit sweeter. “It’s just like when they put our songs on for karaoke and you’re like, ‘Wow,’” King says. “It’s flattering. It really is.”