In the fast-paced world of dance music, few songs command the staying power needed to make a cultural impact. Darude's 1999 classic "Sandstorm" is among the few.
Released at the turn of the century, "Sandstorm" arrived when the dance music landscape was, in some ways, still in its developing stages. The success of "Sandstorm" has been the basis of Darude's career success and marked many milestones for the dance music community as a whole.
Like many great projects, "Sandstorm" was almost a forgone venture. The melody was written years before, and the project was sitting idle before Darude (real name Toni-Ville Henrik Virtanen) returned to the idea and brought it across the finish line.
Upon its release, "Sandstorm" began to gain traction, catching the Finnish DJ/producer completely off guard. The next logical step was to create a music video. The video's director, Suujo Syrja, approached the project with the simple idea of highlighting notable Helsinki landmarks. Despite the lack of a grand plan, "Sandstorm" and its assets kept gathering momentum. After topping the Finnish music charts, the music video went on to reach MTV in the United States. Virtanen would become the first Finnish artist to accomplish this feat.
Despite the grand optics, "Sandstorm" was far from dance music's biggest commercial hit. The song finally achieved Gold status in the U.S. in 2010, a full decade after its release. In the process, however, "Sandstorm" had aggregated seemingly immeasurable cultural appeal.
On the road to reaching ubiquitous recognition, "Sandstorm" found many unlikely allies. From newly popular gaming channels on YouTube to schools such as the University of South Carolina using the song as their stadium pump-up anthem, the song became bolstered to the popularity it continues to enjoy today.
In looking to similar fixtures of dance music history such as Bauuer's "Harlem Shake," we ultimately see that the power of memes and crossover appeal in music cannot be underestimated. Darude's "Sandstorm" is arguably the first case study highlighting this phenomenon. Even after its now multi-decade success, "Sandstorm" is showing no signs of receding from mainstream consciousness anytime soon.