TikTok seems to be all the rage these days. With around 800 million monthly users—60% of whom are dubbed Gen Z-ers—it feels like influencer Charli D’Amelio is on her way to becoming as much of a household name as Martha Stewart.
TikTok is different from other ubiquitous social media apps, serving as a platform to post creative short videos; popular sites like Instagram and Facebook are more similar to carefully curated blogs, with content primarily consisting of posed pictures and thought–out captions rather than goofy video clips.
The effects of TikTok’s ingenuity transcend just the social media industry, though. The app’s influence has permeated other areas of pop culture; TikTok has become a vector of sorts, its content spreading new fashion trends, cooking ideas, movie suggestions, and dances. It makes sense, therefore, that TikTok is affecting one of the most impressionable and ever evolving areas of pop culture: the music industry.
Recently, there seems to be a direct correlation between songs topping the charts and their popularity on TikTok. Doja Cat’s song “Say So” is a primary example of this phenomenon.
“Say So” was originally released in November 2019 as part of Doja Cat’s album Hot Pink. The song gained traction on TikTok after a girl named Haley Sharpe posted a quick video dancing to its chorus that went viral. Soon after, the “Say So” dance was trending on TikTok. This prompted the release of the song as a separate single in January 2020, and a corresponding music video starring Doja Cat and featuring both the dance Sharpe invented and a cameo from her. The song began to rise on the Billboard charts, and recently—after being remixed with Nicki Minaj—has peaked at No.1.
Artists are recognizing how TikTok can help transform releases into major hits and are capitalizing on this fact. After rapper Megan Thee Stallion saw how a fan’s TikTok dance to her song “Savage” helped popularize the song, she posted a dance challenge herself before the release of another song “Captain Hook,” even creating a hashtag for the trend, which has since gone viral on the app.
Singer Justin Bieber has also hopped on the bandwagon, recognizing how TikTok dances help popularize music and subsequently choreographing a quick dance for his lesser known new release “Come Around Me.” Bieber posted seven videos in a row of himself doing the challenge, which may have been overkill but was undeniably effective—the #ComeAroundMeChallenge soon spread on TikTok.
Some celebrities have even started to strategically release songs inspired by tracks that are popular on TikTok, perhaps hopeful this will garner some attention for their music. Jason Derulo recently wrote “Savage Love,” putting lyrics to the viral wordless TikTok “siren beat” called “Laxed.” Tyga even remixed the TikTok song "Skechers," hopping on the bizarre ode to light–up Skechers sneakers with a freestyle verse of his own.
We seem to be entering an era of Tik Tok music—one in which artists are not only considering how their song will be a hit on the radio, but also how their song will be hit on TikTok. Artists seem to be considering the catchiness of their music more carefully, exploring the use of sick trap beats and repetitive lyrics. Additionally, they seem to be working on ways to make their songs fun enough to inspire viral trends and videos on TikTok—perhaps hopeful that, in turn, TikTok virality will increase the popularity of the songs themselves.
It is no doubt, therefore, that TikTok is becoming an effective marketing tool for the music industry, helping artists popularize their songs and communicate with their fans. But perhaps TikTok is also allowing the masses to communicate with the music industry. Maybe the success of TikTok music is reflective of the type of music we’re interested in hearing right now. And right now, it seems that many of us don’t want to listen to sad songs and stare longingly out of a car window, reflecting on ourselves and our lives. Reality is too dismal for that. We want an escape. We want a distraction. And the lightheartedness of Tik Tok music may help give us just that.