While mindlessly scrolling through your TikTok feed, chances are you’ve watched a 15—second video made to the song “GASLIGHT.” The song’s iconic lyrics—“Gaslight, gatekeep / Call his new bitch mainstream”—have flooded TikTok, with over two million users posting videos using the sound, including noteworthy influencers Charli D’Amelio and Bella Porch.
Inci Gurun (W ‘23) didn’t expect to wake up viral after posting a random demo of her original song “GASLIGHT” on TikTok at 2 a.m. last spring. Inci was your average junior studying business analytics and finance with aspirations of going into startup operations. “It wasn’t until four months ago that I thought that I would have a career in music. I love what I study, so I was certain that I would go and do business,” she says.
Inci developed a love for music at a very young age. Born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, Inci joined the Istanbul University State Conservatory when she was eight years old, competing in classical piano competitions all over Europe. “I never once actually won one of those competitions—I wasn’t that good at all,” she laughs.
Ever since she was a child, Inci dreamed of becoming a singer and took advantage of any moment to turn her home into a recording studio. “The moment I got home from school, I would close myself in my sister’s closet—it was big and sound–insulating—and I would sing until dinnertime,” she reminisces. While singing was merely a pastime in her middle school years, Inci’s passion grew when she took to the stage and joined jazz groups and choirs in her final years of high school in London. When she came to Penn, Inci joined the a cappella group Penn Counterparts, formed her very own jazz band, and began performing around campus. “That’s when I realized that my favorite thing in the whole world was to be on stage,” she says.
Around six months ago, Inci began a personal project to release a song on Spotify. While she had written songs before, Inci lacked any experience whatsoever in music production. She was in luck when Penn graduate Alex Graf (C ‘22), the drummer in her jazz band, eagerly offered to collaborate on her ambitious project. “That’s how our songwriting journey started. He was my absolute rock,” Inci says.
Inci’s songs “GASLIGHT” and “MADELINE” are part of a five–song EP filled with tongue–and–cheek songs about asshole exes and wild nights out. “There isn’t a crazy deep story going on there. I just want people to giggle at my lyrics and have a good time,” she says. “There’s also definitely a female empowerment and an ‘I’m taking power back’ part to the entire EP.”
After initially posting her demo of “GASLIGHT” on TikTok, Inci woke up in disbelief to hundreds of thousands of likes, views, and comments. She gained immediate attention from the music industry—one that has recently been centered around TikTok—with music labels reaching out to talk to her. “I would take ten calls a day trying to figure out the industry. I didn't even know what a label was or how you made money from music,” Inci says.
“Going viral doesn’t make you famous or anything, but it kinda gave me a small clique of people who were gassed–up by my songs and were excited to take on this journey with me,” she shares, overjoyed by the positive messages she received from people attributing her songs to their newfound self–empowerment. Yet, by going viral on social media, the singer–songwriter had to confront her recent public exposure. “Half the people are gonna love what you do and half the people are gonna hate it,” she says. “If you’re on stage, nobody is gonna boo you, but on the internet, it’s very easy to say hateful messages.”
At Penn, Inci hasn’t found it difficult to reel in a group of people ready to support her. “All of the music videos and album covers have been completely DIY and Penn student–run,” Inci says, sharing that her photoshoots took place in Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall. “I didn’t have much experience in graphic design or video–making, but you can always find people who will be excited to join a project,” she continues.
Inci recently signed a deal with a British record company and is planning to go to the UK over fall break to record and produce the songs she wrote over the summer in Turkey. When it comes to her future, Inci shares, “Even now I wouldn’t say that I’m a hundred percent sure I’m a musician. I’m not dropping out of college or anything. I’m gonna graduate, have that little finance thing in my belt, and take these next few years to try and do music professionally.”
As her phone blows up with likes, comments, and DMs, along with emails and calls from members of the music industry, the soon–to–be–graduate is still amazed that a 15–second TikTok video jumpstarted her music career. “It’s been super exciting, such a crazy experience, and even on a small scale everything I’ve dreamt of.”