Caroline Richards ’22
As Tik Tok slowly takes over the world, one thing is abundantly clear: its addictive, seemingly endless stream of sound and video has made the perfect platform for new artists, and millions for the music industry. Not only is it the app’s software that allows users to use or “borrow” sounds from other users (effectively making songs that may not have been traditional pop-hits to suddenly become popular), it is also the ironic humor rampant on Tik Tok that makes using the same sounds over and over again in different contexts so hilariously appealing. Songs like “Roses (Imanbeck Remix)” by SAINt JHN and Imanbeck, which would likely appeal more to an EDM/House crowd, was suddenly being used by the masses on Tik Tok as a hype sound. Songs like “Backyard Boy” by Clare Rosinkranz, “Gimme Love” by Joji, “Heather” by Conan Grey and “Still Don’t Know My Name” by Labrinth aren’t traditional hits either, but many have suddenly skyrocketed into the Top 40. The ability of music to spread like wildfire across the app can be attributed to the different “trends” Tik Tok users create and recreate on a daily endless cycle. Whether this be twisting the lyrics of the songs to take on a new meaning, be it with humour or something else, or using the song to backpack on top of another user’s use of the song, it makes popularity come sudden and swift. Artists like Lil Nas X, Megan the Stallion, Jack Harlow, and Princess Nokia were practically thrust into fame overnight. Though these artists capitalized on their sudden popularity by releasing more music specifically branded for Tik Tok, other artists seem to only have one-hit-wonders. “Let’s Link” by WhoHeem, “M to the B” by Millie B, “Hood Baby” by KBFR, and “Stunnin’” by Curtis Waters feat. Harm Franklin are examples of these such artists; but again, the music industry has demonstrated it can move quickly to snatch-up new artists and capitalize on their popularity. Perhaps their fame is on the way.
Other songs were seemingly rediscovered and rekindled by Tik Tok. “The Less I Know The Better” by Tame Impala became a way for users to make fun of cliché-white boys’ music taste; “Electric Love” by BORNS became the tune put beside the bizarre trend where users video themselves trying to kiss their best friend; and “Bulletproof” by La Roux resurged as the background for users to respond to the prompt “You Think You Can Hurt My Feelings?”, and then inputting a reason why, in fact, “you” couldn’t.
And then, of course, there’s the dances. I save this point for last because it’s obvious, and I wanted to demonstrate that the closely intertwined relationship between the music industry and Tik Tok is multi-faceted, and not all Tik Tok songs are dance songs (I’m not defending the app… I swear). Tik Tok dances, strange in and of themselves because they require the dancer to stay within the iPhone frame screen, limiting movement altogether, are also somewhat enduring. They bring people together in a way that’s both entertaining and competitive: someone makes the dance, and others replicate with their own personal twists. And, of course, they have demonstrated their unparalleled power to popularize songs in less than an hour. “Chinese New Year” by SALES isn’t a traditional hit, but when it became a popular dance trend on Tik Tok everyone knew its lyrics “I see you at the movies”; people had it stuck in their heads for months in quarantine. “Tootsie Slide” by Drake and “Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat)” by Jawsh 685 and Jason Derulo are other obvious ones as the dances are easy to learn and thus, easily accessible for users to recreate on their own accounts. While it isn’t yet clear the exact impact the app has had in terms of monetary compensation, Megan The Stallion’s “Savage” alone sold 2.1 million units in the US alone as of July 2020. If that doesn’t make clear the sheer force of this app, I really don’t know what will.