TAB 200114 Lil Nas X-1579000511277
Lil Nas X at an event for 2019 MTV Video Music Awards (2019) SOURCE IMDB Image Credit:

TikTok has recently been responsible for a number of viral songs by artists you’ve probably never heard of. Although A-listers such as Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Ed Sheeran still top the charts, their new releases are virtually non-existent on the popular video-sharing app. Instead, TikTok users gaining popularity are mostly smaller artists, a large number of them rappers.

The Beijing-based app started as a social media platform for lip syncing, dancing and posting memes, and quickly gained popularity among the 13 – 24 demographic. Users can upload original audio or pick one from various categories on the app. A song or tune becomes popular once a large number of users dance to or lip sync to it. Viral dance trends like the ‘Woah’, which is a combination of arm motions in the front or center of your body, have helped in rising the popularity of some music, mostly rap.

American female rapper Ashnikko’s viral hit ‘Stupid’ is one such song. The song ranked on Spotify’s Viral songs chart with 10 million streams. “Somebody uploaded it as their own sound, but was nice enough to put my name in the song title,” she told the New York Magazine. She said her company then changed it to an official song on TikTok after 600 videos were created on the app.

American male rapper Lil Nas X is another artist who has credited TikTok for the success of his song ‘Old Town Road’. The rapper used the popularity of memes to his advantage and created one of the biggest songs of 2019 that broke the record for the longest ranking single. “I promoted the song as a meme for months until it caught on to TikTok and it became way bigger,” the breakthrough artist told Time.

”I was pretty familiar with TikTok: I always thought its videos would be ironically hilarious. When I became a trending topic on there, it was a crazy moment for me. A lot of people will try to downplay it, but I saw it as something bigger,” Lil Nas said.

Ava Max is a pop artist who rose to popularity with the song ‘Sweet But Psycho’. Before her chart success, however, she released ‘Not Your Barbie Girl’, which didn’t really pick up in popularity at the time. But last year, the song went viral, thanks to TikTok, with many users dressing up as dolls and dancing to the song. The song’s message of subjective beauty and feminism found fans around the world.

TAB 200114 Ava Max-1579000509005

Although Max achieved fame through mainstream media unlike Lil Nas X, it still shows the potential of TikTok when it comes to taking artists viral.

Mainstream pop has also come to realise the power of TikTok and has started to create its own trends, like Justin Bieber’s recent release ‘Yummy’ and girl group Little Mix’s ‘Wasabi’ last year. Both Bieber and Little Mix released accompanying videos of themselves lip synching to their songs to help promote them.

Some other tracks that went viral last year are Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ and ‘Candy’; K-Camp’s ‘Lottery’, which sparked the popular renegade trend; and ‘Roxanne’ by Arizona Zervas.

“TikTok helped me change my life,” Lil Nas X said recently during a visit to the firm’s office. “TikTok brought my song to several different audiences at once.”

— Marika Sequeira is an intern at Gulf News.