You may pretend to dislike TikTok, but the app is probably on your phone. I know that because it’s on mine. Additionally, TikTok already had 500 million monthly users when it merged with musical.ly, another popular app, successfully garnering an even larger audience — so there is a good chance you are one of those millions of users too.
TikTok is filled with underage girls dancing and ridiculous skits. It also just happens to be a potential national security threat. TikTok is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance and was investigated because United States politicians worried that user information could be shared with the Chinese Communist Party. The United States Army was using TikTok for recruitment purposes but decided to reevaluate their use when faced with the possible security threat posed by the app. While these aspects make the app even more interesting, the incredible thing about TikTok is what it has done for the music industry and smaller artists.
You have most likely had “Lottery” by K CAMP, better known as “the renegade song,” stuck in your head. TikTok users often find songs and choreograph dances to them or perform skits with the songs playing in the background. These videos become viral, with millions of people attempting recreations and contributing their own twists. That means these songs get played and distributed millions of times over. TikTok has the ability to skyrocket an artist from obscurity into the spotlight overnight.
When you google the phrase “TikTok music” a list of songs come up, just like how a definition would appear when you Google a word. When you say “TikTok music,” everyone knows exactly what you are referring to. Scrolling down Google, you’ll find a Spotify playlist titled “TikTok Music 2020.” The next link under that is a BuzzFeed article titled “Here Are The Songs That Went Totally Viral On TikTok In 2019.” Once a song becomes part of a TikTok trend, it is everywhere. While some of these songs are radio hits, such as “bad guy” by Billie Eilish or “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” by Dua Lipa, others are lesser known. Forbes writes of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” explaining, “The track, which holds the title as the longest-reigning Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 in the chart’s history, first went viral on the popular social media video app, TikTok.” Because of his success on the app, Lil Nas X earned an estimated pretax income of $14 million in 2019. Additionally, he signed to Columbia Records only four months after releasing the song on the app. It is incredible to think that Lil Nas X, a 20-year-old who just won two Grammys, was propelled to fame by TikTok.
Lil Nas X isn’t the only artist who has utilized TikTok in this way. Doja Cat, a rapper who performed at Binghamton University’s Fall Concert, has risen in popularity because of the app. While she first garnered attention for her viral song “Mooo!,” TikTok has furthered her career. Nylon explains that Doja Cat’s “incredibly catchy pop song ‘Say So’ has just entered Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 96, after having spent the last few months as TikTok’s newest dance trend.” TikTok has also been a catalyst for the quickly increasing popularity of artists like Lizzo, bbno$ and Joji. While TikTok has the power to expose the world to new music, it can even dig up blasts from the past, such as Matthew Wilder’s ’80s hit, “Break My Stride,” which made a comeback because of the app.
So on those days when every song feels boring, get on TikTok to find new music. The app has become a huge platform for artists — one that can bring fame, money and recognition to its users. It is incredible to see teenagers with essentially unprecedented power in deciding what music is good, and then making it popular in an instant. To live in an era in which we get to directly decide what music is worthy of fame is exciting, but will it last? One could argue that Vine was once in the same position as TikTok, but the app has died, as has the legacy of many of its stars. I believe TikTok is a different story because it utilizes music in a way that Vine never did. Even if TikTok were to die down, it has already made a major, long-lasting difference in the lives and reputations of its many artists.
All this being said, TikTok can be utilized by us in more ways than we can imagine. We can use it to popularize our favorite songs, find new cooking recipes, learn ASL and so much more. I definitely have a new respect for the app after watching it propel some of my favorite artists from anonymity to stardom.
Sophie Miller is a junior majoring in English.