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The ABCDEFU cover.
Illustration by Laura Browning, University of Colorado, Denver

Your favorite song might be on here.

In today’s world, where social media has become the easiest and most accessible way to get your content out, it is no surprise that many of the most popular songs got famous from TikTok.

Oftentimes when people hear certain songs on the radio, they immediately think of the TikTok trend or dance that goes along with it, rather than just taking in the song itself.

So, which songs used the video-sharing platform to grow their popularity?

1. “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X

Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X is a great example of a song that took off because of TikTok. This song initially gained little traction on SoundCloud until 2019, when a TikTok video caused an upsurge of listeners. Because of the TikTok’s virality and subsequent demands from TikTok viewers, mainstream radio stations began to play the song and it exploded in popularity, even hitting the top of the Billboard charts. Without the spike in popularity that TikTok made possible, it never would have become the staple that it is today. The fact that “Old Town Road” first gained attention on TikTok may be surprising to many people because of how popular the song became, but that just shows how effective it is to use social media to promote your content.

2. “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion

The effectiveness of the social media platform is also evident when people start to associate the lyrics with a trending dance on TikTok. “I’m a savage (yeah), Classy, bougie, ratchet (yeah), Sassy, moody, nasty.” Did those lyrics create an image in your head? Maybe one of a teenager dancing to the lyrics of the song? Perhaps those dance moves were the classic moves that made this song blow up in the first place. The dance is definitely what comes to mind when many Gen Z teenagers think about the song “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion. The song and the TikTok dance are fused together and it’s extremely rare to see one without the other. “Savage” is a song that got its fame thanks to the viral nature of TikTok, and now it is one of the most well-known songs among the teenage demographic.

3. “WAP” by Cardi B

Sticking with trending dances and TikTok-induced popularity, “WAP”  too was able to capitalize on the platform’s potential for virality. Within only a few hours of the “WAP” release, a young choreographer made and posted a video of a dance routine made for the newly released song on Instagram. After that, Cardi B and a bunch of others began sharing the post until TikTok created a challenge for it, which prompted countless TikTok users to attempt the “WAP” dance. After the trend went viral, the song followed suit, and it rose to fame on both TikTok and on mainstream radio.

4. “Say So” by Doja Cat

Although this song was well known before its TikTok trend took off, the trend helped give it new life and prolonged its time in the limelight. When the “Say So” dance challenge began, it went viral, much like the other song and dance combos on the list. Once it went viral on TikTok however, Doja Cat reached out to the choreographer of the dance about featuring the moves in the music video, which turned out to be a success and even hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

5. “Beggin” by Måneskin

Beggin” also got its popularity from TikTok, but not only because of dance challenges; this song has TikTok users taking a more unique approach to the audio. Some people made videos that show a “glow up,” where the TikTok maker uses smooth camera work to switch from a more ordinary outfit to something fancier. Others made videos where they would dance to the song or lip-sync to the audio. And many users decided to sing along to the music and even branch out by posting videos of just themselves singing the song in different genres or with different riffs added in. Because of the many different types of videos that were posted, the song wasn’t attached to one particular TikTok trend; rather, it just circulated on TikTok, garnering further popularity without necessarily being attached to a gimmick.

There are many other songs that have gotten their fame from TikTok as well, including “How You Like That” by Blackpink. Because of its potential for virality, it seems like TikTok is becoming more and more of a place to release music and gain popularity. This seems to work especially well for newer artists that don’t already have a big following and it will continue to be used by artists as long as it helps boost the popularity of their music.

Writer Profile

Emily Sweeney

Quinnipiac University
Journalism

Emily is a 3+1 Journalism Student at Quinnipiac University with minors in sports studies, theater studies, and media studies. She is chairwoman of the Quinnipiac Bobcat Sports Network and president of the Quinnipiac Association for Women in Sports Media.

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