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TikTok’s Visible Impact On Contemporary Music

By Ben Wego

If you haven’t heard of or downloaded TikTok on your phone then you’re probably living under a rock. TikTok has become a new way to discover pop music and is considered the most successful guerilla radio. People with a particular music taste are generally wary of so-called “TikTok” songs. However, I think it’s time to kill that stigma. Why is it so embarrassing to admit that you found a song from TikTok? I have found songs and artists that were generally not even that popular on TikTok. It is providing a resurgence for indie musicians, soundcloud rappers, and acoustic artists. 

Some songs that are providing fresh sound to Top 40 are “Meet Me at Our Spot” by The Anxiety. I had heard of The Anxiety and this song prior to it’s notoriety on TikTok but it certainly deserves the attention it has received. This song is a banger. Willow Smith has finally been able to prove her own sound through indie/punk rock music. Take the “who got you smiling like that” challenge for example. The song that plays in that challenge is called “Loverboy” by A-Wall. This artist was basically a nobody before this song blew up and it is fantastic. Its sound is reminiscent of an 80’s song with lyrics that fit “Kill the lights, Oh, Baby, Close your eyes/The way you’re looking at me/You’ve got me mesmerized.” Feels like it belongs in a Molly Ringwald 80s cult classic. 

Another song that blew up on TikTok with a slasher underground rock sound was none other than “Freaks” by Surf Curse. This song came out 5 years prior to it’s popular growth on TikTok and prompted a re-release in 2021. TikTok is creating value for indie artists/bands and expanding users’ taste. This is a beautiful thing. While it does seem very lucky and algorithm based, it has provided opportunities for artists like Pinkpantheress, who essentially makes DIY based music that fits an aesthetic (sort of like Clairo’s ‘Pretty Girl’ which blew up via YouTube). It is mind boggling to see the amount of creativity and uniqueness that some artists are receiving recognition for on TikTok.

However, there are artists like Lael,whom many suspect is an industry plant, who tries to use indie artists’ “came from nothing” aesthetic to implore fans to listen to her music. She claims she has no success when in reality her YouTube channel has around 1 million subscribers. Maybe this is not overnight success but it is success. It’s interesting to see the contrast of indie artists who are using every technique they can to put their music and name out there whereas someone like Dixie D’amelio is spoon fed with opportunities. Dixie is not a naturally talented artist but she has the cards laid out for her to be. I personally think she should try different sounds instead of pop (maybe indie rock or alternative or even R&B). She has all this overnight success and is trying to put it into being an artist with relatively no experience. She is pretty courageous for this because she has to flop in front of millions of people instead of most artists who are just starting out with not such great music that probably have fan bases of 50 people or less.

TikTok has also opened a new world of music journalism from MostleyMusic, Dev Lemons (SongPsych), WillTalksMusic, Ari Elkins, and Axel Tanner. These people have been able to make a career out of sharing new music with people, describing the depth of specific song lyrics, the story behind an artist’s music, etc. Many indie artists rely on music journalists for exposure for their own music, most of which comes from playlists and TikToks. 

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