Does TikTok Make or Break Popular Songs?

A few months before I downloaded the TikTok app, I was driving to school with a few of my friends and ‘Make You Mine’ by PUBLIC came on the radio. Almost instantly, my friend asked to change the station because she was sick of hearing “TikTok songs.” I didn’t think much of the comment at the time, but after I downloaded the app at the beginning of the pandemic, I began to understand what she meant. 

Often songs on TikTok blow up because they are associated with a certain trend. For example, at the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown last year, Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ was made popular by TikTok influencers such as Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae. Nearly every time I opened the app, I would see TikTokers doing the same exact dance to the same 30 seconds of the song. Needless to say, ‘Say So’ got old fairly quickly. 

Just as my friend had grown tired of ‘Make You Mine,’ I found myself switching the radio station any time I heard a song that was particularly overplayed on TikTok. I couldn’t hear songs such as ‘Say So’ without picturing an influencer dancing to it, and it honestly ruined the listening experience for me. My irritation with these songs led me to question: does TikTok make songs better, or worse? 

While there are a handful of songs that I still cannot listen to because of their popularity on TikTok, the app has also introduced me to many songs that I might not have discovered otherwise. Through TikTok, I discovered one of my favorite bands, Surfaces, because their songs were often used as background music for pretty landscape videos. 

Additionally, I have found several small artists who promote their music on the video-sharing app and have now added many of their songs to my regular Spotify playlists. This is certainly a benefit of TikTok; while Instagram often fills my explore page with popular influencers, on TikTok, it is much easier for aspiring artists to gain recognition. 

Furthermore, there are some trends that have actually made me like songs more — for instance, certain songs became popular because they were paired with Harry Potter edit videos. Now, whenever I hear those songs, I’m transported into the world of one of my favorite book series. Although TikTok does overplay songs fairly often, it has also brought me to some of my favorite songs and artists and given smaller artists a platform. Therefore, I believe that on the whole, TikTok helps both fans and artists by popularizing songs.  

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