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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

“I liked this song before it became TikTok famous”

TikTok, the relatively new app, displays videos upon videos of people dancing, pranking, cooking, perhaps even teaching pigs how to fly. You name it, someone on TikTok has done it. This app has arguably done the world a favour as it encourages Utopian globalisation, whereby the social media app acts as a platform for the world to experience and learn about other cultures and societies from the comfort of their living room, bedroom, or toilet. Despite being notorious for its ability to suck you in and grant you the capabilities to procrastinate for hours on end, TikTok has also been known to be a fantastic platform to promote individuals and their random talents or home businesses, creating fame in the easiest way possible. However, not everything goes viral, and not everyone becomes famous, but with everyone’s desire to get the views and the likes, certain content will be made in certain ways to attempt a one-hit-wonder. With music being an essential part of the social media platform, it should come as no surprise that this itching desire to become famous should alter the way music is being produced lately.

The videos on this app are kept short, and the majority of them will have a 15-second dancing clip, others a lip-syncing of some sort, and most a very intimate story about someone’s embarrassing first date, most likely with a Lizzo song playing in the background. Music is essential to this app. While many home businesses and random talents blow up and gain a relative amount of fame, certain songs become hits through their use and popularity on this app. This is exemplified by a 19-year-old college dropout, who bought a simple beat for $30, recorded a half rap half country song and posted it on SoundCloud and other social media apps. Let me say it again, half rap and half country, does that really sound like its going to be a hit? Well, here I sit, with the knowledge of pretty much all the lyrics to Old Town Road. Needless to say, Lil Nas X gained enough fame to have his song win multiple awards and create a fair few trends on TikTok. This sparked a phenomenon within the music industry where artists meet with their producers to concoct a recipe for a “TikTokabble” song.

Songs such as “a-b-c-d-e-f-u” and “2020 done with 2021” were songs that were made specifically with the intent to become viral TikTok songs. Gayle, the artist for “a-b-c-d-e-f-u”, went viral after responding to a TikTok comment that asked her to “write a breakup song using the alphabet.”. Well, she did a good job, except for the fact that it was later discovered that the commenter was her marketing manager at Atlantic Records. Just proving that songs are not being written with emotion and authenticity anymore, they are merely being made to follow a cheesy formula in order to gain their fleeting moments of fame, before you swipe up to the next video of a cat getting scared by a cucumber.

However, not all artists are to be blamed, when Adele was approached by her management who suggested she promotes her music to a younger audience through TikTokabble songs, her response questioned “if everyone is making music for TikTok, who’s making music for my generation?”. Rightly so! Adele was told that she needed to produce music in order to get the 14-year-olds on TikTok to know who she was. However, her rebuttal was that these 14-year-old TikTok addicts all have mums, and that is the target audience that will resonate and appreciate the raw emotion put into Adele’s songs.

So do not be fooled, artists such as Andrea Stolpe, whose career is literally teaching pop music writing techniques, confirm that anyone with ears and the ability to feel emotions is able to see that these so-called TikTok songs apply a formula that causes them to imitate other popular songs, just minus the authenticity and emotions that listeners connect to. So, they will fail the test of time, and become oddly irritating after being played one too many times.

So, if you’re an aspiring singer/songwriter, do not let the trends of TikTok influence your originality, after all, it is rather silly to think that a musician in their late 20’s or 30’s is writing with the intent to win over a bunch of 14 year-olds in order to gain success.


Riemer, K., & Peter, S., 2021. Love it or hate it TikTok is changing the music industry. Love it or hate it, TikTok is changing the music indust… (dailymaverick.co.za)

Smith, G., 2021. Adele explains why she is not making music for TikTok. Adele explains why she’s not making music “for TikTok” – Dexerto

Sung, M., 2022. People are getting tired of the “TikTok music formula”. People are getting tired of the ‘TikTok music formula’ (nbcnews.com)

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