Quite possibly the most significant social media platform of this year is TikTok, having reached a billion users this year and achieving a 457% increase in annual revenue in 2020. This is due in part to the unique style of content available on TikTok, which are short, addicting videos often accompanied by songs that the video either related to or commented on. This led to the noticeable rise of TikTok songs in 2021, or songs that were consistently used for specific trends and as a result blew up both on and off the app. A list of some of the year’s most popular TikTok songs can be found below:
MONTERO (call be by your name)– Lil Nas X (September)
Drivers License – Olivia Rodrigo (January)
Kiss me more– Doja Cat ft. SZA (April 9th))
t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l– Willow Smith (April 27th)
STAY– TheKidLaroi ft. Justin Bieber (July)
Astronaut in the Ocean– Masked Wolf (June 2019)
Beggin’– Måneskin (2017)
Pocket Rocket– Cochise (August)
Day ‘n’ Nite– Kid Cudi (2008)
Castaways– The Backyardigans (2005)
Looking back, the trending TikTok songs of this year certainly cover a wide spectrum. From new artists blowing up on the app to old hits regaining popularity, TikTok has certainly had an interesting effect on the music industry– not to mention The Backyardigans song, “Castaways” that hit no. 1 on Spotify’s charts thanks to the app.
Coming into the new year this past January, Olivia Rodrigo released her hit single Drivers License, which remained number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for eight weeks, and is still the year’s most-streamed song globally. The song’s popularity clearly translated to TikTok as well, with countless covers, trends, and sounds made using the song. Since then, Rodrigo has become a widely known artist, has released her debut album Sour, and announced a tour for the spring of 2022.
The drama surrounding the song’s implications about Rodrigo’s (middle) breakup with her co-star on Disney’s High School Musical the Series, Joshua Bassett (left), and his alleged relationship with singer Sabrina Carpenter (right) also added to its extreme popularity in the media.
There has been no shortage of Doja Cat songs trending on TikTok, and the 26-year-old rapper’s song, Kiss Me More ft. SZA (released on April 9th, 2021) quickly became the anthem of spring and early summer on the app.
Both artists have been widely successful in recent years–Doja Cat with 3 studio albums from 2018, 2019, & 2021, and SZA with her debut album Ctrl, released in 2017, so their collaboration on this song certainly attracted attention.
Transparentsoul: Willow Smith is by no means a stranger to the entertainment industry, but she still found phenomenal success on TikTok this year. Frequent users of the app will immediately recognize her three most well-known songs, “Meet Me At Our Spot”, “Wait a Minute!” and “t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l” (Ft. Travis Barker). Besides transperantsoul, which came out this year, the other tracks that she became known for this year have been out for quite some time, with “Wait a Minute!” being released in 2015.
Depicting the cover art for “T R A N S P A R E N T S O U L”, this image shows that Willow is one of the more alternative artists who found fame on TikTok this year, showing the genre-bending capability of the TikTok algorithm and copious demographics available in an app the size size of TikTok.
Astronaut in the Ocean: the song Astronaut in the Ocean was somewhat of an unexpected favorite on Tiktok this year. Originally published in June 2019, the song regained popularity when the artist, Masked Wolf, re-released it early this year. It has been used to make around 7.8 million TikToks, and has definitely reached the “makes me feel physically sick” level of overplayed. “
“It’s (Astronaut in the Ocean) definitely very annoying.” Says senior David Kujawinski.
Another big hit this year was “STAY” from The Kid LAROI ft. Justin Beiber. Attached to a trend in which TikTok users danced in a circle while being followed by a drone, the song is currently LAROI’s most-streamed song on Spotify by almost two times. Pictured above, the dance was done by several different users, including one of TikTok’s most well-known creators, Bella Poarch.
Another artist that found fame on TikTok this year was Cochise. A significant part of this rise to notoriety was the song “Pocket Rocket”, which blew up alongside a trend that featured users placing their phone below their hips and swinging them back and forth in tune with the track. Additionally significant was “Tell Em” ft. $NOT, another up and coming rapper who gained traction on TikTok. To date, “Tell Em” is still his most popular song on Spotify, but did not have the same impact as it was not attached directly to a trend like “Pocket Rocket” was.
This image depicts the trend that went along with “Pocket Rocket”, one of the many songs that Cochise had this year that found success on TikTok. Among these tracks were “Tell Em”, “POCKET ROCKET”, “Hatchback”, and “Knicks”.
MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) by Lil Nas X is one of the biggest TikTok songs of the year. Yet another smash hit from Lil Nas X, the popularity of this track calls to mind his other very well-known songs “Old Town Road” and “Panini”. While especially “Old Town Road”, and in part, “Panini” appeared to blow up out of the blue, MONTERO gained a significant amount of popularity due to its controversial music video and promotional materials.
One of the tamer scenes from the MONTERO video, this image shows the significant production value that the video held. Clearly taking an enormous budget and amount of work, the video helped to create much of the traction the song had. This is in large part because of the scene featuring Lil Nas X giving a lap dance to Satan, which caused many online to be upset. However, it is often said that no publicity is bad publicity, and in this case, that is absolutely the case as the song got up to almost one billion streams after the release of the video.
Some of the most interesting songs that have found popularity on TikTok are the old tracks that have found additional success after their initial releases. Among these are “Beggin'” from Maneskin, Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘n’ Nite”, and curiously enough “Castaways” from the hit children’s TV show Backyardigans. Despite ending in 2013, and Castaways being released in 2005, the song clearly holds nostalgic value to TikTok users and goes to show that not only recent songs have the ability to blow up.
This image, which shows a clip from the Backyardigans, features a TikTok in the top left corner stating that “The Backyardigans were an indie-pop band.” Many TikTok users are part of gen Z, and this trend, in particular, indicates this fact. Many on the app offered a funny take on or merely recalled the song from their childhood, and the trend as a whole seemingly provided a nice nostalgia trip for most of TikTok.
While these are some of the most popular TikTok songs of the year, by no means are they the only hits resulting from the app this year. Seniors Jeremy Fresh, Jon Bodnar, and Leinala Cabrera all reported enjoying “Adderall” by Popp Hunna, “Orange Soda” by Baby Keem, and “Notion” by The Rare Occasions respectively this year, showing the incredible influence that TikTok is capable of having on both culture and music.