• Phoebe Gardner

TikTok made Me Famous

What do Ashnikko, Lil Nas X and iLOVEFRiDAY have in common?

In its latest quest for world domination, TikTok is dipping its fingers into the music-honey pot.  Crazy to think that just under a year ago, music mega-star Lil Nas X was relatively unknown, what would Summer 2019 have been like without ‘Old Town Road’?  Lil Nas X may be TikTok’s biggest breakthrough star, but he certainly isn’t the only one.

The app, in a year, has been responsible for the blow-up success of Lizzo’s ‘Truth Hurts’, artists such as Calboy, Ava Max, Saweetie, DJ Regard who last month signed a deal with Ministry of Sound Records due to TikTok’s push of his remix of Jay Sean’s 2008 – “Ride It” and most recently Ashnikko, who’s track ‘STUPID’ now has over 4.6 million streams on the app and 10 million plays on Spotify.

If you’re not familiar, TikTok’s community use the short-video format to create routines that are easily copied by other users – this includes dances, pranks and most popular at the moment, songs and lyrics reinterpreted through lip-syncing.

It only takes a matter of days for a song to go from unknown to viral success on TikTok, with this copy-cat structure tracks can be heard by a huge, diverse audience globally (the app has over 500 million active users worldwide). Having a track get famous on TikTok is far more effective than having a play on the radio and the result of having a breakthrough single on the app has proven massive for the artist’s career.

Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ gained momentum on TikTok under the hashtags #cowboygang and #yeeyeejuice, which saw users drink from cups labelled ‘yee yee juice’, transforming them into flannel-wearing, straw-nibbling cowboys. Since its humble TikTok beginnings, the genre-redefining single has become the longest-running No.1 single in Billboard’s history.

Similarly, iLOVEFRiDAY’s ‘Mia Khalifa’ went viral when TikTok user Nyannyancosplay created a lip-sync video of the song (which was inspired  by a fake tweet  made to look like it was from Mia Khalifa), singing the line: “Hit or miss, I guess they never miss, huh?/You got a boyfriend, I bet he doesn’t kiss ya/He gon’ find another girl and he won’t miss ya/He gon’ skrrt and hit the dab like Wiz Khalifa.” This created the #hitormisschallenge, which now has over 93.7 million views on the app and iLOVEFRiDAY has propelled into the mainstream garnering over 125k followers on Instagram.

Although Lizzo was a well-known artist before her TikTok debut, her single ‘Truth Hurts’ would by no means be the same hit it is today without the app. The 2017 released track turned into one of the biggest soundtracks to 2019 after the Gen Z TikTok community latched on to the song’s punchy opening line: “I just took a DNA test/Turns out I’m 100 percent that bitch”. Lizzo saw the opportunity and ran with it, performing ‘Truth Hurts’ at the BET awards which resulted with a standing ovation by Rihanna, flute playing, twerking and the single well and truly making its own space in the mainstream music industry.

Now TikTok’s gaze has turned to Ashnikko, the London-based rapper who uses art, music and sexual liberation as the founding elements to her sound. The artist’s track ‘STUPID’ trashes the physical neediness of a young male suitor and has already been named the “lewdest female empowerment anthem of the year.” Originally released in July ‘STUPID’ went from a cult single to No.1 on both Spotify’s Viral 50 and Genius’ Top Songs charts in early October.

It started with teenage girls lip-syncing the intro: “Fantasise about the p**sy power; think about me with your hands down your trousers.” Before a handful of heavily influential TikTok-ers uploaded their own take, and things accelerated.

What will this mean for Ashnikko? Well, it seems her TikTok fame has transcended into the real world – when we say this, we mean just out of the boundaries of the app. The singer released the official music video to ‘STUPID’ last night (October 22) and in 15 hours its already had over 750,000 views.

Can a social media platform become a music label?  TikTok’s power over popular culture is growing at an unprecedented rate, the app is already reported to be worth more than three times as much as Spotify and is changing artists lives in real-time. The app is even becoming a place for experimental art, back in July teenage girls were interpreting Cecelia Condit’s 1980s art film ‘Possibly in Michigan’ and more recently, communities of emerging artists are using TikTok’s format to experiment with new work. Feeling more and more like a social experiment on mass, it looks like TikTok is headed to becoming the first digital cultural monopoly.

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