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6 Viral TikTok Songs that Changed Artists’ Lives

TikTok has added a whole new lane to the music industry, and some artists are navigating it deftly enough to score major-label deals and Billboard number ones.

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TikTok is reshaping the music industry; changing the way hopeful artists write songs, shifting how A&Rs hunt down new talent, and reshaping major labels’ PR strategies to land songs on the charts. It’s also making half the world’s millennials feel like old heads.

The app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, claims more than 800 million active users worldwide—that’s all of Australia 32 times over. Four years after the mannequin challenge propelled Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” to #1, TikTok has taken over as the music industry’s favourite viral hitmaker. For independent artists and major labels alike, it’s an exciting alternative to traditional radio and hard-to-crack streaming playlists. In this world, the best tastemaker to get a co-sign from is 16-year-old TikTok superstar Charli D’Amelio. 

The songs that dominate TikTok are uptempo, percussive, more hip-hop than pop, and increasingly written with the specific intention of going viral on the app. Artists who grew up online usually compose TikTok hits more intuitively than megastars, but everyone’s trying. The audio for Justin Beiber’s TikTok “Come Around Me Challenge ” mashes together two separate verses from the original track (a fairly downtempo album cut) over new percussion to create a more challenge-friendly 15 second loop. And while dance challenges typically power the biggest TikTok hits, helping them crossover from the app to the charts, they’re not a necessity. Tiagz’s “They Call Me Tiago” and the bbno$-y2k collab “Lalala” first gained traction on the app without signature dance challenges, just soundtracking whatever users were into filming at the time.

Here’s a guide to some of the biggest songs to pop off on TikTok—from slow burns and surprise hits to juggernauts you can’t escape—and how they changed their artists’ careers.

01. StaySolidRocky - “Party Girl”

TikTok is a breeding ground for sleeper hits, and StaySolidRocky’s “Party Girl” is the perfect example. The Virginia rapper first teased the song 10 months ago, and it failed to chart on its initial release. But months later, when a dance choreographed by TikTokker @ansleysparkmann took off and the streams rolled in, “Party Girl” appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 84 (and it’s still climbing). Rocky admitted to Genius that he “didn’t even know what a TikTok was,” until recently—two million TikToks and a record deal later, he’s got a pretty good idea.

@charlidameliowho made this dance?♬ Party Girl – StaySolidRocky

02. Young T and Bugsey — “Don’t Rush” ft. Headie One

Just last month, this UK duo broke into the Billboard Hot 100 off the back of TikTok hit “Don’t Rush”, the soundtrack to thousands of glow-up transformation videos. The single started taking off five months after it first dropped in November 2019, proof positive that a TikTok hit has no expiry date (even the 1959 Jazz classic “Kathy’s Waltz” is enjoying a revival). Videos tagged ‘#dontrushchallenge’ now boast over 240 million views on the app, and this week “Don’t Rush” jumped 16 spots higher on the US chart.

@shaymitchellWhen you do the ##dontrushchallenge by yourself 😂 ##fyp♬ original sound – shaymitchell

03. bbno$, y2k — “Lalala”

Canadian friends bbno$ and y2k wrote this earworm in 2019 around the time the bottle-cap challenge was taking off, deliberately nodding at the trend with the opening line “When I popped off.” TikTokkers took the hint, knocking some lids off on the beat, and the super-catchy song enjoyed a big bottle-cap boost in July last year. The viral song eventually peaked at 55 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the mainstream radio play spurred a second wave of TikTok virality for “Lalala”, updated with an accompanying ‘Hand Challenge’ (even Ellen ended up giving that a go).

@thunthunskittlesthis is 100x harder than it looks 😂💀 ig: @/thunthun_skittles♬ Lalala – İlkan Gunuc Remix – danilla_carvalho

04. 24KGoldn — “Valentino”

This University of Southern California student admits he almost dropped out of school after his TikTok hit “Valentino” landed him a deal with Columbia Records. The platinum-certified track got a big boost after soundtracking a TikTok in which David Dobrik destroyed his own backyard with a giant foam eruption. Much like the tunes above, the track was thrown under all sorts of million-play videos; from tutorials to sketches. The 19-year-old’s own internet savvy certainly helped too, boasting 2.1 million TikTok followers of his own.

@24kgoldnthe one y’all been waiting for! @carsonsmelliott ##foryou ##bestthingsince ##music♬ VALENTINO – 24KGoldn

05. Megan thee Stallion — “Savage”

At this point, most people with iPhones have learnt the “Savage” dance through pure osmosis. Choreographed by TikToker Keara Wilson, it became one of
the biggest-ever dance challenges on the platform, spawning dozens of remixes—from classical to Carol Baskin-themed. Though Meg was on the charts long before the TikTok moves took off, “Savage” proved she could keep dominating the internet post-Hot Girl Summer. The official Beyoncé-assisted remix, which extensively reworked the original song, has become Meg’s highest-charting song to date, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 (beaten out for the top spot by the only song that could claim to have been even bigger on TikTok).

@professorx_2899Tell me I’m wrong🤔wait until the end😂##dance ##fyp ##foryou ##funny♬ Savage – Megan Thee Stallion

06. Doja Cat — “Say So”

Going viral is second nature to Doja, and with “Say So” she created the first major TikTok crossover hit. The signature dance, choreographed by @yodelinghaley, popped off when TikTok was morphing from a teens-only app to an A-list celebrity hobby. With the help of two new verses from Nicki Minaj, the song reached Billboard’s top spot last week, giving both rappers their first number one. With Meg and Beyoncé at number two, all four artists made history: it was the time four black solo women artists occupied the top two Hot 100 slots.

@charlidameliosorry i know i do this dance a lot but i love it and @yodelinghaley♬ Say So – Doja Cat