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Global Perspectives

Trends here, trends there: Viral songs

December 11, 2019

Introduction: As writing instructors in UWRF’s English Language Transition (ELT) Program one of our missions is to involve English learning students in campus activities while strengthening their knowledge of English. We could think of no better way to do this than to have them publish an article in the Student Voice. What you are about to read is the final product of several sessions of brainstorming and writing followed by consultations with native speakers including some from the TESOL program and the Student Voice. — Kiki Augustin (ESL 211 Intermediate Writing) and Alex Hatheway (MODL 310 Advanced Composition)

If you take a look at Billboard Top 100, you will find that there are at least 3 songs which started gaining traction on TikTok where users created short videos set to the song. 

The most famous song, “Old Town Road”, which released in December of 2019, initially gained popularity on TikTok and eventually entered the Billboard charts in March 2019 with the help of 500 million monthly active users around the world (Connor, Iqbal.). And the most successful example is “Truth Hurts”, which released on September 19, 2017. Though it did not chart at the time of its release, it later became a viral sleeper hit in 2019 after gaining popularity on TikTok (Strapagiel.). 

TikTok is making more and more music go viral, which makes many indie music producers upset about current young people’s music taste. They think young people are surrounded by certain types of music and then love it rather than finding the music by themselves.  

And the amazing fact is that TikTok actually was launched in 2017 by Chinese developer ByteDance (Jenke.). TikTok reported 400 million monthly active users in China, which also helps many songs become popular in China (Iqbal). There is a Japanese song called “Planet” which was released on June 7, 2016. With no apparent promotion in China, the song went viral through TikTok, and was played close to 6 million times. Now this song is often used in videos shown at weddings (Harashima.). For both America and China, it is hard to conclude what makes pop songs literally pop. 

For some pop song producers, they should focus on how to use some platforms rather than write some catchy melodies.