It’s no secret that TikTok has taken the world by storm, and because of its many interactive users, Tiktok is the essential app connecting Gen Z. It has even sparked tangible political protests, for example, the TikTok users who reserved thousands of seats at President Trump’s Tulsa, Oklahoma rally to provoke a smaller turnout. Beyond physical protest, during the summer of 2020, the app was at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement with various activists going viral sharing how to be an ally in addition to other applicable information. This incredible power of influence is reflected in the music industry. There have been quite a few up-and-coming artists who first produced music for TikTok audios then blew up as a result of the audio’s popularity. The musicians catapulted into fame by TikTok range among genre and mood, with one consistent element being that the songs are extremely catchy (though this may have to do with the repetitive audio nature of TikTok). This broad range provides an abundance of musicians, and the following five artists used TikTok thoroughly to their advantage.
One of these prominent TikTok musicians is PinkPantheress, whose musical career started with the drop of the single «Break it Off» as a TikTok audio in early 2021. Though not much biographical information is known is known about this artist, she has revealed herself to be a 20-year old from the UK. According to an interview PinkPantheress did with Vice, most of the songs she dropped on TikTok were recorded unprofessionally, late at night in her university halls. Dreamy and a tad unhinged, her music is like something you would hear at 3 AM when your brain is too tired to fully function besides feeling out of place. Much of her music samples 2000s and ’90s songs with her own spin and lyrics to it, self-labeled as «new nostalgic.» As a result, much of PinkPantheress’ production features consistent and high-paced drum beats overlaid with vocals in her distinctively British accent (reminiscent of Lily Allen and Adele).
With only six songs dropped and having released her first song in just the beginning of 2021, she’s already one of the most-streamed new artists of this month on Rolling Stone’s Breakthough 25 Chart with 14.9 million in stream growth. All of PinkPantheress’ released songs on Spotify have over 4 million streams, and her most popular song, «Pain,» has over 67 million streams. Due to her massive popularity, PinkPantheress was recently signed to Parlophone. This is a textbook example of the kind of career-making impact TikTok has for up-and-coming artists and audiences can expect to see more popular releases from her in the future.
Delving into the genres of hyperpop and rap, the artist p4rkr shares a similar story to PinkPantheress. Fitting of the hyperpop and hip-hop blend p4rkr embodies, her songs range from trap music with a deep voice, to hyperpop with heavy bass and noticeable, high-pitched autotune. The songs’ content feels reminiscent of juiceWRLD — deeply personal of day-to-day struggles. Her music features the distorted bass of hyperpop and the consistent trap beat of hip-hop. The 16-year-old known as osquinn (p4rkr being her dead name though she goes by both), came to internet fame in 2020 when the track «i dont want that many friends in the first place» went viral as a TikTok audio. Used in videos as a trend to show proof of something in a humorous way, the song now has over 16 million streams on Spotify. And since osquinn’s first viral song, all nine of her subsequent most popular songs have over a million streams as well. This boost TikTok provided helped to land her a cosign from 100 gecs and she has been in the process of creating and realizing her debut album.
ppcocaine shared the TikTok musical success the two previous artists harvested. This 20-year-old’s trap music almost entirely consists of profanity and lewd references, embracing the ultra-femininity that took 2020 by storm amidst the global pandemic. ppcocaine’s high-pitched vocals are intentionally filled with a rasp as if she’s screaming while rapping. Usually, the instrumentation on the tracks are subtle and best described as the beats you would expect from trap music, the main feature is the energy in her voice. Different from the relative anonymity of the two prior artists, ppcocaine carries a massive following on TikTok where she is not only known for her music and the audios generated from it, but also for her brash (and sometimes funny) personality. ppcocaine’s status as a TikTok personality in 2020 boosted her listeners astronomically. The tracks released during the peak of her TikTok popularity are «3 Musketeers,» «PJ,” and «Hugh Hefner,» all of which have over 13 million streams on Spotify. Though her virality on TikTok has largely passed, she continues to release music and attract listeners that were likely first drawn to her through the popularity TikTok gave her.
Serena Isioma also benefited from TikTok audio fame, though in a different way from the above artists. While the other three had multiple tracks that went viral as audios, Isioma only had one song do so, «Sensitive.» Surprisingly, they are the artist with the most solidly produced discography since their viral hit compared to the rest of the artists featured. The Leo Sun Sets and Sensitive are the two polished EPs Isioma has released; the former is on the edge of being considered an album. Though they continue to be independent of a label, Serena Isioma will be an artist to watch out for due to the consistent quality and artistry present in their music. While the music is most noticeably placed as R&B, there is plenty of hip-hop and indie pop influence that gives a sense of fullness to their music. Listeners can hear the confidence in their vocals, particularly in the viral song «Sensitive,» which adds to the calm-and-collected flow of their music. The noticeable funk influence in Serena Isioma’s sound also adds to their cool, confident personality that comes out in the music. If their music lit a spark of inspiration, Isioma’s youtube account features music videos for most of their released songs. All videos are produced by Serena Isioma and her friends and feature some wonderful visuals, highlighted in the joyful “King.”
Last but not least, ElyOtto is a budding hyperpop artist who blew up on TikTok with the song «SugarCrash!.» Similar to Serena Isioma, he only has one TikTok viral hit. However, through his impressive display of talent in that one track, he was able to secure a deal with RCA records; this is a pretty big feat for a 17-year-old. Since «Sugar Crash!» ElyOtto hasn’t released much music officially on traditional streaming platforms (like Spotify) though he has been experimenting publicly with music on Soundcloud for years. His music is what would be expected from an up-and-coming hyperpop artist. Elyotto’s voice has a noticeable use of autotune and the instrumentation is overpowering, all featuring a driving, high-paced beat. Listeners who find themselves profoundly connecting to ElyOtto’s music should check out his Soundcloud to get a feel for some of his earlier music, though all three songs recommended here are available on Spotify and Apple Music.
In observing the artists that are emphasized by TikTok trends, it marks the dawn of an entirely new playing field for the music industry. Before the internet, record companies had complete control over music production and distribution with independent artists occasionally growing small followings and even more rarely leading to international breakout success. Now, with social media and the way the world is constantly in contact, it seems that TikTok can provide opportunities for new artists to be discovered and be heard at never-before-seen speeds. The artists featured in this article are certainly not the only or the last to have their career changed by TikTok, and it will be a treat to see how the music industry is changed by the influx of artists able to be heard by millions without record labels.