TikTok is the most popular app in the world, as of writing this. Though it’s the first form of social media that feels entirely made to appeal to Gen Z, that hasn’t stopped people of all ages from joining. Due to the Coronavirus and society being quarantined, more and more people seem to be finding their way onto the app, whether it be out of boredom, because their partner convinced them to join (I’m guilty of that one), or because they see friends they know having fun on the app through Instagram or Twitter and in turn, become intrigued.
For the most part, the app is fun enough. Similar to Vine, which felt equally as huge in 2013 as TikTok feels now, the app is all about quick video content (usually jokes or dancing). Vine had six second videos, whereas TikTok, at its origin, had 15 second (its now up to 60 seconds) videos. But what TikTok does that Vine never did was embrace people’s love of memes (in Vine’s defense, memes weren’t really spectacular at the start of the last decade).
On Vine, if somebody posted something, it was usually always original content that only they made. On TikTok, one person makes a joke using a specific piece of audio or they come up with choreography to a song and from there, if the video is popular or clever, the popular thing is for people to recreate the dance or the joke (while just slightly changing the joke) and hope it also blows up. It’s mostly alright, and far more addicting than it should be, even if you spend a lot of time on the app seeing redundant content.
The app isn’t without controversy. It’s become clear there’s an algorithm on the app meant to cater towards able-bodied, white, slim people and keep content made by users who don’t fit those standards of “beauty” from blowing up or being easily found. It’s also apparent that incredibly young people are on the app and being over-sexualized by adults at an alarming rate. Aside from all of that, TikTok really makes it quite obvious how white people (mostly white women) whore out black culture, especially hip-hop music/choreography, as a means to become popular and well-liked, even if they reject the same culture in all aspects of their everyday life, which is disconcerting. But the dances are fun, I guess.
For this, I compiled a list of 25 extremely popular songs on TikTok. Some of the songs are to popular dances that we’ll eventually see 15-year-olds performing alongside Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Fallon, whereas some of the songs have just a few seconds of music pulled from a song out-of-context to make a funny joke. This isn’t a list of which songs are the most popular (“Lottery (Renegade)” and “Savage” would easily be at the top of the list if that was the case), but rather a list ranking the most popular songs on TikTok from worst-to-best in terms of pure musical quality.
25. My Heart Went Oops- Tiagz
The only part of this song that’s used on TikTok is the first sentence of the song, which comes before the beat drop (Literally, just the phrase “My Heart Went Oops”). As a song, the rapping is tepid, stale, and mostly boring. The beat is lame and seems to just drone on. Even though it’s a short song, it doesn’t feel short enough.
24. Psycho!- MASE
This song feels like somebody trying to grift off of Post Malone (the king of grifting), and it’s not just because the song is named “Psycho!”. MASE sounds like somebody roofied him and forced him to record a rap song as he fell asleep. There is nothing creative, unique, or inventive about this song at all.
23. Lottery (Renegade)- K CAMP
Though the Renegade dance might be the most popular (or at least, the most complicated) dance on TikTok, the full song named “Lottery (Renegade)” (in public, nobody will ever refer to it as that, I promise) is mostly lame. Though the production is enjoyable enough, there is nothing about K CAMP’s voice or perspective in this song that makes it all that listenable, which is a shame because the dance is a lot of fun and everywhere on the app.
22. Broke In A Minute- Tory Lanez
Tory Lanez doesn’t make good music. He never has. His music always comes off as desperate. This song can be found in TikTok videos about high school students leaking each other’s nudes, purely because of the bar, “She wanna leak it, she wanna send it/F**k that b***h, my face wasn’t in it”. If you’ve ever heard a Tory Lanez song before, you can already hear this song in your head. If you haven’t heard a Tory Lanez song, consider yourself lucky.
21. WHATS POPPIN- Jack Harlow
Somehow, Jack Harlow is a somewhat famous (??) rapper. The 22-year-old white guy from Louisville, Kentucky is an unremarkable emcee who makes music stuffed with trite lyrics comparing himself to John Stockton (who retired from the NBA when Harlow was five) and who recently said in an interview that he thought he could be “as big as Travis Scott”, which is amusing, given that people who like Jack Harlow’s music were most likely also present at the ASTROWORLD tour. The song is fine. Inoffensive, but boring.
20. Sunday Best- Surfaces
“Sunday Best” is breezy and harmless. It isn’t anything special, but it certainly isn’t bad or annoying. Based on the lyrics, it’s meant to be motivational, though it’s certainly corny in its earnestness. Still, it’s overall pretty chill. Perfectly acceptable music to be played at an intimate gathering with a couple close friends for a night of playing Wii Sports or Yahtzee.
19. Lalala- Y2K & bbno$
The rapping from bbno$ is incredibly forgettable and uninteresting here. Thankfully, Y2K’s production is really enjoyable, especially on the chorus. This earns the number 19 spot solely because of how excellent the beat is and how it should make anybody listening to it feel like dancing with their friends.
18. Something New (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)- Wiz Khalifa
This song would probably be ranked higher if it had anybody other than 2018 Wiz Khalifa rapping two verses on it. Wiz hasn’t had much to say on a song since 2014 or so, and feels absolutely out of place on the sleek and sexy production. Ty Dolla $ign, the Lou Williams of rap music, comes off the bench, like a dutiful sixth-man does, and provides an excellent chorus and good verse. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to elevate the song beyond number 18.
17. Nonstop- Drake
“Nonstop” is one of the most unexciting and flat Drake singles to ever be released. Fortunately, it came after back-to-back number one hits (“God’s Plan” and the immaculate “Nice For What”) a week before SCORPION, his strong 2018 tape, dropped. On TikTok, the first bar on the song is the source of the joke (“Look, I just flipped a switch/I don’t know nobody else that’s doing this”) as two people stand in front of a mirror and then switch clothes after the “flipped a switch” bit. The joke isn’t that funny, and the song isn’t all that special, outside of the solid Tay Keith beat and an alright second verse from Drake.
16. Immortal- 21 Savage
The “Immortal” joke started in the past week, but it’s quickly become one of the most popular TikTok bits I’ve seen. It takes five seconds of rapping from Savage’s first verse, “How many tops you done got popped? Whole bunch/How many times you ran from the smoke? Not once.” and has people ask questions before the “Whole bunch” and “Not once” bits. In example, a kid will have text on the screen like: “How many times did I sneak out for sex? (Whole bunch) How many times did I get caught? (Not once)”. As for the song, Savage is always charismatic with his deadpan-style rap delivery and it’s no different here. Even so, the song doesn’t manage feel as dynamic as most 21 songs, even with the solid rapping.
15. Go Stupid- Polo G, Stunna 4 Vegas, NLE Choppa & Mike WiLL Made-It
Stunna 4 Vegas is a relentless rapper (many will probably be familiar with him because of his association with rap superstar DaBaby) and quite talented. The 17-year-old NLE Choppa has also proven to be extremely capable, ever since blowing up in what felt like one weekend in early 2019. And Polo G, a budding star, might be the most talented of them all. His 2019 release, DIE A LEGEND, showed much promise (was my 43rd ranked album that year). “Go Stupid” is a three-minute display of excellent rapping from all three artists over a raucously pulsating beat from the ubiquitous Tay Keith.
14. BUSS HER UP- Baby Keem
Baby Keem is going to be a superstar. I’d bet my rent money for the next year on that one. His debut tape from 2019, DIE FOR MY BITCH, was quietly one of the best albums of the year and displayed ludicrous amounts of untapped potential as a rapper, as well as remarkable pop sensibilities. “BUSS HER UP” is honestly one of the weaker songs from the album, which is unfortunate since it’s one of the more popular tracks, but Keem is an engaging and interesting enough writer that it still works, even if the beat is somewhat weak. On a great album, even the less impressive tracks can still be solid.
13. Roses (Imanbek remix)- SAINt JHN
This is an excellent electronic song that came out at the end of ’19 and will be appreciated far more in a darkly-lit club with strong speakers than it will be from the confines of one’s home. The bassline is omnipresent, subsiding only for brief moments to ramp up tension, before crashing back in and keeping the song moving. This was made to move to.
12. ROXANNE- Arizona Zervas
This was the first song that I became aware of purely from TikTok. The chorus is absolutely infectious, even if nothing about the rapping is progressive. The song is delightful. There’s a lot of enjoyment to be derived from hearing a skinny white kid melodramatically yearn for an Instagram model who will never love him because he doesn’t drive a Lamborghini.
11. Blueberry Faygo- Lil Mosey
Lil Mosey’s 2019 release, CERTIFIED HITMAKER was disappointing. Though he was only 17 when he released it (he recently turned 18), it showed a slight regression from his previous release, NORTHSBEST, from 2018. Still, “Blueberry Faygo”, which came out on the reissued version of CERTIFIED HITMAKER, is a good time. Mosey is a rapper that comes from the soundcloud scene and continues to search for a unique voice (most artists his age from that scene are). Still, he has strong pop sensibilities that more than make up for the fairly generic beat he’s rapping over. Soundcloud rap is great because it’s mostly just young black men rapping about having fun and not taking life too seriously. That should be more celebrated.
10. Toosie Slide- Drake
This song has been out for just a few days and is already everywhere on TikTok. Though it’s not as good as, say, “Hotline Bling” or even close to as organically special as “Nice For What” (perhaps the best Drake single ever), the song’s still good. Drake raps about shooters on the block while doing the electric slide in a way that reminds one of wine mom’s singing The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”, oblivious to the drug references. Ellen will love it. Drake’s a marketing genius. Drake had TikTok users (notably: one user named Toosie) come up with a dance after sending them the song. Soon after, videos of the kids doing the dance leaked (possibly intentionally?), so Drake went ahead and released the song with a music video of him doing the same dance a few days later, knowing 15-year-olds everywhere would give him free promo. This type of stunt would normally make me cynical (understandably, many people will feel similarly), but in this case, I sort of respect Drake for understanding that every white girl in the world is going to continue to appropriate black creators on TikTok and that he may as well get good promo out of it if it’s going to happen regardless.
9. death bed (feat. beabadoobee) [coffee for your head]- Powfu
This song reminds me of PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, but if it were good. It’s really easy-going and serene. The chorus is bright and comfortable as the feeling of love pours through the guitar chords, though not in an overly saccharine way. This is the type of a song that I could imagine one would find it really helpful to have on in the background while writing. It’s peaceful and effortlessly sweet.
8. Blinding Lights- The Weeknd
Though often easy to make fun of, The Weeknd is very capable of making great music. His latest release, AFTER HOURS, which was one of the most notable releases of this pandemic, is a consistently solid project. One of the highlights of that tape is “Blinding Lights”, which TikTok found a way to choreograph a dance to. On “Blinding Lights”, Abel easily sits in his iconic upper register as he croons about how he’s having withdrawals and how much he needs his woman’s touch. The synths are driving and kinetic and aid in crafting one of the best Weeknd singles in some time.
7. Savage- Megan Thee Stallion
The list of women who rap with as much verve and veracity as Megan Thee Stallion right now is incredibly short. After her remarkable 2019 album, FEVER, where she accurately proclaimed herself a star, Megan continued to remain in the media constantly through the rest of the year. On her follow-up project, SUGA, which is alright (though less captivating than her debut), Megan is back with the same recipe that wrought her so much early success. “Savage”, the breakout hit from that album (mostly due to TikTok and the viral dance associated with the song), is Megan reminding the world that she’s (in her words) “been that b***h, still that b***h, will forever be that b***h”.
6. Baby I’m Yours- Breakbot
This song might be perfect. Ripped directly from the 80s, “Baby I’m Yours” is a synth-heavy funk masterpiece. The keyboard melody is soft and filled with glitter. The male vocals are full of love, and not in a desperate or pleading way, but more so in a celebratory way. They’re the type of vocals that make you want to get up and groove. It’s amazing how in the 80’s, this music felt so much like the future and now that the future has arrived, the same music feels like a beautiful window into the past. Incredible song.
5. Relationship (feat. Future)- Young Thug
It’s truly comical watching skinny white girls dance to a song where Young Thug and Future wax poetically about how they have too many b****es and need to cut some of them off. “Relationship”, from Young Thug’s underrated gem BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS, is probably the strongest duet that Thug and Future ever made, which is sad, given that they dropped a collab album after “Relationship” came out. Future lurches into the depths of his bassy voice, rapping about how some woman he picked up “went from a dime to a quarter” after he “made them a starter”. Thug, playful and slinky as ever, joyfully raps about he got “a hundred new purses for a brat” and how he paid extra for his crib so that it has a “kid shack”. It works on every level.
4. Moral of the Story- Ashe
Ashe’s “Moral of the Story” is endlessly poignant. It’s comprised of mellifluous piano chords and lyrics about the mistakes of falling in love with the wrong person and how easily it happens when young. As the song progresses, the piano swells up to a serene climax with lyrics, “Some mistakes get made, That’s alright, That’s okay/You can think that you’re in love, When you’re really just engaged”. The structure of the song is simple. The lyrics are simple. “Moral of the Story” never tries too hard, but it manages to hit all the right notes.
3. Don’t Start Now- Dua Lipa
I thought Dua Lipa was bigger than the first week sales for her new album would’ve indicated. She’s a talented artist and she proved that with her self-titled debut album from 2017. In 2020, she returned more refined and crisp, with a (somehow) improved ear for pop music. She makes songs that will only continue to become more popular and beloved once quarantine ends. Her music is meant to be played in clubs with dancing or on drives to the beach with a group of friends that have no cares in the world. “Don’t Start Now”, the lead single from her stellar new album, FUTURE NOSTALGIA, is Dua flexing her pop skills and showing how, once she catches on in the U.S. like she has in Europe, she’ll be one of the most renown pop acts in the world.
2. Supalonely (feat. Gus Dapperton)- BENEE
There’s something absolutely magnetic about “Supalonely”. Regardless of the fact that it’s one of the most popular dances that have come from TikTok, the song is actually stellar. Musically, the song sounds light and sunny, but, like the title reflects, it’s about somebody who is… super lonely. The paradox of somebody singing how they “f***ed up” and how they’re “just a loser” or how they’re “crying in the bathtub” with unmitigated glee works wonderfully. The “la la la’s” from the chorus are insanely hypnotic and the ad-lib over the la la la’s (“I’m a lonely b***h”) is stupidly charming. Gus Dapperton is the right change of pace and adds a nice addition at the backend of the song. “Supalonely” is good enough that it instantly made me want to hear every other song that the 20-year-old BENEE had made.
1. Say So- Doja Cat
Doja Cat is on the brink of being the biggest pop act in the world. She’s already a better writer than Nicki Minaj ever was, even if she isn’t as vocally dexterous yet. Her voice is airy and appealing, and she has superb instincts as to when she should switch between rapping and lightly seeping out alluring and sexy choruses. “Say So”, the lead single off of her second album, HOT PINK, which came at the end of the decade is the perfect example of this. She spends plenty of time sharply rapping things like, “Let me check my chest, my breath right quick/He ain’t never seen it in a dress like this/He ain’t ever been impressed like this/Prolly why I got him quiet on the set like zip” before she slides right back into her breathy soprano to sing her addicting chorus. The song is the epitome of 2020 pop perfection, and it doesn’t hurt that on TikTok, it’s paired with one of the most popular dances on the entire app.