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tiktok: bringing alt and indie into the mainstream

Written by a Gen-Z'er who's been told she has the mindset and attitude of a Gen-X'er.

Disclaimer: if I were you, I wouldn’t be so quick to listen to/believe everything I’m about to say. Why? Well, TikTok’s been out since 2016 and it seemed to really pick up speed in the past 2ish years. But here’s the thing- I have yet to download it ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Where to start?

The app boasts an astounding 800 millions users. And I’m sure you, YES YOU, have an account. Of those 800 million people, some are putting out INCREDIBLY cringe-worthy content, some are making art, some are cooking, some are showing off their clothes, some are dancing, some are singing... THE LIST GOES ON AND ON!

Anyways. Music. It’s what I’m supposed to be sitting here writing about.

"Can I Call You Tonight" by Dayglow. "Chinese New Year" by SALES. "Freaking Out The Neighborhood" by Mac Demarco. "Gimme Love" by Joji. "Are You Bored Yet?" by Wallows. "Pretty Girl" by Clairo. "Heather" by Conan Gray. "Goodie Bag" by Still Woozy. "We Fell In Love In October" by Girl In Red...

I CAN'T BEGIN TO TELL YOU HOW MANY TIMES I'VE HEARD THESE SONGS IN TIKTOKS ON MY INSTAGRAM. If you hadn’t heard, the viral app has spread like COVID-19 (too soon?) to literally every social media app. THERE ARE TIKTOKS ON MY PINTEREST FEED. THE PLACE I GO TO FOR DIYS AND CERAMICS IDEAS. This whole thing is starting to sound like I’m venting about my hatred for the app but I can assure you, I’m not here to do that. However, I do think it’s affected music in a way that I’m not completely comfortable with yet...

What do I mean by "affecting music in a way I'm not completely comfortable with yet"? First, there's something you should know about me- I'm INCREDIBLY selfish. It's kind of a gatekeeping thing. I want the artists I listen to to stay small, independent, alternative... outside of the mainstream, you know? I've always had the feeling that when a musician's fanbase grows pretty substantially, nothing will be as special as it used to be. The interactions will become more limited, shows will get bigger, the newfound success could get to them and their heads might get bigger! SCREW GROWTH AND SUCCESS!

Alright, back to the topic at hand- what's making these particular "alternative"/"indie" songs popular on the app, you ask? They all seem to possess that easy listening feel; kinda soft pop-ish, catchy guitar riffs, lyrical hooks, relatable storylines... Even the artists have a very laid back, aesthetic quality to themselves. With that, I think they're all part of Gen-Z's coming of age movie soundtrack. They're the songs from that time in your life where you start growing up and seeing the world around and outside of you. Think Perks of Being a Wallflower/Lady Bird/The Breakfast Club/Booksmart/Dazed and Confused. Those kind of vibes, you know?

Wanna know the weird part? As if everything I've already said isn't weird... I don't even listen to the artists I listed up top. I'm writing this right now in fear that the artists I actually do listen to end up in a million TikToks. If you weren't already thinking this from the beginning, you're now probably thinking, "she's crazy", right? WELL I CAN'T HELP IT!

All it takes is one “influencer” using some under-the-radar musician’s song in their 15 second video and the rest is history. Their fans will hear it, use it in their videos, and the cycle begins. But hey, it’s great for the artist. Getting exposure like that wouldn’t have even been an option 20 years ago, let alone five...

So now we know some kid writing a sad song in their purple led-lit bedroom about their best friend not like-liking them back can become famous overnight, right? Well what about already established musicians? "New Flesh" by Current Joys was released 7 years ago and within the past year or so, it started picking up a lot of traction. The Neighbourhood’s “Daddy Issues” has been a popular audio lately and about a month ago, they earned RIAA gold certification on the song... a song that was released on an album 5 years ago. Alex Turner's iconic intro riff on "Do I Wanna Know" has taken off in the past few months as a sort of "sexy" audio for good looking people to flash their looks to, ultimately leaving me embarrassed to be a human being.

I’m telling you, it’s the power of TikTok and pretty people voodoo!

And I'm not into it...


Here are the songs I talked about up top!

Is TikTok the new A&R? What's the first song you'd add to your coming of age movie soundtrack?



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