How TikTok ruined music

Popstar Dua Lipa was joined by rapper DaBaby in the late 2020 song release “Levitating.” In the adjacent music video, they blatantly displayed why contemporary music is rapidly declining. Most of the video occurs in an elevator that allows trends into it, such as the Roller World. Lyrics refer to Renegade, one of the first viral dances through TikTok, an increasingly popular video-sharing app among young adults. Not only do they reference the app through dance, but the elevator floor indicator is also the TikTok logo.

Videos on TikTok can be between 15 seconds or one minute. Often the one-minute videos are stories with some background music. The 15-second videos, however, are the single largest entity that is destroying new music, often using the catchiest 15 seconds of a song. If the song isn’t catchy, it may be mixed with another song; otherwise, it won’t be used at all. To be clear, I have no problems with this format, and considering the amount of time I spend on the app, I enjoy it. Rather, I do not enjoy hearing songs that were created specifically for TikTok on pop charts or on the radio.

Songs that are created simply for TikTok lack the creativity typically required of songwriters to keep a listener interested in the entirety of the song. Before TikTok, the artist would have to be creative with lyrics, composition, harmonies and endings to make a pop hit. Now, they just need 15 seconds that are pleasing to the ear. Bonus points if someone can put a dance to it.

Interestingly enough, I heard Lipa’s “Levitating” on the radio months before I saw it on TikTok. It seemed that the blatant creation of a song for TikTok was not accepted immediately by the app’s users. However, they eat up songs that were covertly written for the 15-second highlights on the app.

This new wave of music has corrupted the integrity of the music industry. Regular TikTok users would be able to recognize an overwhelming majority of songs on the pop charts and likely could visualize the trend that goes along with the song. Because of this inherent connection between video and audio, the app has created the need for immediate approval. Excellent and thoughtful artists are passed over if their song is not danceable for artists who cater to quick trends. 

Someone out there is going to argue that these are all reasons that make TikTok great. The music industry has always been nearly impossible to break into, and the spontaneous nature of seeing strangers’ videos has made it easier for new artists to publicize their work.

The app has been incredible at helping artists and small businesses reach new listeners and followers, and I don’t want to see this change. Simply put, TikTok songs should stay on TikTok and away from avenues that require the listener to tune in to the whole song. When the novelty of TikTok wears off, we will be left with a mostly uninteresting musical impact from this era.