Music is at the heart of the TikTok experience. It's the glue that connects TikTok's disparate threads, providing a throughline between individuals and communities who bring their own spin to the latest trend. In turn, TikTok occupies a central place in the creation, consumption, and interpretation of modern music. TikTok is a playground where artists and creators can interact, combining their unique sensibilities and talents to propel trends to the forefront of culture. Stars can preview new songs to a legion of hungry fans, who jump at the opportunity to create content inspired by a musical element or favorite lyric.
After turning heads in 2020, TikTok continued its tremendous growth to be a dominant force in music and the music industry in 2021. Approximately 430 songs surpassed 1 billion video views as TikTok sounds in 2021–a threefold increase over 2020. The most popular of these songs approach, and even exceed, 20 billion views on videos they soundtrack. The staggering view counts on TikTok do not exist in a vacuum, but directly translate to commercial success for trending songs and artists. Over 175 songs that trended on TikTok in 2021 charted on the Billboard Hot 100, twice as many as last year.
“TikTok opens the door to new artists, new sounds, underground and DIY scenes as well as the classic hits, connecting them with a global audience and passionate music community like never before. 2021 has been a huge year for music and for TikTok and we’ve been humbled how the industry and so many artists have partnered with us to make this magic happen across so many different countries.
From the Beatles to Sea Shanties, J Balvin to Abba and of course who can forget Taylor Swift's entry - the last 12 months have provided so many music moments, inspired our community of one billion and shown the world that music starts and lives on TikTok”
-- Ole Obermann, Global Head of Music, TikTok
Trends on TikTok open doors to underground and DIY scenes like Hyperpop and Glitch Hop, exposing them to a global audience. TikTok saw trending songs from dozens of countries, and from every continent. The map here only touches on a fraction of TikTok's global impact.
TikTok remained the top source of music discovery for fans of all backgrounds. The platform paved the way for the next generation of music stars, helping usher artists as diverse as Olivia Rodrigo, PinkPantheress, and Måneskin to stardom.
For our second annual music report, we decided to take an in-depth look at what music makes TikTok tick. We'll explore the biggest songs and the most popular trends, but we'll also take a peek under the hood to reveal some of our favorite music moments, and to explore how artists and creators used TikTok's most unique features. And if there's one thing that 2021 proved, it's that any music, and we mean anything, from kids music to baile funk to sea shanties, can break through and become a culture-driving trend. Things got weird.
So to quote one of TikTok's least likely, but most popular trending songs: "on and on we push...into the thick of it!" (Admit it...you're singing it in your head right now!)
'Cause I Am Me: Emerging Artists of the Year
TikTok is home to a voracious community of music mavens, always on the hunt for the next big thing. According to a recent MRC Data study, 75% of TikTok users in the U.S. say that they use TikTok to discover new artists, and 63% say that they hear music that they've never heard before for the first time on the platform. It's the ideal platform for exciting new artists to find and build an audience, without sacrificing creative autonomy or compromising their authenticity.
Following in the footsteps of artists like The Kid Laroi, Tai Verdes, and Tate McRae, who made TikTok's list of Emerging Artists in 2020 and had banner years in 2021, these artists used TikTok to raise their profiles in a major way this year.
The artists are presented in alphabetical order.
- Amaarae (Ghana/US) - Fusing R&B and Afrobeats into a one-of-a-kind mix, the Ghanaian-American singer-songwriter scored her first ever Hot 100 hit after "SAD GIRLS LOVE MONEY" (Remix) ft. Kali Uchis & Molly trended on TikTok.
- Baby Tate (US) - Baby Tate uses her TikTok account to create dances and promote body positivity. Her hit anthem "I Am" became a mantra for confident feminists on TIkTok.
- bbno$ (Canada) - The internet-savvy Canadian rapper first gained notice on TikTok in 2019 with the megahit, Y2K-produced "LaLaLa," but he demonstrated his versatility and star quality with trending hits like the energetic "edamame" and the wistful "Help Herself."
- CKay (Nigeria) - CKay's "Love Nwantiti" was inescapable on TikTok and IRL during 2021, generating over a million video creations on its many remixes, reaching #1 in several countries (incl. India, The Netherlands, and France), and reaching #2 on Billboard's Global 200 songs list.
- Cochise (US) - After breaking out last year with his song "Hatchback," Cochise proved his staying power with his addictive hits "Tell Em" ft. $NOT and "Knicks."
- Coi Leray (US) - Coi loves to show off her playful personality on her account (8.8 million followers), which helps boost her hits like the massive "TWINNEM," her breakout "No More Parties "(eventually graced with a Lil Durk remix), and her NSFW verse on BfB Da Packman's "Ocean Prime."
- Doechii (US) - Introducing herself with her bold and brash "YUCKY BLUCKY FRUITCAKE," Doechii inspired hundreds of thousands of TikTok users to flaunt their glowed-up selves to the tune of her song.
- Eyedress (Philippines) - Eyedress's hazy and heartfelt “Something About You” ft. Dent May provided the perfect soundtrack for users who wanted to express love for a special someone–including Eydress himself, who revealed the inspiration for the song on his own account.
- Feid (Colombia) - A rising star in the world of reggaeton, Feid repaid his loyal fans on TIkTok when he released "Vacaxiones"–a song TikTok has been clamoring for ever since Feid unveiled a snippet last year.
- Jay Wheeler (Puerto Rico) - With over 4.4 million followers, part of a massive and growing fanbase that gave him the nickname La Voz Favorita, Jay Wheeler is one of the most popular ascendant Latin stars on TikTok.
- Kali (US) - The rising Atlanta rapper inspired TikTok creators to coyly answer questions about themselves with her hit song "MMM MMM" (842k video creations), which eventually earned a remix featuring Latto and Moneybagg Yo.
- Magdelena Bay (US) - Captivating with their unique, early-digital aesthetic and their sugar-coated shoegaze pop, California duo Magdalena Bay built a loyal TikTok following with cute sketches, music industry explainers, and of course, great music.
- Måneskin (Italy) - Italy's finest rock band conquered the globe in 2021 with the help of TikTok-trending hits like "Beggin'" (10m+ creations), "MAMMAMIA," and more.
- Navos (UK) - Based in Liverpool, this rising DJ inspired one of the year's funniest dance crazes with his house anthem "Believe Me."
- PinkPantheress (UK) - The mysterious, DIY pop star mesmerized the TikTok community by combining deftly sweet melodies with nostalgic samples of UK club bangers.
- RealestK (Canada) - Trending on TikTok with his song "WFM" (which earned a co-sign from GIVEON), the Toronto teenager is one of the most promising voices in his city's deep R&B scene.
- Saucy Santana (US) - Making waves as both an artist and a TikTok creator, Saucy Santana's songs inspired a universe of memes and even more dances.
- Shygirl (UK) - An rapper, producer, and DJ from South London, Shygirl made a major impact when her banger "Uckers" soundtracked videos of glow-ups and shocking transformations.
- TisaKorean (US) - There's nothing TisaKorean can't do–he can rap, dance, produce, and even model his new Puma slides. Trending is as easy as drinking water (or mopping a floor?) for the boisterous Houston native.
- YungManny(US) - Maryland teenager YungManny is a promising rapper with a certified TikTok smash in "Clap For Em" ft. Sada Baby & Flo Milli, but he's also a prolific and frequently hilarious creator on his own account.
Clap For Em: Artists by Catalogue Creations
New year, same queen: after racking up the most catalog video views of any artist in 2020, Megan Thee Stallion, first of her name, reigneth once again in 2021. The Houston-born rapper excels at crafting quotable songs with a danceable bounce, and always provides a smile with her amiable presence as @TheeStallion on TikTok. Songs like "Cognac Queen," "Thot Sh*t," and "Cry Baby" kept her in the number one spot for the second straight year.
Beyond Megan, you'll find a familiar #2: Doja Cat, who placed second in last year's list. After scoring multiple TikTok trending hits from her 2019 album Hot Pink, Doja repeated the feat with her 2021 project Planet Her, home to songs like "Kiss Me More" (TikTok's #4 most-viewed song in the U.S.), "Get Into It (Yuh)," and "Woman." Like Megan, Doja is active on TikTok, showing off her offbeat sense of humor and interacting with fans.
Beyond the repeat champ and vice champ, the list of Top Artists by Catalog is home to plenty of artists who broke out in a big way in 2021, notably Olivia Rodrigo, whose TikTok-trending single "drivers license" garnered the biggest Spotify debut week in history. Throughout the list, emerging artists rub shoulders with superstars, with established stars like Drake and Kevin Gates rubbing shoulders with upstarts like Coi Leray, whose "TWINNEM" and "No More Parties" made major waves.
The community's faves often reflect the tastes of the public at large, but spotlighted below are a few artists on this list that only could've started on TikTok.
- Tai Verdes released his single "Stuck In The Middle" while he was still an employee at a local Verizon store, but TikTok has enabled him to become one of music's most exciting young stars. He delivered on the promise that convinced us to name him an Emerging Artists of 2020, scoring his first-ever Billboard Hot 100 hit with the TikTok-trending "A-O-K."
- Using a stage name derived from her TikTok handle, the mysterious PinkPantheress first gained notice on TikTok with her singular mix of futuristic nostalgia, which seemed to emanate from the ether as it transfixed TikTok users on both sides of the Atlantic. Infectious, bite-sized, DnB-sampling songs like "Passion," "Pain," and "Just For Me" rose from their origins as TikTok sounds to become massive singles with hundreds of millions of combined streams on Spotify.
- Yes, you read it correctly: one of TikTok's most popular artists of 2021 was The Backyardigans, a fictional trio from a long-gone Nickelodeon kids' cartoon. For several weeks in Summer 2021, you couldn't scroll through TikTok without seeing someone's creative interpretation of "Castaways" or "Into The Thick Of It," each of which made ideal source material for comedic sketches. Though the songs were originally written with children in mind, TikTok creators of all ages can appreciate the surprisingly complex songcraft behind these inescapable numbers.
Evergreen Sounds: Top Classic Tracks
One of the most interesting things about TikTok is how the creativity of its community creates new context for a piece of music. On TikTok, vintage hits stand shoulder to shoulder with songs by rising acts and current superstars–plenty of songs from past eras of music have found new life on the platform, and some even returned to the charts. Among the most notable examples was "Rasputin," a 1978 disco hit by German pop act Boney M, which cracked TikTok's list of Top 20 Global Songs in 2021, and with some help from a remix by UK producer Majestic, returned to the Top 20 of the UK Singles Charts and the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart. The rest of the list is peppered with evergreen classics, from the hard-hitting pitter-patter of Run-DMC, to the flute-laden disco of Van McCoy, to the soulful sounds of Bill Withers and Grover Washington.
SPOTLIGHT: Bee Gees - "More Than A Woman" - A sweeping disco epic that highlighted one of the most romantic scenes in Saturday Night Fever before becoming a massive hit for Tavares, "More Than A Woman" resurfaced on TikTok as the ideal soundtrack for moments that boost serotonin. The song's TikTok success inspired British artist and producer SG Lewis to create a new remix, titled "More Than A Woman - SG's Paradise Edit," which boosted the bass and shined a spotlight on the song's groovy percussion. Buoyed by a two-person dance trend, "More Than A Woman - SG Paradise Edit" helped the Bee Gees make TikTok feel like it was 1977 all over again.
Take a look at the songs released more than 25 years ago that made the biggest impact on TikTok this year:
Call It A Comeback! Top "Comeback" Tracks
Oldies bring nostalgia and new music brings thrills, but what role do songs that don't quite fit either category play? This year, TikTok gave those wayward songs a home, as a host of non-current, not-yet-classic songs reached trending status and gained second life as a result. These songs provided the soundtrack for some of the most memorable trends of the year, from the text-on-screen "now look at this" fact reveals of Kid Cudi's "Day N Nite," to the inspired choreography set to Britney Spears' "Gimme More," to the role model salute of Lukas Graham's "Mama Said."
SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Dog - "Where'd All The Time Go?" - Originally released in 2010, Dr. Dog's "Where'd All The Time Go?" is a wistful and transporting indie rock ballad that deals head on with the inevitable fact of aging. The song's swirling intro became one of the most familiar sounds on TikTok in 2021–a distant, mechanized voice intones "above the cloud were cliffs," as sonorous synths whisper in circular arpeggios. TikTok creators seized upon the song's wistful vibe, using TikTok's reverse shapeshifting creative effect to seamlessly illustrate how time passes, but some relationships last forever. Many creators used the song to comment on their recent graduations from college or high school, to pay tribute to lost loved ones, or to soundtrack "selfie-a-day" art projects.
"Comeback" tracks are classified as trending songs released between 5 and 25 years ago.
Welcome To The Internet: Music Moments of the Year
- SHIVER ME TIKTOKS! #SeaShanty blows the app down:
- There once was a trend that blew up on TT/And the name of the trend was #SeaShanty. That’s right mateys, Sea Shanties had a major moment on TikTok in early 2021, making waves with users eager to show off their voices as well as those just looking to vibe. The salty sea dog most responsible for the surprising shanty surge is Scottish singer Nathan Evans, who won the community’s hearts and minds with rousing acapella-and-hand-percussion renditions of shanties like “The Scotsman” and “The Wellerman.” The latter became a TIkTok hit, with users of all vocal ranges using TikTok’s duet function to add their own harmonies. The #SeaShanty community is a niche, but a sizable and growing one–the hashtag has over 6.3 billion video views, and “The Wellerman” climbed into the Top 20 of the Spotify U.S. Viral 50 chart.
- Vano 3000 encourages users to make their own #adultswim bumpers
- New York rapper/producer Vano 3000 (@supvano) stumbled onto an unlikely trend when he shared "Running Away," a remix of "Time Moves Slowly," a 2016 collaboration between Jazz trio BADBADNOTGOOD and Future Islands lead singer Samuel T. Herring. Vano’s remix pitches up the original, soups up the drums, and sets the kind of cloudy and atmospheric vibe that users on TikTok immediately likened to the sounds that would accompany the classic bumper ads that air during Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block. Since Vano posted a video of himself chowing down on fast food while vibing to the song, the sound has racked up over 195k video creations, most of which saw creators using text on screen to couch their favorite bits of offbeat wisdom using the classic AS bumper format. The hoopla around the trend inspired BADBADNOTGOOD to join TikTok with a video of the band playing Vano's sped-up arrangement of their song, and an official version of the song credited to Vano, BBNG, and Herring came out in June. Even Adult Swim itself hopped on the trend via their own TikTok account. Vano has loudly voiced his appreciation for the fans who helped #vano3000 (678 million views) and #adultswim (1.1 billion views) into trends.
- Please welcome Rock & Pop royalty
- TikTok is an engine of music discovery, capable of helping a new artist reach the biggest audience possible, but it's also a great platform for celebrating the legacy of some of music's biggest legends. In 2021, some of the most iconic acts in rock and pop history joined the platform, bringing songs from their legendary catalogs with them. In October, TikTok came together to welcome The Beatles, who officially joined the platform in conjunction with the release of Let It Be (Super Deluxe), inspiring a dramatic re-arrangement of "Eleanor Rigby" by TikTok creator Cody Fry that eventually earned a GRAMMY nomination. TikTok's epic #RockTober celebration continued with the arrival of Led Zeppelin (celebrating the 50th anniversary of Led Zeppelin IV) and U2, who arrived along with their new song "Your Song Saved My Life." Also notable was the arrival of ABBA, the giants of Swedish pop, who landed on the app ahead of Voyage, their first new album in 40 years, and have become staples on For You Pages with piano versions of their hits, celebrations of their career accomplishments, encouragement of the #chiquitachallenge, and Ian McKellen-assisted holiday greetings.
- TikTok (Taylor's Version)
- With over 4.6 billion video views , the #swifttok hashtag is one of the internet's premier destinations for Taylor Swift-related discourse. Using the tag, Swift fans on TikTok post performance and interview clips of the artist, create their own Taylor-inspired montages and videos, and for much of 2021, they used the tag to implore their fave to join the platform. This past August, Taylor answered her fans' prayers, joining the platform to help fans get excited for Red (Taylor's Version). As Fall dawned and the album approached, fans on TikTok grew more and more excited about the impending release–Taylor fanned the flames with a special Red-themed TIkTok filter and tantalizing glimpses of the 10-minute "Taylor's Version" of "All Too Well." When the extended "All Too Well" dropped, it caused a TikTok tizzy, with over 81k video creations in the first week, helping the song become the longest single to ever top the Billboard Hot 100. Taylor was the first to thank her fans on TikTok for helping her reach her latest milestone, posting a video using an adorable trending sound to express her gratitude and disbelief.
- TikTok to the charts: Popular accounts make their pop debuts
- Just as emerging artists use TikTok to find new fans, influential TikTok users take advantage of their platform to achieve their dream of becoming pop stars. Creators like Dixie, Lil Huddy, and Nessa Barrett (who reached the Hot 100 with her single "i hope ur miserable until ur dead") earned major label contracts and millions of monthly listeners on Spotify by leveraging their loyal followings on the platform. The most impactful of these creators-turned-artist was likely Bella Poarch, whose single "Build A B*tch" generated over 4.3 million combined video creations. Both "Build A B*tch" and "INFERNO," Bella's collaboration with fellow TikTok creator Sub Urban, made TikTok's list of Top 20 most-viewed pop songs of 2021.
- Songwriting Starts On TikTok
- Emerging artists and songwriters use TikTok to bare their soul and to strut their stuff. They have faith in the community's ability to spot talent, and the app's infrastructure that allows an baby artist to make major waves. Here were some of our favorite examples of artists using TikTok to get their original music to the masses:
- Canadian singer-songwriter JESSIA had an idea for a chorus for her latest song, so she recorded it in her car and posted on TikTok, racking up over 1 million views in just one day. Two days later, producer Elijah Woods caught wind of the song and produced Jessia's acapella hook into a pop bop. The song, called "I'm Not Pretty," became a body positivity anthem, generating over 60k video creations and 9 million Spotify streams in its first month of release. JESSIA eventually charted on Billboard's Emerging Artists and Digital Song Sales charts. Now signed to Republic Records, JESSIA followed up her TikTok success by releasing a remix to "I'm Not Pretty" with an appearance from Bebe Rexha.
- Aspiring artist Reyanna Maria built an audience on TikTok by engaging with other users on the platform, making her own beats and covering songs by Ariana Grande, Summer Walker, SZA, and Billie Eilish. Reyanna had a major breakthrough when she used TIkTok's duet feature to rhyme atop a beat by @katoproducer with a calm and confident verse, earning over 2 million views in the process. After clamoring from followers and fans, Reyanna made the audio into a TikTok sound (1.6 million video creations), and eventually a full song called “So Pretty.” Reyanna Maria’s success with “So Pretty” led to a record deal with Republic Records and a verse from Tyga for the official remix.
- Jax is one of TikTok’s most creative rising musicians, using her platform to post parody songs that provide an unseen perspective on classics. It turns out, when you look at “Jessie’s Girl” from Jessie’s perspective, Rick Springfield’s narrator seems less romantic and more sketchy! In some of her other videos, she chastises Olivia Rodrigo for her irresponsible driving, gives a terrible Yelp review for the “Hotel California,” and proves that the relationship detailed in Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8ter Boi” wasn’t built to last. In recent weeks, Jax has been showing off some of her original songs, including “Ring Pop,” which have the same verve and sense of humor as her parodies, and in February, she celebrated signing a record deal with Atlantic by writing an original song that details her origin story.
- Hyperpop sugar crashes onto TikTok
- Music fans on TikTok have an advanced sonic palette, and the blown-out synths, distorted percussion, and manipulated vocals of hyperpop seems directly aimed towards their pleasure centers. Hyperpop artists reverberate across For You pages of all kinds: the snotty rhymes of 100 Gecs to the percolating, dark trap music of WHOKILLEDXIX, to the mutating chiptune of Kero Kero Bonito, to the sonic assault of genre progenitor A.G. Cook. TikTok's undeniable hyperpop hit of the year was ElyOtto's "SugarCrash" (6.8 million video creations), a chaotic confection that combined the day-to-day stresses of teenage life with a mutated melody built to stick in your head for ages at a time.
- Baby Are You Coming For the Ride? - WILLOW meets us at our spot
- WILLOW has been a recording artist for over a decade, but in 2021, it seemed as if she grew up before our eyes. After scoring a TikTok (and Billboard) hit with the Travis Barker-produced "transparent soul," WILLOW teamed up with Tyler Cole and The Anxiety to craft one of the year's most inescapable earworms: "Meet Me At Our Spot." The song's wistful vibe and powerful vocal performance spawned multiple trends–one in which creators reminisced about summers past, another in which uses a TikTok filter that transforms users into cartoon characters. The most interesting about the "Meet Me At Our Spot" phenomnenon–the trending sound didn't come from a polished studio recording, but from a live performance that emphasized WILLOW's passionate vocals and inspired musicians on TikTok to play along.
- TikTok Theater - Musical moments from stage to For You page (and vice versa!)
- It was a big year for musical theater on TikTok. Never one of the better known songs from Annie, the version of "Opportunity" sung by Quvenzhané Wallis for the 2014 film version caught fire on the platform (402k creations) as users seized upon opportunities that ranged from life-changing to routine. The long-awaited film release of Lin-Manuel Miranda's In The Heights caused a TikTok stir, as the jaunty number "No Me Diga" inspired over 200k creations filled with juicy gossip. The most significant musical development of the year was an original TikTok creation, as the songwriting duo of Abigail Barlow & Emily Bear combined to create an original musical based on the Netflix show Bridgerton, writing a full album of original songs and posting the results on their TikTok accounts. To put a cap on this unlikely journey, the Unofficial Bridgerton Musical is heading to a London stage in 2022 for its first-ever live production.
- Can I interest you in Bo Burnham all of the time?
- Musical comedy sensation Bo Burnham is a digital native, building an audience on the internet with his hilarious songs and short-form jokes before becoming an acclaimed comic and film director. It should be no surprise, then, that he has a huge following on TikTok, where his fans eagerly post videos soundtracked to songs from his 2021 Netflix special Inside. A satirical ode to the Amazon CEO, Burnham’s song “Bezos!” (1.1 million combined video creations) is the ideal soundtrack to moments where you maximize your earning potential. His song “All Eyes On Me” (158k video creations) caused TikTok users to ponder their place in the cosmos, and bemoan their overeager immune systems. Nearly every song included in Inside generated over thousands of video creations, as his fans on TikTok reflected on the deep questions Burnham asked about living life online.
Oh I'm Curious! Top Artist Original Sounds
TikTok's emphasis on sound allows artists to communicate and interact with fans in increasingly creative ways. They use the app to create remixes or mashups, or create a universe of memes. Our list of the "Top Artist Original Sounds" features multiple entries from Saucy Santana, who seemed to start a trend with nearly every video he created, and @sickickmusic, the masked mashup maven. Notable videos in this list include @tiktokbrownchick's piano ballad version of "WAP," @JVKE's mash up of Trinidad Cardona's "Dinero" and Internet Money's "His N Hers," and Taylor Swift's encouragement of her fans to use "her version" of her trending song "Wildest Dreams."
Artists also used original sounds to share tantalizing snippets of new music. Donned in a tuxedo with a similarly-dressed accompanier on the piano, Coi Leray used TikTok to preview her song "TWINNEM," which became one of the most popular songs on TikTok in 2021. Before the official audio generated over 4 million creations, Cfinaloi's original sound generated over a million views on its own. Using the snippet, Coi was able to create organic excitement around her new song, and create a sense of ownership for fans on TikTok who feel like she wrote it just for them.
NEED YOU TO STAY: Global Top Tracks
TikTok's list of top songs for 2021 features a mix of megahits from unlikely sources strewn across the globe. Streaking across For You pages powered by irresistible dance challenges and memes, U.S. hip-hop takes up much of the global list, but the community's diverse tastes propelled pop songs from Australia, hyperpop from Canada, and ragged rock from Italy into the stratosphere. Here are the year's most popular songs, along with their stories:
- Masked Wolf - "Astronaut In The Ocean" - Originally released in 2019 by a then-unknown rapper from Sydney, Australia, "Astronaut In The Ocean" became one of the year's biggest sleeper successes, its existential angst soundtracking millions of TikTok videos and racking up billions of views en route to a Top 10 Billboard placement.
- Måneskin - "Beggin" - Capturing the hearts of a continent after winning Eurovision, Italian rock band Måneskin earned a surprise TikTok smash with their cover of Frankie Valli's 1967 hit.
- Popp Hunna - "Adderall (Corvette Corvette) - A dance challenge propelled Popp Hunna's fast-paced heater to trending status for months on end, as the song launched from the streets of Philadelphia to far corners of the globe.
- ElyOtto - "SugarCrash!" - Expressing conflicting emotions with saccharine synths and abrasive auto-tune, "SugarCrash!" turned Canadian 17-year-old ElyOtto into a household name–his song reflects the TikTok community's deep love for hyperpop.
- The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber - "STAY" - The Kid Laroi was highlighted by TikTok as an Emerging Artist after his success on the platform in 2020 and he more than made good on his promise in 2021. Laroi revealed "STAY" (partially penned by TikTok-beloved Charlie Puth) as a snippet on TikTok months before its official release–building enough momentum to earn a featured spot from Bieber and eventually topping the Billboard Hot 100 for seven non-consecutive weeks (and 11 weeks topping the charts in his homeland of Australia).
- Oliver Tree - "Life Goes On" - One of the year's fastest-growing and most effortlessly shareable stars on TikTok scored a hit with this vibey and infectious pop jam.
- Erica Banks - "Buss It" - TikTok loves Texas rap–Erica Banks put Dallas on the map with her sultry, Nelly-sampling slapper.
- YungManny - "Clap For Em" ft. Flo Milli & Sada Baby - Two breakout TikTok heroes from 2020 helped a buzzing Maryland teenager raise his profile when they hopped on "Clap For Em."
- Megan Thee Stallion - "Cognac Queen" - Once again the queen of all she surveys, it was clear that Thee Stallion wouldn't be denied a spot on this list.
- Cardi B - "Up" - Megan's "WAP" duet partner struck TikTok gold with her only solo single of 2021–don't be surprised if she places a song even higher on 2022's list.
And here are the rest of TikTok's Global Top 20 for 2021:
Up & Stuck: Top Tracks (US)
The list of top songs in the United States is dominated by hip-hop of all shapes and sizes–songs that sparked some of the year's biggest dances and funniest trends. Beyond the beats and rhymes lie songs by some of TikTok's biggest breakout stars–Olivia Rodrigo brought anthemic heartbreak, Tai Verdes offered laidback vibes, and PinkPantheress transfixed with her wistful vocals and reinterpretations of UK garage.
Spotlight: Olivia Rodrigo The early weeks of 2021 hit pop music like an earthquake thanks to the arrival of Olivia Rodrigo. Rodrigo posted a video in late 2020 of herself playing her new song "driver's license" on the guitar, and just two weeks later, her song was a Billboard #1 smash, with a record-setting Spotify debut to boot. Olivia's incredible first impression was mere prelude of hits to come–she proved her immense songwriting talent with her follow-up single "deja u," and earned her second number one single with the pop-punk breakup anthem "good 4 u." Beyond the big three singles, nearly every song from her chart-topping debut album trended on TikTok, from the vicious opener "brutal" to the sweeping ballad "happier" to the acoustic "favorite crime."
A bit of everything: Top Genres
Music on TikTok is as diverse as its community of users, who bring their own tastes and talents to the table. In general, the distribution of genres on TikTok reflects the tastes of the public at large–rap and pop lead the way, followed by passionate subcultures who can't get enough EDM, R&B, or indie. The biggest growth genre of the year was Latin music, which hopped from 10th on the list in 2020 to 6th this year.
Go Best Friend! Top Hip-Hop Tracks
The top hip-hop songs on TikTok are a testament to the strength of the genre and the wide-ranging tastes of the TikTok community. Every type of rap music is represented here, from turnt-up Texas trap (Megan Thee Stallion, Erica Banks, TisaKorean), to superstar showcases (Drake, Playboi Carti, Cardi B), to drawling bangers from the deep south (Kevin Gates, LPB Poody), to tongue-twisting sounds of the underground ($ILKMONEY). Though there are plenty of hits from big names, the U.S. hip-hop list is a showcase for emerging stars from all over the rap map, like the ubiquitous Coi Leray, UK drill dons Tion Wayne & Russ Williams, and Philly's own Popp Hunna.
SPOTLIGHT: Tion Wayne & Russ Williams - Drill music grew into one of TikTok's favorite subgenres in 2021, as drill songs from Brooklyn, Chicago, and the United Kingdom tore up TikTok's trending charts and creators just danced to drill remixes of songs from other genres. Tion Wayne and his super-sized remix for "Body" was one of the biggest drill hits of the year, parlaying a TikTOk trend based on guest artist ArrDee's animated verse to a reign at the #1 spot on the UK Official Charts.
Tok to the Future: Top Pop Tracks
Pop fans on TikTok are passionate about their faves, breathlessly anticipating their next moves. The most successful pop stars on TikTok embrace their fans' love, feeding them tidbits of new music along with generous heapings of personality. The pop stars who made the U.S.'s top Pop songs of 2021 all stay active on the platform while crafting songs that stick in listeners minds. The mutual embrace between pop stars and pop stans creates a sense of community and collective goodwill: they celebrate the success of stars like Lil Nas X or Olivia Rodrigo or Bella Poarch–stars that made their name on the platform–as if it were their own.
Magic Bombs and Immaculate Vibes: Top Dance/Electronic Tracks
TikTok loves electronic music of all moods, from high-energy bangers to vibey scene-setters. It was one of the latter that was #1 in the community's heart in 2021–DJ Snake's transformation of a Gap Band classic into a swelling, bass-heavy track equally suited for the club or nights spent at home. The dance/electronic songs that TikTok vibed with most heavily reflect the genre's global nature–find songs from Italy (Kina), Canada (Kaytranada), Sweden (Ikson), the UK (Navos, who earned a contract with Island Records), and perhaps most notably, Vietnam, the home of Hoàng Read, whose "The Magic Bomb" soundtracked one of the year's most enduring trends.
Notable among this list is Kaytranada's "Caution," which premiered on TikTok as we honored Black music during Black History Month.
TwangTok: Top Country Tracks
Fancy like Applebee's and always ready to have a little fun, Country fans and the music they love are a major part of what makes TikTok tick. The community helped propel Walker Hayes' "Fancy Like" to the top reaches of the Billboard Hot 100 and a Best Country Song GRAMMY nomination, making it the biggest Country crossover hit of the year. Other songs on the list have major TikTok stories–Luke Combs debuted a snippet of "Forever After All" in 2020 that helped the song make a #2 debut on the Hot 100, and the legendary Shania Twain announced her arrival on TikTok with an empowering video set to her own "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" Ranging from classics by NGDB, to songs from emerging artists like RaeLynn, to hits by superstars like Gabby Barrett and Dan + Shay, 2021 made clear that country music starts on TikTok.
Left Of The Dial: Top Alternative/Rock Tracks
Rock music holds a special place in the hearts of the TikTok community, and the genre had a major year in 2021. We welcomed legendary acts like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones to TikTok, and stars like John Mayer fill For You pages with creative ideas and duet invitations. But the songs on TikTok's list of Top Alternative/Rock Tracks of 2021 come from unlikelier sources. The TikTok community helped make Måneskin one of the biggest bands in the world (in addition to the megahit "Beggin," songs like "MAMMAMIA" and "I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE" trended on the platform), wholly embraced WILLOW's new pop-punk-flavored creative direction, and transformed their appearances to the tune Kim Dracula's cover of Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi." Indie rock made major inroads, this year, as the community vibed to Beach Bunny's sugar-coated emo bliss, the shambolic, bite-sized lo-fi banger of Lonely God's "Marlboro Nights," and Mitski's disco-flavored "Nobody," which helped some TikTok creators indulge the urge to run away from negativity.
De noche y de día: Top Latin Tracks
Latin music was the fastest-growing genre on TikTok in 2021, expanding far beyond the Spanish language sphere and becoming a global behemoth. Though the latest reggaeton hits are well represented by the likes of Bad Bunny, Jhay Cortez, and Jowell & Randy, TikTok's list of top Latin tracks in the U.S. in 2021 demonstrates the wide variety of Latin music that trends on the platform, from Colombian Alt-Pop (Monsieur Perine) to EDM crossover (Farruko) to Dominican dembow (El Alfa). Kali Uchis's dreamy, bilingual pop smash "telepatía" became one of the year's crossover hits after trending on TikTok. Ivan Cornejo's "Está Dañada" became one of the first regional Mexican hits to ever chart on the Billboard Hot 100. A notable entry into the top 5: Gipsy Kings' rollicking "Bamboleo," which first garnered attention upon its release in 1988 before becoming one of TikTok's biggest Latin hits this year.
Track Stars & Love Songs: Top R&B Tracks
TikTok has a devoted community of R&B lovers on the platform, who appreciate the genre in all its forms. The top two tracks encompass two flavors of rap-influences, with Mooski's soaring street melodics and Luke Nasty's smooth flow on his 2015 hit "Might Be." Along with Mooski, TIkTok's biggest R&B songs of 2021 announced the arrival of new stars, like Giveon, whose tear-inducing, deep, and velvety vocals elevated hits like Justin Bieber's "Peaches" and his own "Heartbreak Anniversary," Kaash Paige, who set the vibe when an intimate 2019 bonus track resurfaced as a TikTok hit, and RealestK, who makes sonorous hymns for late nights. Classic styles are also represented here, including Silk Sonic's immaculate retromania and Ciara's string-laden, oh-so '00s "Like A Boy" (2006).
A Deeper Dive: Artists
A Salute to Jason Derulo, who makes TikTok His Own
Jason Derulo was one of the first artists to grasp what makes TikTok special, and he remains the most-followed artist in the U.S.–he has his finger on the pulse of the community, collaborating with creators, and frequently engages with trends in his trademark over-the-top, high-production value style.
No Choice But To Stan: Artist Accounts With The Most Growth
TikTok is a place where emerging artists rub shoulders with superstars. The list of artists with the most new followers include artists that emerged this year like Olivia Rodrigo, and artists who recently joined the platform like Billie Eilish, but this year also saw major growth from artists that fans associate with TikTok, like Lil Nas X, Lizzo, and Jason Derulo.
SPOTLIGHT: After starting a TikTok in late 2020, Billie Eilish fully embraced it this year in the run up to her second album Happier Than Ever. She dramatically revealed her new blonde hairstyle in April, and became much more active, posting videos of her dog, giving behind the scenes looks at her "Lost Cause" music video, and clapped back at her haters. Billie was the U.S. artist who gained the most followers in 2021, with over 30 million new followers gained in the calendar year.
Industry Babies: Most Viewed Artists
Artists succeed on TikTok if they can achieve a balance between showmanship and relatability, and the ten artists with the most views on their account videos have managed to strike that balance with creative aplomb.
SPOTLIGHT: Lil Nas X In 2019, Lil Nas X released the biggest hit in TikTok (and Billboard) history, and 2021 still might have been his biggest year yet. He spent much of the year teasing his "baby," his debut album MONTERO, encouraging fans' creations for hits like "Industry Baby" and "That's What I Want," honing his peerless wit, and overall just having a good time. Fans on TikTok can tell that Lil Nas is having a blast, and his creativity encourages them to check out his page for new updates, rather than passively wait for him to appear on a For You page.
Top Videos by Artists (Most Views)
From surprising plane encounters to adorable pet reveals, artists on TikTok made an impact with much more than just music in 2021. Ranging from funny to energetic to just plain weird, these videos generated hundreds of millions of views brought joy to fans and onlookers alike.
SPOTLIGHT: Latin music is a large and growing genre on TikTok in the U.S., and it made a huge impact in 2021. The list of most viewed videos by artists includes a clip of J Balvin partaking in a trend inspired by his own Skrillex-produced hit "IN DA GETTO," Colombian superstar Karol G dancing by herself in a hotel room with audio by @chikybombomreal, and perhaps most surprisingly, a clip of the eternally youthful reggaeton legend Daddy Yankee getting a fresh haircut and vibing to his latest single.
Power of Two: Most DUETTED Artists
TikTok's Duet feature allows creators to respond to one another and build upon each other's creativity, with results that range from unexpected to funny to artful. Artists and musicians on TIkTok are the perfect subject for the Duet feature, offering fans the opportunity to play along with their song, harmonize with their vocals, or just react to their antics. John Mayer channels his inner music teacher, laying down a six-string groove for fans to jam over or working through the music theory behind his hits, so fans can cover them more easily. Country superstar Tim McGraw used TikTok to encourage creators to harmonize on covers of some of his favorite songs. Platinum-selling producer Kato (@katoproducer) specializes in creating instrumental beats for aspiring rappers to spit over–one of his beats eventually became Reyanna Maria's breakthrough hit "So Pretty." Unofficial Bridgerton Musical co-creator Abigail Barlow taps into TheaterTok, recording instrumentals with lyrics as text on screen so aspiring Broadway performers can show off their vocals, while pianist @ellenonceagain offers a similar service for aspiring pop divas.
Baila Baila Baila: TikTok's Top Latin Artists
Latin music was one of the biggest growth genres on TikTok in the United States, partially powered by a coterie of stars who have fully embraced the platform–they're not just here to promote new music, but to be a part of the app's culture. Colombian superstars J Balvin and Karol G engage with English- and Spanish-language trends, Inglewood's Becky G duets with fans and gives beauty tips, and pop singer Camilo charms TikTok users across the globe with his superlative guitar skills and perfectly-coiffed mustache.
LIVE From TikTok, It's 2021
TikTok remained one of the internet's top destinations for LIVE-streamed music in 2021, delivering unforgettable performances directly to your phone. Ranging from filmed concerts, to elaborate set pieces, to mold-breaking interviews, TikTok LIVE had fans buzzing all year long. Here were some of the most memorable LIVE moments of 2021:
- Ed Sheeran set records with his July 2021 performance, which occurred as part of TikTok's partnership with the UEFA Euro 2020 football tournament. The show drew over 5.5 million unique viewers–a TikTok record. Did it also help inspire the England team to reach the tournament final? Who's to say?
- Coming through with a Valentine's Day treat for TikTok, Justin Bieber hosted a special LIVE performance, playing songs from his fan favorite album Journals for the first time in concert.
- Global reggaeton superstar J Balvin released his most expansive and ambitious album to date in 2021, celebrating the album's drop with an eye-popping LIVE performance on TikTok.
- This year, TikTok debuted Headstream, a unique interview series that allowed fans to go inside the minds of their favorite artists as they take questions from their toughest interviewer: themselves. The first installment featured Demi Lovato, while later installments included artists like P!nk, Blake Shelton, Lil Tjay, Rivers Cuomo, and many more.
In a year when some of the biggest names of British music joined TikTok, find out more about music on TikTok in the UK with Year on TikTok 2021: Music Report UK