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Maybe it’s finally time to get into TikTok?

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Photograph: Tik Tok

Video-sharing app TikTok burst on to the scene last year and has started influencing everything from music to dance to comedy. If you’ve been nodding along recently, pretending to know what it is so you seem #downwiththekids, don’t worry.  We’ve got your back. Welcome to TikTok 101…

 
It’s an app, right?
Yes! It started life over here as musical.ly, an app where kids would mime lyrics to their favourite songs. Chinese video-sharing site ByteDance bought it, merged it with their version, TikTok, and it’s now become one of the top ten most downloaded apps of the decade.

Wait, lip-syncing’s that popular?
It’s a thing! It’s more than that now, though. More recently, it’s been all about creating viral dance routines around catchy tunes, lots of comedy skits and kids generally wasting time at school or pranking their parents. You can put filters on the videos and create effects that really show how creative people out there can be.

Sounds like it’s mostly for kids…
Well, it’s certainly a younger demographic than most platforms, but it’s become an avenue for expression and creativity, regardless of age. Some of the most popular creators on the app aren’t even 16 yet and have nearly 40 million followers. And you thought people were popular on Instagram. Ask anyone under 18 about TikTok and they’ll whip out their phone with their favourite videos ready to go.

So, why is it so popular?
The kids with huge followings are creating dance routines that are going viral, and that’s sending songs flying up the charts at a rate we haven’t seen before. Lil Nas X famously used the app to help ‘Old Town Road’ get some traction. Bieber’s ‘Yummy’ was pretty much made with a TikTok dance ready to boot, too. If you go through the Top 40 right now, nearly half of it is there because of TikTok.

Will they stick around or are they all going to be one-hit wonders?
Well, some of the artists were already established, like Doja Cat, but their streams have been sent soaring. Benee is great and has a shedload of catchy tunes waiting to be discovered. If you can listen to Roddy Rich’s ‘The Box’ and not be humming it all the next day, you’ve really done very well.

It sounds like a lot of fun, but can it be used for important stuff, too?
It can. Kids have started videoing fake scripted conversations you can play if you get into a taxi and feel a bit unsettled or unsafe.  As videos are so easily seen and shared on the app, doctors have recently taken to it in an attempt to spread accurate information about coronavirus. Kids! They’re the future!

Okay, do I have to expose my terrible dance moves to enjoy TikTok?
Absolutely not. You’re safe, don’t worry. Not every video is a gem, but the app’s For You page learns what videos you like and tailors itself to your tastes. Heaven sent for a period of self-isolation.  

 

Tok rocking beats: three songs that blew up via Tik Tok

‘Falling’ – Trevor Daniels
Moody yet infectious, this tune has become the go-to for angsty videos about the perils of about love. 485 million streams later, Trevor’s busy working with Billie Eilish’s bro and producer Finneas on his debut album.

‘death bed’ – Powfu ft beabadoobe
Sepia-toned and summery, this was released last year on Soundcloud and went fairly under the radar. TikTok deservedly gave it new life.

‘Break My Stride’ – Matthew Wilder
Yes, that one. The 1983 banger had a resurgence when people would start texting the lyrics to someone until the other person realised. At that moment, they’d start dancing. Bizarre? Maybe. Thrilling for Matthew? Absolutely.

...and if all this is a bit new-fangled for you, why not snuggle up in the safety blanket of the best live concerts on YouTube instead?

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