|“Young Dumb & Broke” by Khalid became viral a little because it sounded like a flighty anthem. / Photo by: Kathy Hutchins via Shutterstock|
Music has become so big in the last decade that most everyone can chip in and add their own flavor into the mix. The means to make a song and produce your own music (beats, lyrics, even distribution) is more accessible than ever, launching SoundCloud singers into the mainstream music industry with just one click.
Post Malone found superstardom this way, but he was only one of many amazing artists who found their way into the limelight with the help of their viral productions. In the last decade, here are the most viral songs to ever grace our collective ears.
“Old Town Road” (2019), Lil Nas X
Starting the list strong, “Old Town Road” breaks in at first place because it was a viral hit unlike any other, and just as well, considering the 19-year-old singer worked hard and long to make his music known to the world. In interviews, there is no shortage of Lil Nas X talking about how he promoted his songs on his Twitter account so that other people could listen to it. Then TikTok found him, and eventually, he found fame in virality.
According to Time.com, an American weekly news magazine and news website, the explosive popularity of “Old Town Road” lies not in its beat or its run-in with controversy, but it’s innate fun-ness to consume. “It’s a freshly minted building block for pop, allowing listeners to hear the potential in country, trap, country-trap, and any other hybrid genre that might come to life in the streaming age,” they wrote.
“Young Dumb & Broke” (2017), Khalid
Maybe it’s the mesmerizing baritone of his voice or the ease of delivery and flow between his words, or maybe it’s just that Khalid chanced upon the very reality of many millennials, but “Young Dumb & Broke” became viral a little because it sounded like a flighty anthem, or, as Time.come describes it, an “anti-anthem.” It’s a song that barely does anything to move its listeners, or maybe that depends on how young or old one is. But the existentially lost flavor of the song resonates with so many of us that the song quickly took on a life of its own, getting blasted almost everywhere during its release.
“Gangnam Style” (2012), PSY
Love it or hate it, “Gangnam Style” was a behemoth of a hit. It went viral long before going viral was something that happened to us almost every day. He went viral back when it really meant something, and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding, or at least in this case, in the number of views the music video racked up.
According to the website The Burnin, offering news on lifestyle, science, and other industry-related stuff, “Gangnam Style” was the K-pop song that brought all the other K-pop songs out into the open and paved a path for South Korean music to be palatable to Western audiences.
|“Gangnam Style” was the K-pop song that brought all the other K-pop songs out into the open. / Photo by: ThomasLENNE via Shutterstock|
“Friday” (2011), Rebecca Black
Sometimes, viral things don’t go viral for good reasons. Some things on the internet go viral because of irony. Ironic viral is probably where Rebecca Black’s song is, the same way Tommy Wiseau’s inexplicable and absolutely horrid “The Room” is still avidly watched today.
“Friday” is no different--autotuned to hell and back, the song gave us a good example of what happens when a teenager is given the reigns in a music studio to lay down a track in one go. On the upside, Black’s life outside the ironic hit that was “Friday” is still very good. She is now an influencer with 800,000 followers under her belt.
How Viral Songs Work
It’s known that it’s way easier to go viral right now as long as you know the right mediums, but what exactly are those mediums? And how do they all work together to bring an almost obscure song out of the depths of the internet and plunk it in the middle of the most well-known music charts? In this regard, we all have the charts’ shift of perspective on what makes a song go “boom.”
For the Thrillist, an online media website covering food, drink, travel, and entertainment, songs get viral fairly quickly now because “Billboard began incorporating YouTube play counts into its Hot 100 formula.” This is why, in the last decade, songs from artists who have never been that big in the music industry before hit wide audiences and became the anthems of people who have otherwise never consumed any of these artists’ creations before.
TikTok, the main platform on which Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” found groundbreaking popularity, is also becoming part of the equation. While TikTok is not necessarily recognized as a platform to measure the popularity of a song when it blows up, what goes viral on TikTok is still a kind of measurement, especially when you remember that TikTok pulses with the insatiable need of the current generation to turn everything into a community affair, thus having the perfect climate for something so small or so obscure to blow up within just a few hours.