May 11, 2020 - Economy

TikTok proves its power with another Billboard chart-topper

Doja Cat performs in Los Angeles last year. Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

TikTok has vaulted another song to the top of the Billboard charts as Doja Cat's "Say So," assisted by a new remix featuring Nicki Minaj, hit No. 1 this week.

Why it matters: It's the latest in a string of songs to find viral success on the app — this time, fueled by a viral dance created by 17-year-old Haley Sharpe — before breaking through to become the most commercially successful song in the country.

  • It joins Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" and Arizona Zervas' "Roxanne" among the songs that made the jump from TikTok to the upper echelons of the Billboard charts.
  • The decision to have Minaj appear parrots the strategy used by Lil Nas X and Billie Eilish during their battle for the top chart position last year — using the continued buzz to refresh and rehype content.
  • Minaj, despite all her star power, hadn't had a No. 1 hit in her 108 Billboard chart appearances before attaching herself to "Say So" — by far the longest wait for a No. 1 hit in history.

The state of play: The song shows how key a choreographed dance can be vital to sustained success on TikTok — and eventually to a wider audience.

  • And the big players recognize the potential: Last month, Drake released "Toosie Slide" — it features a chorus of purely dance instructions — a song so calculated for TikTok virality that Pitchfork called it "strictly a business decision."

The bottom line: The continued success of "Say So" shows how Generation Z can still be a few months ahead of the music industry's best A&R people — as it rapidly evolves to try to adapt to this new viral paradigm.

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