Entertainment

Actually Good TikTok Songs That You Should Listen To in Full

You know the TikTok dance, now get to know the music.

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Sza | Burak Cingi/Redferns/Getty Images
Sza | Burak Cingi/Redferns/Getty Images

TikTok already feels like one big joke that anyone outside of Gen-Z doesn't understand–and it doesn't help that it's largely built around music that only the teens are listening to. The video sharing app is brutally inescapable, though, and has probably exposed you to a handful of clips of songs you can't get out of your head just by appearing on your social feeds that aren't TikTok. Originating from the lip-syncing app musical.ly, much of the TikTok-verse is all about making content to lay over the perfect song–be it coming up with a new dance craze, lip-syncing, or soundtracking some sort of comic relief. The success of a TikTok song is a bit confounding since "old" songs do resurface on the app—going all the way back to the freakin' 19th century—but its pull on what's trending in music is undeniable, making charting hits out of even obscure releases that the kids are playing over their brief videos. 

Like all music, not every TikTok song is amazing, but there are a handful of gems on the app that are definitely worth listening to in full. Here are the best of those TikTok songs you've heard parts of, but should definitely listen to the whole thing.

"Daisy," Ashnikko

If parents are at all freaked out by Billie Eilish, Ashnikko might be their worst nightmare. The neon-blue-haired rapper looks like a walking anime punk princess. Although, to that she would probably say, "Fuck a princess, I'm a king," which is the commanding chorus of her hit "Daisy" that's all about how much of a badass she is. It's menacing with her snarky lyrics and trap beat that sounds like it could soundtrack a Halloween movie—but that's what makes it so twisted and fun. It's the perfect fit for not only on glam TikTok, but Harry Potter villain Draco Malfoy fan fiction TikTok. (Yes, you read that right.)

"Hell n Back," Bakar

This dreamy 2019 song from London's Bakar became a sleeper hit in the US this year. An indie rock innovator (with a lovely voice that's strikingly similar to Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke's), Bakar seamlessly mixes indie with bits of ska and doo-wop based on his slight rap and buoyant horns. It's like the warm glow of the sun pushing through the clouds after a rain storm, as he describes the somber place he was in before he met his lover. TikTokers have found the sunniness in it, too. 

"Prom Queen," Beach Bunny 

Emo band Beach Bunny recently went from a Chicago DIY scene staple to one of the best up-and-coming groups today, and frontwoman Lili Trifilio's earnest lyrics about the doldrums of young womanhood are part of why they're so great. Songs like "Prom Queen," about how much beauty standards suck, are extremely relatable, so it's no surprise that it took off on TikTok with videos that interpret the lyrics and encourage viewers to be comfortable with themselves. The song's got a thoughtful message, even as it somberly recognizes how difficult it is not to compare ourselves to others, and those hooks are things of pop-punk dreams.

"Supalonely," BENEE and Gus Dapperton

BENEE, AKA Stella Bennett, is the latest young pop phenom out of New Zealand. She makes woozy, catchy songs that are touched by a hint of ska, and it's a good thing the TikTok kids caught wind of her stateside. Joined by her hazy bedroom artist contemporary Gus Dapperton, her song "Supalonely" is indie pop magic, singing about how she's a "lonely bitch" while poking fun at the very trope. The fun beat is definitely optimal to inspire a TikTok dance, but the tongue-in-cheek song couldn't be a better track to take off while the world is social distancing, inspiring clips of how bored people are at home. Let "Supalonely" be your quarantine anthem, too. 

"Sugar," Brockhampton

Shout out to Gen Z for recognizing the greatness that is Brockhampton and making them the success story that they've become. If you have yet to check out the self-described boy band made up of an entire rap/art collective, they already have five albums to their name so there's more than enough of their diverse, alt hip-hop to get into. "SUGAR," off their most recent record GINGER, has taken off on TikTok and although it doesn't go as hard as some Brockhampton songs, it shines where it's stripped back and utilizes the crooners in the group's voices to sound like a '90s R&B hit.

"Candy," Doja Cat

Doja Cat is basically the queen of TikTok. While the singer/rapper has been making waves online with attention-grabbing videos like "Mooo!" for a while now, TikTok helped to propel her to success this year with her '70s-esque "Say So" taking off on the app and becoming a prime example of a viral-made mega hit. Chances are you've heard that sweet pop number at least a thousand times by now, since that song and dance number are practically TikTok canon, so you should check out another hit on the app of hers, "Candy." While it was actually released back in 2018, it's inspired choreography like "Say So." About a sly seductress with a sticky beat, it's the kind of addicting song that'll give you a cavity. 

"Dreams," Fleetwood Mac

This 1977 hit needs no introduction. Bless viral star Nathan Apodaca for its resurgence, though, with his totally blissed out TikTok of him listening to the song while skateboarding and drinking Ocean Spray. Since the video blew up in fall 2020, the song charted again for the first time in decades and introduced a new generation to the classic rock band. Despite being a severely bitter breakup song on their seminal Rumours—the record the group famously made as they were all ending their romantic relationships with one another—it remains absolutely hypnotizing. 

"In the Party," Flo Milli

When you listen to 20-year-old, LA-based rapper Flo Milli, her fast-spewing rhymes in her signature cutesy voice make it feel as if you're hanging out with her and she's gossiping your ear off. It's what she manages to do on her song "In the Party," joined by a beat that sounds especially saccharine as it loops her vocals into a nursery rhyme-like "la la la." Made up of great, domineering lines about how she secures men, the song was basically meant to take off on TikTok with its very lip sync-able moments. (That is, if you can keep up with her bars.) 

"Lemonade," Internet Money

A chill song that soundtracks a wide variety of videos, "Lemonade" might be the first song you've heard from Internet Money—or, at least, the first you know of from the recording collective founded producer by Taz Taylor. They've also worked on Drake, Lil Baby, and Trippie Redd tracks, and it probably won't be the last time you're hearing from them. This song, which wrangles other trending names in hip-hop including Gunna, is icy and entrancing, pairing the featured artists' melodic voices with an acoustic guitar that carries the beat. In the way that music today has a fetish for defying genre, this song does that in the best, trendiest way possible. 

"Lottery," K Camp

This rap song from Atlanta artist K Camp might actually be more famous for the controversy around its TikTok dance than the song itself. It plays with what's been coined the "renegade dance," referring to producer Reazy Renegade's nametag shouted out in the intro, and the moves behind it were seldom credited to its original choreographer, a dancer named Jalaiah Harmon who originally posted the dance on the app Dubsmash last year. She's since gotten the recognition she deserves and even appeared alongside K Camp to do it, and the song's only grown in popularity. It's definitely worth a listen, too–that minimal, 808-heavy beat sounds as stylish as the luxurious life the rapper touts about in the lyrics ("Cash on me, like I hit the lottery"). 

"Body," Megan Thee Stallion

Megan Thee Stallion has got the hits—which happen to also be excellent on TikTok. Where the rapper's "Savage" was the reigning soundtrack of TikTok choreography, the track "Body" from her debut Good News has found its place at TikTok's body positivity anthem. Like most of Meg's music, it's danceable with wonderfully sexually lyrics, but this one's rapid, repetitive chorus couldn't be more fun. She's got the power to make anybody feel like a worthy candidate of "real hot girl shit."

"Drivers License," Olivia Rodrigo

This song seemingly came out of nowhere in early 2021 and immediately started breaking records—like becoming the most-streamed song on Spotify in a single day ever. No, it didn't come from a pop mainstay, but it also didn't totally come out of nowhere. "Drivers License" is the debut of Gen Z Disney darling Olivia Rodrigo, and a damn perfect pop power ballad. Her fans familiar with her from High School Musical: The Musical: The Series helped it take off, and obviously they took it to TikTok to work through all the emotions it evokes (and try to investigate the teen star love triangle behind it). It turns an act of melancholic malaise—driving past an ex's house—into the high-stakes phase of high school heartbreak that it is. Trickled in with production resonant of Lorde's Melodrama, it's the gleaming debut of a pop wunderkind.

"Go Stupid (feat. Lil Tjay)," Polo G, Stunna 4 Vegas, NLE Choppa

The music video for "Go Stupid" and its opening verses, referring to waiting for the final school bell to chime, have inspired more than a few videos about high school clichĂ©s and tutorials. But this recent Mike WiLL Made-It-produced track from Chicago's latest young star Polo G is much more than that, in fact the banger goes so hard, its quick, drill-style lines will plow you over. 

"I Like Him," Princess Nokia

As women have been objectified in rap for years, it's been a treat as more women rappers blow up and flip the script. On this brief, sexy song from New York City-based rapper Princess Nokia, the blunt recording artist iterates all of the boys she's crushing on, and what she'll do in order to get them under her spell. It's like the soundtrack for swiping on dating apps—that is, if the app only showed hot, swipe-right-worthy options. And since everybody's got crushes that keep them up at night, the teens are playing this one over vids that highlight the fictional characters and celebrities that have stolen their hearts.

"Ballerina," Raffaella 

NYC-bred indie pop artist Raffaella's "Ballerina" is a sunny sounding diddy you'll hear accompanying random, light videos. The song may sound sweet, but like much of Raffaella's work, there's a lot of cynicism pervading her glistening pop. About selling yourself short, or telling yourself the lie that it's more comfortable to never try in order to avoid failing ("A sparkling quitter, self-love counterfeiter / I'm safe and I'm stuck as a potential winner"), her rather sad introspection is offset by an effervescent sound. It's like leaning in to smell a flower, only to disturb a bee collecting pollen so you get stung—and a great entry to this up-and-comer's work. 

"Roses," SAINt JHN

The challenge that made this track take off on TikTok may be cringe-worthy, with couples showing how in sync they are with one another, but don't let that deter you from giving it a listen. The song from Brooklyn-based American-Guyanese rapper SAINt JHN actually dates back to 2016, but thanks to Kazakh DJ Imanbek's remix, which played against the TikTok challenge, the song got a new life (and eventual second remix with Future). JHN's voice is sultry as he relays the tough background he's come out of, and how he's constantly searching for something to fill him up. The hip-hop song pours out slow and heavy, just enough to put you in a trance. 

"Good Days," SZA

SZA has the power to get anyone in their feelings, TikTokkers included. "Good Days" is the R&B singer's first solo release in quite some time, and an utterly dreamy song about trying move on from the past in order to chase the good days of tomorrow. One verse in particular has been knocking the wind out of the TikTok teens—"I worry that I wasted the best of me on you, babe / You don't care"—which should be enough of an indication of this one's emotional potency.

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment editorial assistant at Thrillist. She's on Twitter at @mssadiebell.
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