Actually Good TikTok Songs That You Should Listen To in Full

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

willow smith
WILLOW | Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
WILLOW | Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

For awhile, TikTok felt like one big joke that anyone outside of Gen Z didn't understand. 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 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 entire thing.

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"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.)

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"Hell n Back," Bakar

This dreamy 2019 song from London's Bakar became a sleeper hit in the US. 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 raps 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.

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"Prom Queen," Beach Bunny

Emo band Beach Bunny went from a Chicago DIY scene staple to one of the best up-and-coming groups today, and singer 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.

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"Supalonely," BENEE and Gus Dapperton

BENEE, AKA Stella Bennett, is a 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 were at home during COVID lockdown.

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"Unlock It (Lock It)," Charli XCX (feat. Kim Petras, Jay Park)

If TikTok is what it takes for British alt pop artist Charli XCX to finally see major levels of pop stardom, so be it! TikTokkers unearthed her fan favorite deep cut "Unlock It" off her acclaimed 2017 mixtape Pop 2 for a dance challenge. The song is the epitome of Charli's bright and bold sound, with its bouncy production that bubbles until it bursts. Even with its simple, dizzying repetition, the creation between her and her frequent collaborator producer A.G. Cook is like a trip into the digital cosmos.

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"Kiss Me More," Doja Cat (feat. SZA)

Doja Cat is basically the queen of TikTok with more than a handful of sexy viral hits, so leave it to her to serve up the ultimate catchy ode to kissing. The song features her signature disco touch with a mid-tempo groove, and she lays on the Studio 54 '70s hedonism strong with sensual references throughout that'll get you in the mood. As a certified song of the summer contender (with explicit lyrics that make for spicy lip syncs), the track is all over the app. It's basically meant for a spot on your makeout playlist, and a jam on its own, no less.

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"Levitating," Dua Lipa

One of the best songs off Dua Lipa's 2020 album Future Nostalgia finally hit the No. 2 spot of the Hot 100 in spring 2021 thanks to TikTokkers (and a late 2020 remix featuring DaBaby). People on the app frequently recorded over the "you want me, I want you baby" verse in reference to everything from junk food to risky decision making, but the nu disco song is even more fun beyond the line. The pop star invokes images of futurism with references to jet setting off into the Milky Way over a pop-disco track. The result is a blast, and makes you wish you could actually join Dua at a roller rink on Mars.

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"Sugarcrash," ElyOtto

Even as the frenetic electronic genre hyperpop increasingly becomes part of the conversation in music, a lot of songs and artists still exist on the fringes. Teenaged Canadian artist ElyOtto has seen some success on the charts, though, thanks to his track "Sugarcrash" blowing up on TikTok. Singing about feeling burnt out in a pixie-esque voice over eccentric production, it sounds like, well, the euphoria of a sugar rush. The song's own lyric rings true: "Hyperpop up in my ears, everything just disappears."

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"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, looping 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.)

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"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. 

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"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 as TikTok's body positivity anthem. Like most of Meg's music, it's danceable with wonderfully sexual 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."

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"Deja Vu," Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia Rodrigo seemed to come out of virtually nowhere in early 2021, and immediately started breaking records with her debut single "Driver's License." TikTokkers contributed to the success, since many were already familiar with the star, who just so happens to be a Gen Z Disney darling. Her follow-up, "Deja Vu" proved she was never going to be a one-hit-wonder, though, and is one of the best songs off her debut Sour. The song is similarly all over the app, and shows how much of a pop wunderkind Rodrigo is. It's in the vulnerable details of her past relationship (eating ice cream with one spoon and singing together like two obnoxious starry-eyed teens) that heighten her mourning of, as she describes, seeing her ex recycle those same moments with another girl. It's transfixing, and no wonder her heart-on-her-sleeves lyrics have inspired some teary Toks.

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"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 clichés 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. 

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"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 tune 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. 

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"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. 

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"Good Days," SZA

SZA has the power to get anyone in their feelings, TikTokkers included. "Good Days" is the R&B singer's 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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"T r a n s p a r e n t s o u l," WILLOW (feat. Travis Barker)

If you haven't heard, pop punk is back, with Gen Z-ers convinced they were meant to grow up with Myspace, Warped Tour, and scene haircuts, thanks to the influence of Hayley Williams and Machine Gun Kelly's 2020 albums and a few of Olivia Rodrigo's tracks. The pop punk of 2021 looks a bit different from its past, though, with more young women and people of color leading the charge. One of the biggest hits from the revival is this song from WILLOW (a.k.a. Willow Smith). Taking pointers from her mother Jada Pinkett Smith's time in a nu metal band, the artist goes full mall goth, singing with a vengeance at exploitative, fake peers. With Travis Barker of Blink-182 firing away on drums, it calls for head banging and a trip to Hot Topic.

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