Written By Hailey Oppenlander
Though the rise of some viral TikTok songs remains a mystery (read: Backyardigans), TikTok can be a great space for up-and-coming musicians. Even a short clip of a song or an artist showing off their Spotify page can compel me to listen to their discography 一 because who doesn’t love discovering new music?
TikTok Musicians To Watch This Year
Here are just a few TikTok music artists to check out when you are strolling through TikTok.
KOLE has a wide range of songwriting credits, from Meghan Trainor (after winning an episode of NBC’s Songland) to K-pop group NCT. I enjoy her TikToks because you don’t only see the product, you see the process too. She makes videos explaining how some of her songs came to be, while others are in-the-moment clips of songs she just wrote or produced.
Based on these small teasers, viewers often comment asking when they’ll get the full song, showing how TikTok can be a good way to test out new music. I recommend her song “common sense,” with its kaleidoscopic chromatic scales, which viewers first got a taste of on TikTok. KOLE’s breathy voice, songwriting genius, and well-produced music are a recipe for success on TikTok and beyond.
JORDY makes easy-to-listen-to and catchy pop music. He’s a master at putting deep lyrics on top of danceable beats, like in his song “Long Distance:”
“I would rather be distant with you / Than feel distant with someone who is living right down the street / But don’t feel close to me”
Many of his songs deal with scenarios that viewers can relate to, from being friendzoned to over-apologizing to just wanting to be loved — and from viewer comments on the videos, it’s clear that his music speaks to people. Although he posts a lot of original content, JORDY also posts videos like reimagined covers of early 2000s pop hits.
ella jane (@ellajanemusic)
ella jane was the first artist that I discovered on TikTok, and I’m constantly recommending her songs to my friends. The way that she promotes her music feels natural and perfectly fits the platform. Here is a quirky TikTok video that gives us a taste of her musical style as well as her personality.
The first TikTok of ella jane’s that I watched didn’t even have her music playing in the background. In the video, she described her sound by listing bigger artists that she’s similar to and inspired by. When she named Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers, I immediately opened Spotify and checked out her discography.
I listened to “AUGUST IS A FEVER” first and was instantly drawn in by her voice, the vocoder and the addictive melody. My favorite song of hers is “bored&blind,” because of its youthful sound and clever lyrics:
“Well, how many figures will it take / For you to bring me back my heart? / ‘Cause right now, it’s sittin’ in your basement / Hidden in the back with some stolen art / And, hey, Mona Lisa / While you’re smiling, will you give him one for me?”
ella jane has 5 songs out right now (with new music on the way), but she promises to be something big. Just like the first TikTok of hers that I watched, I hope that someday I can brag about being a fan since the beginning!
J. Maya (@j.mayamusic)
In an alternate world, maybe J. Maya would be making TikToks about her life as a successful lawyer. After graduating from Harvard in 2020, she was supposed to go to Harvard Law School. Instead, she’s blazing a path for a new genre she calls “nerd pop.”
Her first single, “Achilles Heel,” was inspired by her love for Greek mythology. Thanks to the clever metaphors and similes spun throughout the lyrics, the song went viral, and she just released a second single “Thanatos (End of Us)” on June 11. J. Maya shows the importance of knowing your niche audience and engaging with those fans in a casual, relatable way.
Dylan Davidson (@hidyland)
Dylan Davidson’s voice is heavy with emotion, akin to Lewis Capaldi’s (who Davidson has covered before). Davidson reminds viewers that music is inspired by feeling and has videos singing along to songs in his car, adding harmonies that showcase the power in his voice, but feel completely born of emotion in the moment.
Sarah Barrios (@sarahbarrios)
Sarah Barrios’s “IH8EVERY1” was a TikTok request that turned into a full song. Barrios frequently posts “you ask, I write” videos, where viewers ask for a song on a certain topic, and she returns with a few lyrics. Someone asked for a song about falling in love, but not wanting to, and “IH8EVERY1” was the result. After receiving encouraging comments from viewers wanting more, Barrios turned it into a full song 一 because everyone needs a song to headbang to for the summer.
MaKenzie Thomas (@itsmakenzietw)
If you recognize MaKenzie Thomas, perhaps you saw her make it to the semi-finals on Season 15 of The Voice — or maybe you’ve seen her TikToks showing off her amazing vocal control, range, and emotion. She just released a cover album, Love, MaKenzie, and also sings a wide range of covers on her TikTok account. Her talent is worthy of a bright stage, but she shines in the casual setting of her TikToks. She films covers in a laid-back way and does impressive runs ending with an “um, yeah.”
LØLØ is a Canadian pop-punk artist who has proven she’s not limited to one genre on TikTok. Some of her most-watched videos are of her taking popular songs and rewriting them from the opposite perspective, like Olivia Rodrigo’s “deja vu” and Adele’s “Someone Like You.” But, these soft and intimate spins on pop hits are only a taste of the genres her voice can tackle. Her original music can bring out the early 2000s pop-punker in anyone, with relatable lyrics like “I can’t keep a plant alive even if I tried to / . . . I kill everything I’ve ever loved.”
With her iconic insect wing glasses and uplifting energy, Mega’s ukelele covers span a variety of genres and highlight both the power and intimacy of her voice. She’s interactive with other users on the platform, adding stunning harmonies to other artists’ music and creating her own lyrics for duets that tell a story. In addition to her covers, her original music showcases her soulful voice, which can take on a variety of sounds.
Indie soul artist Mysie has a celestial voice that can be both soothing and haunting at the same time. Although her reflective music is entrancing, Mysie’s TikToks are enchanting in another sense. She puts her own spin on what’s popular on TikTok, dancing to her own songs and sharing heartwarming videos of her parents listening to her music. One of my favorites is a video of a day in the studio as all the parts come together on a new song, so that viewers feel invested in her music too.