How the TikTok Generation is Pushing Younger Artists Into the Music Charts
A few months ago, we interviewed Emily Li, a former Chinese Idol finalist and singer-songwriter currently studying at Yale University.
Like many independent artists, Emei has been aggressively promoting her songs on TikTok in hopes of getting noticed by the algorithm. On October 18, a video of her performing her new single, “Late to the Party” blew up and now has 1.5 million views on TikTok.
“Late to the Party” embraces the tropes of alt-pop while highlighting a very common, but neglected issue: the post-college quarter-life crisis. On her TikToks, Emei shares how she “noticed that [she] relates more to the parents in commercial than the children now” and that led her to write the catchy chorus for “Late to the Party.” She sings, “21 without a Grammy or degree / too bad, that’s sad, maybe at 23.” This iconic line is so relatable for many young artists who are trying to make a break on TikTok at the moment.
Emei isn’t the only one who has noticed younger pop stars receiving lots of attention on the charts. In an article for The Guardian, music promoter Steve Homer, co-CEO of AEG Presents, says this is because “there are more artists able to reach more people at an earlier stage of their career.” Homer also credits the unfettered availability of music via streaming also playing a role in younger artists getting lots of attention. Platforms such as TikTok have given all artists, especially the younger generation, a chance to blow up by gaining a large following online or creating captivating digital content.
18-year old, Olivia Rodrigo, is a great example of a young pop star who came out of TikTok. After her song, “driver’s license” blew up on the platform, she quickly rose to become the biggest artist of 2021. Her album, SOUR, debuted on the Billboard Top 10 and immortalized Rodrigo as the first artist in history to debut their first three singles in the top 10 of the Hot 100.
As a young, independent artist myself, these statistics seem to be in favor of younger artists. However, the pressure to succeed at such a young age takes a toll on the mental health of many young artists. Rather than enjoying our youth and focusing on getting a good education, artists must now also worry about gaining success before they even graduate high school or college. In “Late to the Party”, Emei asks, “Why do I care about people my age?” It’s a crucial question that plagues the minds of many young artists, and at the end of the day, many of the factors leading to the success of these young artists are driven by luck. There is, no doubt, an abundance of young and talented artists around the world but rather than supporting each other and honing their craft, these artists often get caught up in marketing and making “viral” songs.
However, the pressure to succeed at such a young age takes a toll on the mental health of many young artists.
At the end of the day, I believe that the first step to achieving success is mastering your craft and being prepared for any situation or opportunity that comes your way. Rather than getting caught up in all the pressure to succeed at a young age, I think artists should be confident in their own identity and artistic voice without having to feel like they’re “too old” to make it, because age doesn’t matter, but your music does.