The TikTok Songs of the Summer: Top 16 Hits
Whatever fate befalls the platform in the coming weeks—MicrosoftxWalmart takeover? Donald Trump shutdown?—summer 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as the Summer of TikTok. Almost 700 million users visited the app in July alone.
They were also turning a cherished pop-culture tradition on its head: The songs that once soundtracked the weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day were no longer originating from car stereos and cookouts—radio and streaming services, in other words—they were rising from the trends and dances that dominate TikTok. The platform drove hits up the charts and, more importantly, filled the long days of quarantine with joyful new sounds.
With TikTok, everything is supersized. Creators who have followers in the thousands on Instagram can hit the millions on TikTok, which is why when songs go viral on TikTok, they really go viral.
Viral hits “typically start by first gaining popularity within small groups of creators,” William Gruger, TikTok music editorial lead, explains over email. “These include cosplayers ("Haha" by Lil Darkie), vloggers ("Backyard Boy” by Claire Rosenkranz), Kpop fans ("I Like Him" by Princess Nokia), and more often than not, dancers.”
“When a song goes super viral is when it transcends one community and can be used in just about any type of video you can imagine, like Doja Cat's ‘Say So,’ which has more than 20 million creates on the platform,” Gruger continues. “Viral songs more often than not are heavily remixed, not just with other songs but with inside jokes or whatever is the meme of the moment (the Carole Baskin remix of ‘Savage,’ for instance).”
Based on the TikTok hits of the past few months, Gruger describes summer 2020 as “energetic chaos.” These are the songs that dominated the app this summer, and my brain as I tried to fall asleep every night.
(Some fine print: TikTok hasn't provided any definitive data on the most popular songs on the app this summer. We came up with this list based on our own obsessive listening and online chatter. We then ranked the tracks by the number of “creates,” which means how many videos use the song as audio.)
The story of Avenue Beat’s “F2020” is music to TikTok’s ears. After failing to find success on other platforms, the band made a TikTok video lamenting their disappointment, and paired it with this track. Posted on June 27, the video—a perfect retort to this difficult year—blew up (it now has over 15 million views). It inspired a TikTok trend, and the band’s overnight success earned them write-ups in Rolling Stone and Paper, and a video with Genius.
15. “Figure It Out”
Previously known for her cover songs, Blu DeTiger debuted her first single, “Figure It Out,” back in April. The song accompanies craft videos, cooking videos, and was even lip-synced by Dixie D’Amelio.
14. “Do It”
Chloe x Halle
Chloe x Halle have been making music since 2017, but “Do It” is their first release to blow up on TikTok thanks to the dance they created for it and the support of popular creators like Charli D’Amelio and Mia Khalifa.
13. “Watermelon Sugar”
Sometimes TikTok trends involve complicated dances to songs or impressive transitions. For others, like Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar,” it just means making yourself look blazed every time Styles sings “high.”
Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion
YouTube may have censored Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s newest single, but the TikTok dance makes up for it.
“Thanks to the dance styling of processional choreographer Brian Esperon, and to the myriad of memes created around its debaucherous lyrics, ‘WAP’ has been the top trending song on TikTok for over a week,” Gruger says. “Plus, TikTok loves Cardi B and especially Megan Thee Stallion, whose ‘Savage’ dance is no doubt one of the top trends of 2020.”
11. “Ice Me Out”
1.7 M creates
Kash Doll’s “Ice Me Out” was actually released in 2018, but like many other unexpected hits, it later found new life on TikTok. The song picked up steam back in May for the line “I ain't gotta get naked for no tennis bracelet.”
10. “Then Leave”
BeatKing feat. Queendome Come
1.9 M creates
The lyrics, “Get that bread, get that head, then leave” got top creators like Charli D’Amelio, James Charles, and Addison Rae on board with creator Jahmya Johnson’s dance.
2.1 M creates
On August 6, musician Netta Barzilai woke up to see her song “Toy” had gone viral on TikTok. Its online fame was a long time coming after the Isreali singer won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2018 thanks to the single.
8. “Backyard Boy”
2.3 M creates
“Claire Rosenkranz was already making videos on TikTok when her own song, ‘Backyard Boy,’ quadrupled in daily creates thanks to a choose your own adventure-style trend that took off to the song,” Gruger writes. “This laid-back rock song soundtracks everything from DIY home projects, cooking videos, pet montages and over 2.1 million videos on TikTok.”
7. “Soph Aspin Send”
2.5 M creates
Much to British users’ confusion, the song by former teenage grime artist Millie B is taking over the app thanks to a lip sync video by Bella Poarch with over 217 million views. While the original 2016 song is seen as somewhat of a joke—think England’s version of Rebecca Black’s “Friday”—you wouldn’t know it from the 2.5 million people who have made videos with it.
6. “Hood Baby”
Another commonly lip-synced song, including by famous people like Kourtney Kardashian. The dance comes straight from the music video itself, in which three people alternate singing the lyrics, popcorn-style.
5. “Flatbread Freestyle”
4.4 M creates
This single dropped in 2018, but Gen Z recently resurrected it—the first five seconds, at least.
4. “Savage Love (Laxed - Siren beat)”
Jawsh 685 & Jason Derulo
Jason Derulo posts a lot on TikTok, so it makes sense that one of his songs would dominate the app. I’ll let Derulo himself show you how it’s done:
Had to repost this @itsjonathanle @justmaiko♬ Savage Love (Laxed - Siren Beat) - Jawsh 685 & Jason Derulo
3. “Mi Pan Su Su”
5.2 M creates
You knew the dancing llama was going to rank high on this list. “I don’t really know why it’s so viral,” Yosa, a TikTok user from Mexico who posted the clip, told me last month. But there’s nothing more TikTok than a song based on a Russian cereal commercial going viral with Spanish users on its way to dominating the globe.
7.5 M creates
If you don’t immediately start absent-mindedly doing the TikTok dance to this song when you hear it playing, then you and I had very different quarantine experiences.
1. “Party Girl”
13.1 M creates
And finally, the song that inspired over 13 million videos. Released in 2019, it first started picking up steam on TikTok in April and only grew over the next four months. When I hear this, I will never not think of summer 2020—whiiiiich may not be a good thing.