Since its inception, TikTok has filled the Vine-shaped hole (RIP, sweet prince) of short-form video content in our hearts. Unexpectedly, it has also evolved into a platform for trending dance crazes, streaming live concerts, and contracting earworms. No, not just viral sounds; actual music we can’t get out of our heads. With an expansive, ever-growing library of original clips from timeless hits to unknown bops, the platform has become not only a place to hear your current favorite song but also a place to discover your next one.
That song that started it all, if you will, is “Say So” by Doja Cat. The song was released in January 2020 with lackluster commercial success from a relatively unknown artist at the time. Four months, one pandemic, and a TikTok challenge later, the song was inescapable, scoring Doja Cat her first number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 and skyrocketing her career to superstardom. When Sam Smith and Kim Petras teased their collaborative 2023 track “Unholy” on TikTok weeks ahead of the release, it landed the two artists their first Billboard Hot 100 hits, reshaped Sam Smith’s trajectory as a pop star, brought Kim Petras onto the mainstage, and earned them a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
While TikTok has become a go-to app for minting hits, it’s also become a place to introduce gems of yesteryear to new audiences. From the 2019 single-that-should-have-been “Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift to the 1977 song “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, the platform has the power to resurrect both hits and misses in the sonic lexicon. With that in mind, here are ten songs that deserve their turn in the TikTok limelight. Brands, take note!
“Sandcastle Disco” Solange (2008)
Released as a single on Knowles’ second album, Sol-Angel & the Hadley St. Dreams, this disco-inspired track failed to get the radio play that had been anticipated with Cee-Lo Green at the helm; though over the years, it’s become one of the album’s better-known songs. The chorus outro, “Bay-ba-ba-ba-ba-by, don't blow me away,” is perfect for a dance @happykelli herself would want to put her spin on.
“Comme Des Garçons (Like the Boys)” Rina Sawayama (2020)
While Sawayma has seen commercial success from being featured on Charli XCX’s “Beg For You,” there is huge potential for TikTok users to tap back into the artist’s catalog and give this one the recognition it deserves. Imagine fashion week content with creators strutting their stuff to this bop. Side note: why hasn’t the brand Comme Des Garçons used this for an ad campaign yet?!
“Tell It to My Heart” Taylor Dayne (1987)
Following predecessors like “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush and “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon, this hit could go toe-to-toe with the best of Chappell Roan and Carly Rae Jepsen. We need a pop girlie to give this song the second life it rightly deserves — cover it in the BBC Radio 1 studio, please! I vote for Maude Latour to breathe life back into this one-hit wonder. While we wait for that glorious day, the original track should get its props with a cute twist—what’s a product you can’t live without? Grab some ’80s glam makeup and create a video celebrating your long-term love: long-wear mascara.
“Only Wanna Be With You” Hootie & the Blowfish (1994)
This song NEEDS to be introduced to a younger audience. Darius Rucker’s solo career outlasted the band’s, but the youths need to know where he came from. Need a sentimental yet upbeat soft rock jam to recap your wedding weekend? This song. Need a little ditty to recap your romantic weekend at the lake? This song. Love your dog more than most humans and want to celebrate that? You guessed it: this song.
“Brokenhearted” Karmin (2012)
Pop duo Karmin saw mild success in the early 2010s after covering songs on YouTube. This minor hit had a moment, but one that didn’t last long enough. Although Amy Noonan has found her solo fame on TikTok under the pseudonym Qveen Herby, the second rap verse of “Brokenhearted” deserves its own challenge and filter, à la “Heated” by Beyoncé.
"I Think I Love You” The Partridge Family (1970)
The lyrics “I don’t know what I’m up against/I don’t know what it’s all about/I got so much to think about” could apply to any overwhelming situation or even the anxiety of daily life, let’s be honest. For the self-care TikTok girlies, this loop is the perfect tongue-in-cheek audio to show that the life of [insert any profession] has its pitfalls and difficulties.
“The Locomotion” Little Eva (1962)
While Carole King is the original writer of this song, and Kylie Minogue covered it in the late ‘80s, the original by Little Eva is an absolute bop. You know the trends where people walk from left to right of the frame in what seems like a never-ending train? How many songs are there about actually dancing like a train? THIS IS THE ONLY ONE. Little Eva monopolizes the genre and deserves a formal salute from the TikTok train platform as this future trend leaves the station. Without Little Eva, we would have missed out on so many “Littles” that came after her: Little Mix, Little Dragon, Little Big Town, Lil Mama, and, of course, Lil Wayne.
“When I Grow Up” The Pussycat Dolls (2008)
With the rise of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon stars finding new careers on TikTok (think Josh Peck, Christy Carlson Romano, and the weird pairing of the best friend and the dad from Wizards of Waverly Place), there is an opportunity for them to do something akin to the high-school-yearbook-fast-forward-to-high-school-reunion trend featuring the song “Spirit” by The Strumbrellas and go full tilt on this one. The iconic line “Used to tell me I was silly… till I popped up on the TV” highlights how impactful their career launchpads were and why people should know who they are in this new wave of fame.
“Wake Up” Hilary Duff (2005)
Speaking of favorite Disney Channel stars, Hilary Duff has had a few minor resurgences on TikTok with her viral choreography for “With Love” on the Today Show and the “not today” line from “So Yesterday.” But the world needs “Wake Up” to have its second moment in the sun. Picture a travel blogger using the chorus to highlight global travel from “New York, Hollywood, and Vine, London, Paris, or Tokyo.” This suggestion is admittedly self-interested; with a TikTok hit, Hilary could be inspired to give us all what we’re asking for — new music to belt into a hairbrush.
ARTPOP (the full album, not just the title track) Lady Gaga (2013)
Lady Gaga may have chosen not to acknowledge this album since its release ten years ago, but that is so myopic of her. Every. Single.Track. is pop perfection and should get the recognition it deserves. From the opening sitar on “Aura” to the infamous line “Don’t you know my ass is famous” on “Venus,” Lady Gaga shows us what pop culture looks like when you’re at the top. It was ahead of its time, and the people united need to get on TikTok and bring it back in the year it was meant to be released: 2023. This album deserves TikTok fame, all 14 tracks on the top 14 spots on the Billboard Hot 100, and every Grammy nomination possible. To quote Gaga herself, “My ARTPOP could mean anything,” to us, it means EVERYTHING.
Brandon Wagoner is a longtime Director of Client Services at Fohr. While he has a lot of takes on music, he really hits his high notes when executing brand campaigns. If you’re looking for music recs or support on an upcoming campaign, reach out to him anytime at email@example.com.