Photo: Terence Rushin/Getty Images for the Recording Academy
Armani White Details How To Use Social Media To Shape Your Career In GRAMMY U Masterclass
Rising rapper Armani White rocketed to fame via TikTok. During a GRAMMY U Masterclass Presented by Mastercard, White explained how to shape your career using social media: Know yourself, be yourself and stay hungry.
TikTok famous: A phrase that didn't exist a few years ago can now be a golden ticket into the music industry. Today, a 15-second clip has the power to alter someone’s career and life.
Sometimes, going viral on social media is purely luck of the draw. Other times, it’s a very calculated and tactful business strategy that can be used to help the masses realize your full potential and maximize your success. For Philadelphia-born rising rapper Armani White, the latter has never been more true.
A now-viral TikTok of White and friends vibing in the studio to his new song "BILLIE EILISH." changed the trajectory of his career. Within several hours of being uploaded, the video reached two million views and has since surpassed 80 billion views.
White says that while he posted that TikTok in February 2022 for fun, he had no doubt that it would be something special. With his favorite mantra, "losers get lucky, winners do it again," on a loop in his head, White was able to turn what could’ve been a fleeting viral hit into a pivotal career move.
At the HBCU Love Tour in Atlanta this October, White advised students on how to use social media to take their careers to new heights. The discussion is part of the GRAMMY U Masterclass, Presented by Mastercard, and was moderated by musician, actress, and Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter Board member Kat Graham. Read on for GRAMMY U's takeaways from Armani White's masterclass.
It’s Not About Making "TikTok Music," It’s About Making Music That Feels Genuine
Armani White compared the process of being an actor to what it is like to be a musical artist. Actors are constantly having to audition, and one role in a movie or TV show doesn’t necessarily lead to a lasting career. Similarly, one hit song doesn’t immediately make a substantial career for an artist.
The goal isn’t to make a song that will go viral, White continued, noting that he makes music that speaks to his character and experiences. The viral TikTok of White and crew blasting "BILLIE EILISH." over the studio's speakers and goofing off was raw, pure, and true to who he is. This genuine glance behind the curtain is what made his audience feel connected.
Pay Attention To Audience Reactions
Both White and Graham noted that social media can create an overwhelming feeling of comparison. White's advice? Rather than focusing on the number of views other videos are getting, focus on your own analytics.
The rapper said he will dissect a video that has been more successful than others and try to pinpoint what it is about that video that gained traction. Look to see what you did differently in each video and what the outcome was based on that tactic. Then, try to recreate it.
First, Know Who You Are
Even before the attention and opportunity that followed his TikTok, White knew who he was and wanted to be. He advised the audience to refrain from creating a persona that people want to see — that won’t get you far, and you’ll be chained to that version of you.
Instead, know who you are and stick with it. That certainty will allow others to understand your unique perspective and experiences, and will ultimately move you further along in your career. White decided who he was and implements that into every record he creates, whether by himself or in collaboration with others.
"Stay Down, Stay Hungry, Stay Determined"
Though White now has the career he always dreamed of, it wasn’t handed to him on a silver platter. He had to work hard, be patient and remain optimistic when things weren’t going as he had hoped. Even with the popularity of his original TikTok, he had more steps to climb to get the song to where it is now.
White’s first obstacle was finding a way to get the sample he used from N.O.R.E’s song "Nothin'" cleared for use. This is not a task that can be accomplished overnight, and the waiting process can be brutal. He decided the best way to go about this was to get his fans involved.
White encouraged his fans to use "Nothin'" as much as they could in their videos. As trends surrounding the song started rising up, it became clear that people weren’t losing interest in it. The TikTok sound of his song even made its way onto the “for you” page of Billie Eilish, who reposted a video using the sound. This solidified that everyone, including Eilish herself, were supporting not only the song itself, but Armani White as an artist.
White also spoke about life before "BILLIE EILISH." went viral and the struggles he went through. White says that through it all, he kept reminding himself, If I can get there, it’ll be worth it. He is now proud to have an encouraging story for artists to look at and remember that if you stay motivated, your wildest dreams are possible.
Graham echoed these sentiments, adding "Everyone has a unique journey…You gotta really look at yourself and know you have your own journey. Stay humble, hardworking, do the work, and you might just end up on this stage."
The full GRAMMY U Masterclass with Armani White, Presented by Mastercard, is available to stream now. Click the video below to hear more on the advice White and Graham share and the full story behind White's success.
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Photo: Karl Walter
10 Moments From SXSW 2023: Life Lessons With Killer Mike, Acoustic Sets & New Music From Kx5
From The Stage at SXSW to So Satisfying and the RnB Forever Showcase, the Recording Academy’s GRAMMY U team highlights the most exciting moments from SXSW Music Festival.
GRAMMY U Chicago Representative Kegan Grace contributed to this story.
Another iconic year of South by Southwest has come and gone. And while the dust has settled in Austin, there's still much to reminisce about — from unforgettable live shows, to panels and behind the scenes interviews.
The Recording Academy’s GRAMMY U team had their boots on the ground during the best events at SXSW Music Festival, held March 13-18. As the team hopped around town and watched a ton of showcases, they also went backstage to chat with artists about their time at SXSW.
Read on for GRAMMY U's 10 favorite moments from SXSW, and be sure to visit their Instagram for more content from the festival .
PinkPantheress, Rett Madison, Cafuné & Sueco Are So Satisfying
PinkPantheress performs at Mala Vida | Lorne Thomson/Redferns
The GRAMMY U team started the week of music discovery at the IMGN x WMG So Satisfying House on March 14. This multi-day activation at bar/venue Mala Vida showcased a ton of music, with experiential photo areas and loads of LEDs displayed throughout.
Different acts took the stage throughout the night, beginning with singer/songwriter Rett Madison, whose powerful voice filled the room. Indie pop duo Cafuné and rapper Sueco followed, switching up the vibe but keeping the energy high. Pink Pantheress closed out the set for the night. Despite singing to a track, the audience sang along with all her viral hits, while other fans peeked over from outside the venue to catch her set.
The So Satisfying House was also open on March 15 with performances by Tiago PZK, Pheelz, Rini and Elena Rose.
Life (And Career) Lessons From New Order, Killer Mike & More
Killer Mike | Rick Kern/FilmMagic
In the panel "A Songwriter’s Guide to Branding: The Power of No," moderator Evan Bogart, Seeker Music CEO and Recording Academy Songwriter and Composers Wing Chair, spoke with Bonnie McKee, Larry Waddell, and electropop artist/producer MNDR about the ways projects can affect your brand. A songwriter's brand can manifest in many ways, and the projects you take are a reflection of not only the tools you bring to the table, but the type of songwriter you are in a writing session.
The SXSW Keynote conversation with legendary new wave synth pop group New Order. The British band discussed their lengthy recording history, current tour and what has kept them inspired over 40 years. "There’s something in what you're doing that you enjoy very much, otherwise you wouldn’t enjoy doing it," the band said. "The sense of achievement when you play a really good gig, the audience having a good time is a real boost…. It’s like having a party together."
At "Introducing Michael: The Man Known as Killer Mike," the rapper discussed being a thriving Black artist in the industry and how he has embraced his culture. "I have not fully accepted the wealth of knowledge and inspiration from the people who raised me and my culture… I understand how fortunate I am. I move with that intent," he told the audience. "I'm a believer inBlack people. When you hear my music, I'm giving you the power black music gives you when it works. We are capable, we are able. I don't have to be mad at everything or seeking escapism."
Killer Mike also offered wise advice about navigating the industry. "You're going to have bad karma if you're bad to people," he said. "Leave your ego at the doors and enter a place with conversations that people would love."
Acoustic Sounds At Antone’s
Brian Sella performs an acoustic set | GRAMMY U
On Wednesday evening, C3 Management brought their talent to the stage at iconic blues venue Antone’s. The crowd clearly was ready to have a great time, as the line for the event was long and out the door. Once inside, the atmosphere was electric and everyone was hyped for the upcoming acoustic sets by their favorite artists.
GRAMMY U caught Brian Sella of the Front Bottoms strumming his indie rock hits as fans sang along word-for-word. Andrew McMahon showed off his expert musicianship and songwriting on the keyboard, inserting funny anecdotes about how some of those songs came to be throughout his set.
Tomorrow's Stars On The Rise At Bose x NME: C23
Renforshort | Lorne Thomson/Redferns
The Bose x NME: C23 launch party was truly the place to be to witness the future of music. The event featured an incredible outdoor stage and a 15-artist lineup, a fun walkway activation with a panel of all the artists as magazine covers, and swag bags of custom cassettes with all the artists featured that day.
The pop-rock sounds of Canadian artist renforshort resonated with the crowd, and the singer was feeling comfortable. "I’ve done so many shows, it’s second nature to me. I love [performing] so it masks any anxiety I would typically have," she told GRAMMY U.
Singer/songwriter and bassist Blu DeTiger conquered the stage with her funky grooves and spunky energy. Known for showing off her bass skills in her music, DeTiger notes in an offstage interview "Bass is the best instrument ever. My whole mission as an artist is just to bring the instrument more to the forefront and inspire people to pick it up."
Later that night, JVKE's piano stylings and steady, recognizable voice drew cheers as he played his hit "Golden Hour." In a backstage interview, JVKE told GRAMMY U that he "always want[s] to give people the 'feels,' whatever the feels are."
Eladio Carrión, Armani White & Deadmau5 Share The Stage
Eladio Carrión | Christopher Polk
This was the second year of Samsung X Billboard’s The Stage at SXSW, and the three-night concert series has become one of the most highly anticipated programs of the week. Rappers 03 Greedo, Lola Brooks, and Armani White kicked off the series at Moody Amphitheatre in Waterloo Park on Thursday. Lil Yachty was set to headline that night, but the event was cut short due to inclement weather.
The next day, DJ Gabby Got It opened for Latin superstars Eladio Carrión and Feid. Carrión showed his vast range, performing hits "Kemba Walker" and "Tata." Feid followed, keeping the energy of the roaring crowd going with his own hits, "Yandel 150" and "Hey Mar."
To wrap up The Stage for this year, Billboard brought in Kx5, a new project by electronic music veterans Kaskade and deadmau5 on Saturday night. They hyped up the crowd as they began their set with "Bright Lights" and dropped hit after hit through their hour-long set.
Chloe Bailey, Remi Wolf & More At The Future of Music
Sudan Archives | Amanda Stronza/Getty Images for SXSW
Rolling Stone hosted the Future of Music, a four-night series featuring more than 20 acts. With a versatile lineup that included Sudan Archives, Remi Wolf and Chloe Bailey, the crowd could not have been more invested in the lineup.
In a backstage interview with Sudan Archives, the self-taught violinist and artist told GRAMMY U that the stress she feels before arriving to SXSW disappears as she sees "how everyone is rushing and working hard to help and make everything be amazing."
SXSW Goes International: SIPHO., Haru Nemuri & LØREN
SIPHO. (center) | Diego Donamaria/Getty Images for SXSW
SXSW is so much bigger than Texas. Artists from around the globe are a part of the festival's programming.
UK singer/songwriter SIPHO. came across the pond for his first SXSW, showcasing his genre-bending music inspired from great modern R&B artists. Japan's Haru Nemuri attended SXSW for the second time, sharing her musical inspirations of J-pop, experimental pop, and art rock with the crowd.
LØREN, a pop-punk rocker, came from South Korea to attend SXSW for the first time. His past work includes collaborations with BLACKPINK, and singles that have collectively landed more than 14 million YouTube views.
GRAMMY U interviewed these great international artists. Check out our SIPHO. Interview and Haru Nemuri interview on Instagram where they talk about their craft and inspirations.
The RnB Forever Showcase Highlights Emerging Acts
Hosted at The North Door in collaboration with the Recording Academy's Black Music Collective, the RnB Forever Showcase featured many rising stars. A live band backed all the artists, and the lineup was stacked with a spectrum of R&B sounds.
Los Angeles-based Kenyon Dixon discussed his new record with GRAMMY U before heading on stage, noting it’s "really classic R&B vibes for fans of the late ‘90s and early 2000s, but also with a more modern [sound]." V. Rose said her favorite part of SXSW is "seeing so many people show up and believing in themselves, it’s so inspiring."
R&B and pop artist Byron Juane, who is also a member of the Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter, added that was thrilled to be "seeing so many talented people through every genre of music…it inspires me to keep living through my dream."
The Recording Academy Shows Out: A Mixer, A Masterclass & A Party
Andrew McMahon | GRAMMY U
The Recording Academy and its chapters hosted its own events throughout the week as well. The Texas Chapter hosted its annual block party in the outdoor garden at the Four Seasons, with hundreds of industry professionals and artists in attendance. Stellar musical acts like Superfonicos, Sugar Joiko and Lupita Infante kept everyone dancing throughout the night.
There was also a special performance by Dakota Cohen, New York Chapter GRAMMY U member and winner of the GRAMMY U Performer National Contest. Cohen and her five-piece band traveled all the way from Berklee College of Music and lit up the stage with her vibrant energy and a stylistic vocal range.
GRAMMY U's Masterclass Presented by Mastercard featured artist and songwriter Andrew McMahon of Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Moderator Taylor Hanson, a GRAMMY-nominated artist and the Texas Chapter Board President, led a discussion about how to navigate a successful long-term career in the music industry.
The Recording Academy also collaborated with Tunecore to present an industry mixer for artists and industry professionals.
Women That Rock — Onstage And Behind The Scenes
Ava Maybee performs at the Women That Rock day party showcase | Daniel Boczarski/Redferns
Founded by former GRAMMY U New York Chapter Representative Andie Aronow, Women That Rock is a music curation and discovery company that supports up-and-coming women and non-binary musicians. Their Music and Movement Celebration at Cheer Up Charlies featured performances from Cafuné, country singer Katie Toupin, and many others, as well as a pop-up shop of women-owned businesses.
Women That Rock also held a music industry panel at Athleta, which featured artists and professionals from all backgrounds including Charlotte Rose Benjamin and GRAMMY U Director Jessie Allen. The panel dove deep into self-care for women in the music industry, and the best ways to maximize your impact while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
9 Must-See Acts At SXSW 2023: Wet Leg, Balming Tiger, Armani White, The Lemon Twigs & More
Photo: Lorne Thomson/Redferns
9 Must-See Acts At SXSW 2023: Wet Leg, Balming Tiger, Armani White, The Lemon Twigs & More
As the music showcases kick off at South by Southwest 2023, get a preview of some of the most-anticipated acts who will hit the stage in Austin.
When South by Southwest takes over Austin, Texas every spring, the city explodes with culture, new ideas and fresh sounds. Hundreds of artists descend to perform a variety of engaging showcases, intimate sets and show-stopping performances hoping to make their mark.
Since the festival's inception in 1987, the SXSW music showcase has become one of the largest music festivals in the world; everyone from Patti Smith to Childish Gambino to Garth Brooks has been on the bill. But one of the biggest draws of SXSW is the chance for music discovery, as bands from all over the world travel to Austin each year — and this year alone, 1,400 bands will perform throughout the week.
As the 2023 iteration gets into full swing, check out nine buzzing artists appearing at SXSW, including a recent GRAMMY-winning duo, a viral rapper on a victory lap, and popular English music collective rock outfit who is starting to turn heads stateside.
Performing as part of the British Music Embassy showcase, the curiously named Wet Leg is composed of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, who spin bright, buoyant pop that reflects an innocence. As a result, their knack for songwriting and performance garnered them two GRAMMYs in February for Best Alternative Music Performance for single "Chaise Longue" and Best Alternative Album for their eponymous debut (they were also nominated for Best New Artist). As if that weren't enough, their charming hilarity has helped them they've also become TikTok darlings, collecting over 13 million likes on the platform.
"We're just trying to enjoy where we are and where we're going and see what happens," Chambers told GRAMMY.com last year. "I really can't think too far ahead right now — it's a bit scary."
Recently singled out by The Hollywood Reporter as a highlight of this year's festival, Italo-Congolese artist Sans Soucis' sound is branded as a "soul-invigorating" artist. They blend a variety of disparate styles — such as Congolese Rumba, R&B and alt-pop — into a tidy and refreshing sonic package, landing somewhere in between Solange and PinkPantheress. Just listen to the effervescent melodies of the standout track "All Over this Party" for evidence of a sharp talent.
"Sometimes I do solo improvisation sessions," they recently said of their songwriting technique. "I just connect pedals to my synth and record random stuff. On another day, I'll start sampling sounds from them."
Hot off his viral track "Billie Eilish," rapper Armani White rolls into Texas as one of the festival's more well-known featured performers. It's a victory lap that also marks a new chapter for the 26 year-old Philadelphia native who recently released the follow-up single "GOATED," an extension of what he refers to as "happy hood music."
"You see the smile on my face, you see all my jagged teeth and you have no idea what the hell I've been through," he told Notion earlier this year. "That's really what I want to portray – no matter what you go through, you still find a way to stand up and smile."
Influenced by '60s-era bands including the Beach Boys and the Lovin' Spoonful, Chicago natives Divino Nino trace their roots back to Bogota, Colombia. As a result, the mix of the music of their heritage along with their various influences from the '60s manifest itself in spirited and catchy songs like "XO" and "Drive" which boast both Spanish and English lyrics.
"When I listen to a good song, my body inherits the feelings of that track," said vocalist Javier Forero to the website 15 Questions. "I just become intoxicated and get inspired to dance or make a track that reminds me of those feelings."
Considered a household name in the busy London music scene, the collective Steam Down makes their American debut at SXSW to demonstrate why their star is rising back home. A music collective founded by the producer Ahanse, their debut single, "Free My Skin," promptly set the internet on fire upon its release. Along with now infiltrating the American market, they're currently prepping a highly anticipated debut album.
"How can we live in a more harmonious way?" says Ahnase of his overarching goal to Sussex Jazz Magazine. "How can we create the feeling of what that can be? That inspired what Steam Down is now, which is: how do we start thinking about how music can be the tool for creating harmony between people?"
From a London music collective to a South Korean one, Balming Tiger is made up of a ragtag group of creatives (including rapper Omega Sapien and the singer/songwriter Sogumm). Their esoteric production and melodically adventurous songs may make you think of BROCKHAMPTON, but with a K-pop twist. The group heads to SXSW riding high on their biggest success to date, the popular "섹시느낌 SEXY NUKIM" which features BTS member RM and has collected 52 million streams on Spotify alone.
"We are pushing our agenda to broaden the genre of K-Pop," frontman Omega Sapien told High Snobiety last year. "The world is not ready for this part of K-Pop yet. Welcome to the dark side."
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs
With a name like that, you could have perhaps guessed that the group is a stoner-rock band. Hailing from Newcastle, England, the eccentric group — also known as Pigs x7 — has been steadily rising since the release of their quirky 2017 debut Feed the Rats, which began a fearless hard-rock reputation. The group rolls into Austin weeks after the release of their fourth album, Land of Sleeper.
"As a band we're constantly playing on the edge of absurdity and absolute commitment to seriousness," guitarist/producer Sam Grant recently told The Line Of Best Fit. "Somehow we're constantly trying to sit in the middle of it..."
The Lemon Twigs
Hailing from Long Island, New York, this duo made up of brothers Brian and Michael D'Addario was born out of a childhood as Broadway performers. Now in their late 20s, the pair later zeroed an artist project of their own and set to release their fourth studio album, Everything Harmony, in May.
As a result of their indie-slash-glam rock sound, the group has won praise from everyone including Iggy Pop and Elton John, the latter of whom raved of the group: "They're so out of left field in their songs. They don't have any rules and that's sometimes the way it should be."
After California native Samuel Regan met Bologna, Italy-born Luca Lovisetto while studying abroad in Italy, the two became musical partners — and now, they're eight years and four studio albums in. The shimmering sounds of Baseball Gregg will be on display all over Austin, including a showcase presented by the Italian Trade Agency. Their music, meanwhile, has inflections of sunny California pop; take for instance "Sad Sandra" which opens with a glistening synth and is complimented by falsetto vocals that joyfully shine like the sun.
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Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: March To Your Own Beat Monthly Member Playlist
The GRAMMY U Mixtape is a monthly, genre-spanning playlist to quench your thirst for new tunes, all from student members. GRAMMY U shares the best dance, EDM and hip-hop songs to get you up and marching to your own beat!
Did you know that among all of the students in GRAMMY U, songwriting and performance is one of the most sought after fields of study? We want to create a space to hear what these students are creating today!
The GRAMMY U Mixtape, now available for your listening pleasure, highlights the creations and fresh ideas that students are bringing to this industry directly on the Recording Academy's Spotify and Apple Music pages. Our goal is to celebrate GRAMMY U members, as well as the time and effort they put into making original music — from the songwriting process to the final production of the track.
Each month, we accept submissions and feature 20 to 25 songs that match that month’s theme. This month we’re wanting everyone to get up and dance along with us with songs from our March To Your Own Beat playlist. Showcasing talented members from our various chapters, we felt these songs would give you a break from the stress of your life and allow you to shake it off and dance it out.
So, what’s stopping you? Press play on GRAMMY U’s Mixtape and listen now on Spotify below and Apple Music.
Want to be featured on the next playlist? Submit your songs today! We are currently accepting submissions for songs of all genres for consideration for our February playlist. Whether you write pop, rock, hip hop, jazz, or classical, we want to hear from you. Music must be written and/or produced by the student member (an original song) and you must be able to submit a Spotify and/or Apple Music link to the song. Students must be a GRAMMY U member to submit.
About GRAMMY U:
GRAMMY U is a program that connects college students with the industry's brightest and most talented minds and provides those aspiring professionals with the tools and opportunities necessary to start a career in music.
Throughout each semester, events and special programs touch on all facets of the industry, including the business, technology, and the creative process.
As part of the Recording Academy's mission to ensure the recorded arts remain a thriving part of our shared cultural heritage, GRAMMY U establishes the necessary foundation for music’s next generation to flourish.
Not a member, but want to submit to our playlist? Apply for GRAMMY U Membership here.
Photo: (L-R, clockwise) Max Christiansen, Tyler Conrad, Ethan Phan, Courtesy of Columbia Records, Gus Black
TikTok's Musical Class Of 2022: 12 Singer/Songwriters Who Went From Viral Stars To Hit-Making Artists, From Jax To Nicky Youre
As TikTok continues to send songs and artists into the musical stratosphere, get to know 12 singer/songwriters who masterfully navigated the app and spawned some of the year's biggest hits.
Going into 2022, there was no denying that TikTok had changed the music scene irrevocably. It has arguably become the most prominent way for new artists to emerge — and this year proved to be the most fruitful one yet.
Several of the songs on Billboard's year-end charts started as viral sensations on TikTok, including Nicky Youre's "Sunroof" and Em Beihold's "Numb Little Bug." And as of press time, Jax's "Victoria's Secret" is at No. 2 on the Adult Pop Airplay chart, right under Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero."
Youre, Beihold and Jax are just three of the many singer/songwriters who have turned TikTok virality into chart success and label deals, and three examples of how 2022 has unofficially become the year of the self-made superstar.
In country singer Alexandra Kay's case, Tim McGraw caught wind of her video covering his song "Don't Take The Girl" and invited her to be the opening act on his summer tour. As she argues, the biggest reason TikTok is a key tool for aspiring artists is simple: they hold the power.
"We now have the opportunity to bring our music directly to our audience, hear their thoughts, and then create a marketing plan tailored to those fans based on what they have shared with us," Alexandra Kay tells GRAMMY.com. "The time for independent artists is now."
Below, get to know 12 singer/songwriters who have successfully utilized TikTok as part of their marketing strategy to help kickstart their careers as artists — and solidified themselves as hit-making stars.
Em Beihold was working toward her big break long before social media existed. The 23-year-old has been playing piano since she was 6, and, despite being an All-American fencing champion, she ultimately pursued music.
Beihold's emotive piano-driven pop first caught attention during the pandemic with relatable tracks like "City of Angels" and "Groundhog Day." The TikTok traction set her up for a breakthrough hit with her major-label debut single "Numb Little Bug." The bouncy track — which has a juxtaposing narrative based on the singer's experience with antidepressants — was first teased in 2021, but became a radio smash in 2022 after its official release in January.
"Numb Little Bug" hit No. 1 on Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart in August, nearly a full year after it went viral on TikTok. The song took on a life of its own (also reaching the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100), helping Beihold achieve her goal of solidifying herself as an artist beyond an app.
"It's a double-edged sword," she told Variety of TikTok earlier this year. "There's definitely a pressure, but it also provides opportunities, so I don't know. I kind of see it as both ways, but I've also met like so many friends through literally just scrolling on my For You page."
One of those friends is Stephen Sanchez, who recruited her for a remix of "Until I Found You" in April (more on him later). Beihold released her second EP, Egg In the Backseat, that same month, and is currently gearing up for her North American tour starting in October.
A career in music is nothing new for Ethan Bornick, who has been playing piano since he was 3 and headlining his own tours since he was 9. He admits he "overlooked" TikTok and the power of social media until he noticed other musicians using the platform to share their music. Now, Bortnick feels he has an entirely different career.
"TikTok has pretty much given me the reset that I've always wanted," he says. "I was able to completely rebuild and find my audience, my people… TikTok has not only opened so many doors for me as an artist, but has been so fulfilling to see people resonate with the music so deeply. I've found my foundation for a career that'll hopefully be around for a long time."
Bortnick first made waves in October 2021 with his song "cut my fingers off," which led him to signing with Columbia Records and, as he quips, "finding people that actually wanted to see my crazy piano playing and depressing-a— lyrics." His impressive piano skills and unwavering lyrics are certainly part of his appeal, as further proven by his 2022 release "engravings" — especially the countless videos of fans reacting to his fast-paced piano abilities.
The rising star took his career to another new height on Oct. 15, when he played his first show as a singer/songwriter in his native Florida. He released two more singles before the end of the year, "arsonists" and "happy "f<em></em>*ing birthday" — both of which, of course, he teased plenty on TikTok. "I am constantly in front of new eyeballs," he adds. "It excites me and inspires me to make art that stands out and that showcases what I and only I can bring to the table."
Those who utilized TikTok for artist discovery during the pandemic likely came across one of Jax's many clever parody covers, from Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi" to Olivia Rodrigo's "driver's license." But even those who have never used the app likely heard Jax's name — or at least her voice — this year, thanks to her original song "Victoria's Secret."
The track calls out the lingerie brand for creating body issues through their products and marketing, and hilariously uses their name against them: "I know Victoria's Secret/ She was made up by a dude." Its message has helped Jax achieve global acclaim and earned the singer/songwriter her first entry on the Billboard Hot 100 and Pop Airplay charts. But perhaps most notably, the song even caught the attention of Victoria's Secret CEO Amy Hauk, who sent Jax a letter praising her for addressing "important issues."
It's the kind of impact Jax (whose birth name is Jackie Miskanic) has been working toward for years, as she used to write songs for artists like Paris HIlton and co-wrote with Natasha Bedingfield before making waves as an artist in her own right. As she admitted to Variety, she didn't understand "how organic and natural" TikTok could be when she first started using it. Now, with nearly 13 million followers, more than 212 million likes and an Atlantic Records label deal, it seems she figured it out.
Similar to a few of the artists on this list, pop singer/songwriter Leah Kate first found viral TikTok fame during the pandemic, when her song "F— Up The Friendship" caught the attention of millions. However, her punk-leaning hit "10 Things I Hate About You" took her popularity to the mainstream, becoming her first song to chart globally.
The breakup song's relatability is certainly part of its appeal — especially because it's based on a true story. A self-proclaimed "big list maker," Kate used a real-life "10 things" to inspire the track. "It was like someone pushed a button and I immediately felt better," she recalled to Rolling Stone about the writing session. "I'm not saying this song is a self-help guide, but I know when I realized that my song made me feel better that it might help other people get over a relationship too."
Kate spent the summer touring with Chase Atlantic — which resulted in more virality for the singer thanks to her witty response to some haters — and recently wrapped a headlining UK/Europe trek. She is currently embarking on her first-ever Australian tour, including a performance at Tik Tok's "For You" festival. "10 Things I Hate About You" recently hit 1 million videos using the sound on Tik Tok, bolstering Kate to drop the deluxe version of her EP "Alive and Unwell" on Dec. 16.
Alexandra Kay first gained traction on TikTok with covers, which especially caught buzz because of her vocal likeness to Dolly Parton (her "Jolene" cover is one of her most popular videos to date). But 2022 proved to be Kay's year, particularly after Tim McGraw noticed her talent when she covered his '90s hit "Don't Take The Girl" — which earned Kay an invite to open on McGraw's summer tour from the country star himself.
Kay spent the remainder of the year headlining shows across the U.S. and released a single called "Skip This Part," which she said has "the most Taylor Swift inspired bridge of all time." After releasing her latest single, "Backroad Therapy," Kay made her debut at Nashville's famed Grand Ole Opry in November and headlined another stretch of shows.
Despite her global success, Kay is determined to stay an independent artist, and one who writes and produces her own music.
"I am so incredibly proud of the genuine connection I have built with my audience over the past six years of utilizing social media," she tells GRAMMY.com. "I have so much more confidence in my releases knowing I was able to take their thoughts into consideration as well as have the freedom as an indie artist to release when I feel the time is right."
Before Rosa Linn had her own TikTok hit with "Snap," the song was already wildly popular overseas thanks to Eurovision. The second-highest charting song from this year's competition, "Snap" became a Top 40 hit in the U.K. — and promptly made its way to TikTok.
"Snap" has since soundtracked more than 1 million clips, notably a Northern Ireland couple's engagement video that has amassed nearly 17 million views. The track also helped Linn land a record deal with Columbia in August, and topped Billboard's Adult Alternative Airplay chart in October.
"You never know what will go viral on TikTok," Linn told BBC News. "I'm checking my numbers on Spotify every day and I see them grow and I just can't believe it… As a child I'd dream about this."
She's not exaggerating: Growing up in Vanadzor, Armenia, Linn started playing piano at age 6, and began songwriting in her pre-teen years. Her career has even already come full circle, as she first competed in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2013.
Linn used her follow-up single to "Snap" to pay homage to her Eurovision roots by collaborating with fellow contestant Duncan Laurence on "WDIA (Would Do It Again)." As she preps her debut studio album, she told Wonderland that she's continually amazed by what "Snap" has done for her career. "I am a big dreamer and a good manifester," Linn said. "I always knew that one day the universe would reward all the hard work and dedication I put into my music."
J. Maya had just recently quit law school when she began posting on TikTok in 2020. Maya decided to opt out of Law school to follow a more untraditional path from her Indian American culture: music.
She saw success on the app after posting an acoustic version of her future single "Achilles Heel," which quickly gained over a million views on TikTok in 2020, going on to be released on New Years Day on Spotify as Maya's first official single of 2021. "The music community on TikTok is as smart as it is powerful," she asserts.
One of Maya's 2022 releases she initially teased on TikTok, "Golden Age," highlights "underrepresented women of history," which inspired many videos dedicated to underrated female figures. One line references a Hindu goddess named Sita, whose story resonated wider than Maya expected.
"As a South Asian American woman myself, it was uplifting to see people from that community celebrate that line in particular, especially given the underrepresentation of South Asians in American media," she says. "It truly boggles my mind that a line like that, written from my bedroom, could reach the ears of millions of people through an app like TikTok."
Maya released her debut EP, Poetic License, on Dec. 2. One of the standouts is "Prophecies," which addresses how her chosen path reflects her upbringing. "All the prophecies they came true/ I'm living in the world you wanted me to/ Even if it doesn't look that way to you."
Avid TikTokers may have known about Stephen Sanchez since 2020, thanks to his cover of Cage the Elephant's "Cigarette Daydreams" or his original track "Lady By The Sea" — the latter of which helped him earn a record deal with Republic Records. But in 2022, Sanchez took his career from social media to the mainstream, as his crooning love song "Until I Found You" has become an anthem for millions.
The '50s- and '60s-inspired sound of "Until I Found You" has plunged fans into a world of nostalgia, using the song to pay homage to their own loved ones — or simply, love in general. The song has resonated so widely that it has charted around the world and is still growing on the charts, sitting at No. 3 on Billboard's Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart as of press time.
"[TikTok] launched me into this crazy position that I had no place being in, and so it was amazing and it just set the stage," Sanchez told Affinity Magazine earlier this year. "It's a hard thing to try and navigate, especially when your career is almost reliant on the validation of other people and the engagement of other people through social media… [but] as difficult as TikTok can be, I'm extremely grateful for what it does for breaking out brand new art."
The latter half of the year proved just as fruitful for Sanchez: He released his latest EP, Easy On My Eyes (which features "Until I Found You") in August, released a new duet with Ashe ("Missing You") in November, and announced a headlining tour for 2023 on Dec. 8.
Lauren Spencer Smith
Lauren Spencer Smith went viral on TikTok by accident. The singer/songwriter, who hails from Vancouver Island, already had a following from participating in the 2020 season of American Idol — but when she teased just 15 seconds of her original single "Fingers Crossed," she shot to stardom.
Spencer Smith posted the snippet of the diaristic breakup song to simply share progress with her fans, but ended up releasing it independently in January of 2022 when, by that point, the original TikTok video had amassed over 23 million views. It shot to 19 on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 1 in the charts in Ireland and Norway, and Spencer Smith had her pick of labels to work with.
"I definitely was in a panic, because everybody's attention spans are so short," Spencer Smith explained to Billboard earlier this year. "You have to pay attention to your audience and watch. If the comments are like, 'This is taking too long, I'm so annoyed,' you need to announce a release date. But if the comments are still excited, you can keep building on that.'"
Now, Lauren has more than 4 million TikTok followers and more than 7 million monthly Spotify listeners — with the single itself having passed over 277 million Spotify streams as of press time — and she's signed a partnership with major record labels Island Records and Republic Records. She closed out 2022 with a performance at the People's Choice Awards, a run of appearances at iHeartRadio's Jingle Ball tour, and a new holiday single called "Single on the 25th."
Five years into his career, rapper Armani White is now often associated with another big name in the music industry: Billie Eilish. Well, sort of. The pop superstar inspired White's breakout single, aptly titled "BIllie Eilish," specifically her signature big t-shirt style. "Billie Eilish's style is what the song's about, but it's also the character that Billie Eilish's music portrays," White told The Post. "I feel like it's kind of identical to what I like to portray in my own music."
The song started as a snippet of White messing around in the studio, but blew up overnight on Tik Tok. The rapper had to go through several hoops — including clearing Pharell's beat from N.O.R.E's "Nothin'" sampled in the track and getting permission from Eilish herself — and White was concerned that the hype would die down. However, the song kept viral momentum, inspiring it's own trend on Tik Tok of transitions from baggy "Billie Eilish" clothing to their "stylish" versions, inspired by lyrics of the song.
Now, "Billie Eilish" has over 180 million streams on Spotify, and White has signed a partnership with Def Jam Records, home to the likes of LL Cool J to Jay-Z. He shows no signs of slowing down, with rumors of the rapper gearing up to release his first EP abounding. Next up, White will release his latest single, "GOAT," featuring boxing legend Floyd Mayweather, in January.
As for praise from Eilish herself? White joked to Billboard, "I'm still waiting on the FaceTime or Duet video."
Nicky Youre is no stranger to TikTok. He's been on the app since it first arrived in 2017, but as he explains himself, "I never posted on it, I just used it for fun at the time." Five years later, he's one of TikTok's biggest 2022 musical sensations.
His hit song "Sunroof" was not just inescapable on the app, but pretty much anywhere — as proven by its multiple-week runs at No. 1 on Billboard's Pop Airplay and Adult Pop Airplay charts, and its No. 4 peak on the all-genre Hot 100. To date, the song has garnered more than 650 million global streams.
On TikTok alone, more than 9 million people have used his song as a Sound for their own videos, even including pop superstar Ed Sheeran. "Sunroof" and its irresistibly positive melody inspired countless "summer vibes" videos, from dogs enjoying a car ride to people with, yes, their head out the sunroof.
"I think it's great that each video you post gets shown to a brand new group of people," Youre says of TikTok. "This can help artists connect with new listeners and build their brand quicker than ever before."
Five remixes of Sunroof have since been released, featuring big names such as country hitmaker Thomas Rhett and Latin star Manuel Turizo. The artist is continuing on his high, releasing another infectious track called "Eyes On You" and performing at nine of the 11 iHeartRadio Jingle Ball tour dates.
Emerging artist Maddie Zahm released "Fat Funny Friend" in February of this year. Recounting her experience with weight, the song details Zahm's insecurities that have stemmed from her size. "I've done every diet to make me look thinner," she sings, "So why do I still feel so g— inferior?"
Her super-vulnerable lyrics quickly resonated with TikTokers, inspiring more than 15,000 users to share their own stories. Many include recounting years of not feeling good enough because of their weight, and their recent journey of learning to love themselves.
"Seeing the reaction to 'Fat Funny Friend' has helped me acknowledge how much of a need there is for these types of conversations," Zahm says. "I really wasn't going to be an artist until TikTok convinced me that I wasn't supposed to do anything else."
Zahm dropped her debut EP You Might Not Like Her in August. The five-song project furthers her emotive storytelling, particularly the title track, which touches on coming to terms with LGBTQ+ identity later in life.
The singer/songwriter closed out the year with the announcement of her first-ever headlining tour, which sold out several cities in the presale. Like many of her fellow TikTok artists, Zahm is most grateful for the community the app has created.
"I owe a lot to the platform," she adds. "[I'm] so glad it's given me a way to connect with so many through music and shared experiences."
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