Songs don’t become TikTok hits on their own – they are often taken to the charts by dance challenges or short, repeatable choreographic sequences, which turn fans into a new kind of digital street team. Here, the routine makers behind four No. 1 Billboard Hot 100’s unbox their rise.
350.7 million views
The song: “Say so” by Doja Cat
The creator: Haley Sharpe (@yodelinghaley)
The backstory: Sharpe, an 18-year-old from Huntsville, Ala., Had previously posted comedic, dance-centric TikTok videos for months before a friend introduced her to the song in late 2019. “She asked if I did. had heard the new album, “Sharpe recalls.” I hadn’t, so she played ‘Say So’. That’s when I thought I should dance a TikTok on it, so I did.
Why it took off: The early participation of TikTok star Charli D’Amelio and beauty personality James Charles helped the dance spread late last year, but Sharpe says the most important factor in its rise was was its simplicity. The routine uses a lot of “arm movements and little foot movements, so anyone can do it,” she says. “People can easily follow. “
The secrets of success: “Find a song that is more underground and upbeat,” advises Sharpe, who first posted the dance in mid-December 2019, weeks before “Say So” cracked the Billboard Hot 100. (A remix by Nicki Minaj later brought him to the top.) “Back then, it was a song that a lot of people hadn’t heard.
The gratitude: Sharpe was in art class when she received an email from the Doja Cat team asking her to be in the song’s official music video. The artist “was really sweet and told me that she was grateful to me for doing the dance,” says Sharpe.
1.2 billion views
The song: “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion
The creator: Keara “Keke” Wilson (@ keke.janajah)
The backstory: Wilson, who has been dancing for a decade, says the song “reached out and grabbed me” when she heard Megan Thee Stallion Suga EP in early March. “I don’t think nobody thought of doing [a challenge to] ‘Savage’, ”the 20-year-old said of the track, which then topped the Hot 100 thanks to a Beyoncé remix. So she created her own, with “hard, crisp moves” inspired by her time as a cheerleader.
Why it took off: Wilson’s movements were doing the rounds as the pandemic forced Americans to stay at home. “Everyone was bored and on the phone,” says the Mansfield, Ohio native. “It was like a quarantine dance.”
The secrets of success: “Ask your supporters to try it out, so it gets pushed towards TikTok’s algorithm,” she says. “In the caption, write something like, ‘New dance alert! Try this and identify me. She also tries to like and comment on other users’ posts in return.
The gratitude: Although Megan has publicly credited Wilson with creating the dance on multiple occasions, on social media and in comments to BillboardWilson expressed her displeasure with the recognition she received. “Megan posted several TikTokers doing my dance, which made people feel like someone else had made it up, ”she says. “It really hurts.” (Reps for the rapper have not commented.)
3.6 billion views
The song: Cardi B’s “WAP” with Megan Thee Stallion
The creator: Brian Esperon (@besperon)
The backstory: Based in Guam, Esperon draws on his technical background – he studied dance at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and has been competing since the age of 8 – to stand out among the typical dance types. ” ‘Woah, clap, throw it back’, “he says. When “WAP” fell at 2pm its time in August, Esperon, 28, rushed to the studio and pieced together that athletic routine, including high kicks and twerking, at 6pm.
Why it took off: “Nia [Sioux] from Dancing moms was the first major influencer to do so, ”he says. “Teenage girls love to do it because of its shock value. Some of them take up the challenge in front of their parents, while others do it in front of their husbands. I even saw a pregnant woman do the dance.
The secrets of success: “There are waves of what people want to do on TikTok,” he says. “Sometimes people just want to blink and make facial expressions. And sometimes people want to use their whole body, like in the “WAP” challenge. I’m trying to follow this wave.
The gratitude: While Cardi B posted Esperon’s video to Instagram, he recommends that creators be proactive about getting credit. “There are still so many people who don’t know that a Filipino boy from Guam created the challenge,” he says.
572.5 million views
The song: 24kGoldn “Mood” with Iann Dior
The creator: Cale Saurage (@calegoes)
The backstory: Known for his “Cowboy Cale” comedy videos, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana native had already gone viral in 2020 with a dance challenge for DaBaby’s “Rockstar” when Columbia Records approached him to come up with a “Mood” dance. . “They contacted me and told me they had so much to spend on me and asked if I would be okay with doing a minimum of messages,” recalls Saurage, 22. (He declined to say the amount.) He uploaded his first #moodchallenge post in early August.
Why it took off: With well-known moves (at least for TikTokers) like Woah, Dice Roll and Mop, the #moodchallenge is like a blockbuster viral choreography set. “When everyone does it 100 times in a row, you see it on your [recommendations page] every second, ”he says. “You start to like him, even though you didn’t at first. “
The secrets of success: According to Saurage, dances explode because “most people can do them” or “only real dancers” can do them. “If you go with [the latter]”, he said,” you must do such a beautiful and magnificent dance. “
The gratitude: 24kGoldn himself took part in the challenge. “I have his phone number,” adds Saurage. “We’re supposed to hook up next time I’m in LA”
This article originally appeared in the December 19, 2020 issue of Billboard.