lil nas x tik tok

The Songs That Live & Die In 2019 Are Being Decided By TikTok Teens

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Currently on its sixth week at #1 on the Billboard Top 100, it would be hard to miss Lil Nas X’s smash-hit ‘Old Town Road’.

However users of TikTok, a popular video sharing app, know that the track actually isn’t all that new. It was initially released independently on Soundcloud at the end of 2018, but only recently gained mainstream attention.

It’s undeniable the impact which Billy Ray Cyrus had on the recent success of ‘Old Town Road’, which was originally booted off the Billboard Country charts after debuting at #19. Billboard explained to Rolling Stone that the song did not “embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version”. So Cyrus, a powerhouse in country music, connected with Lil Nas X and contributed the verse that catapulted the country-rap track to the top of the charts.

TikTok & The Rise Of Yeehaw

But much of the tracks initial success can be attributed to the surge of the Yeehaw Agenda and, in turn, the unexpected power of teens on TikTok. With the continued rise of social media and the evolving nature of meme culture, it was only a matter of time before the conversation turned country following the success of memes like “What in Tarnation” and the “Walmart Yodelling Kid”.

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The country-centric Yeehaw movement that started with jokes and memes, evolved to spark conversation which saw a shift in the perception of what it actually means to be “country”.

These discussions, particularly around the erasure of black cowboys in pop culture, shifted the lighthearted beginnings of the Yeehaw Agenda and served to highlight the fact that country was no longer only reserved for white people.

The #YeeHaw Challenge 

In turn, the Yeehaw Agenda finding its way onto TikTok saw major success for Lil Nas X’s genre-bending track, which became the unofficial Yeehaw anthem of 2019.

TikTok, which can be likened to a longer, more complex Vine, is a relatively new video application. In 2018, TikTok merged with, an app focused on short lip sync videos.

The difference between TikTok, Vine and, however, is that TikTok is designed with memes and challenges in mind. The interface of the app through the #foryou page encourages users to create videos similar to those they see on their personal feeds, in the hopes of being featured on homepages across the world. This app design played a major part in why the #YeeHawChallenge was so successful.

The #YeehawChallenge is a video trend on TikTok where a person stands in front of their camera drinking “yeehaw or yeeyee juice” while Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road‘ starts to play. Once the beat drops, the person transforms into a cowboy with the dance moves to match. The challenge is so popular that 1.8 million videos have been uploaded and tagged with #YeehawChallenge while 1.6 million videos have been shared using ‘Old Town Road’ as the audio track.

How Memes Are Shaping Music

On TikTok the video trends which evolve into challenges are usually tweaked from user to user to keep the videos fresh and interesting, but often have just one constant – the same audio track. The unexpected reach of ‘Old Town Road’, which Lil Nas X actually shared to TikTok himself while experimenting with different video meme formats, proves that teens on TikTok hold more power than even they really know.

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With over 500 million monthly users, TikTok has created a new platform and audience for music to be shared, consumed and distributed. In December 2018 before its success on TikTok, ‘Old Town Road’ was just an unknown Soundcloud track. Today it’s the #1 song in the world. Lil Nas X even attributes much of his success to the app. “TikTok helped me change my life,” he told TikTok, [it] brought my song to several different audiences at once.”

Now with the much-anticipated release of the ‘Old Town Road (Remix)’ music video, Lil Nas X has proved that a meme can turn into a smash hit as it currently sits at #1 trending on YouTube. Remembering his roots, the video features Billy Ray Cyrus, black cowboys and, of course, some YeeYee juice – a nod to the teens of TikTok that made the song the success it is today.