Cheat Sheet: Benee is blowing up on TikTok. Here’s why it’s a big deal

19-year-old Benee’s track ‘Glitter’ is climbing international charts thanks to being given a TikTok dance. How does that work? Josie Adams explains what a TikTok dance is, and how this social media app is the new MTV.

Who is Benee?

Benee has had a huge 2019, with the Aucklander riding sparkling pop singles to multiple awards and seemingly poised for an international breakout. Fire on Marzz, her debut album, introduced us to the Beneevision: a modern art-inspired ecosystem of artistic collaboration.

She won single of the year, solo artist of the year, best pop artist, and breakthrough artist of the year at the Vodafone music awards last month. That’s four awards for four nominations. She’s a goddamn machine.

 

What’s TikTok?

TikTok is a Gen Z-targeted social media app that lets user film on their phone, then add in sound and visual effects. It was originally an app called Musical.ly, designed for lip-syncing. It then expanded into a video megalith to capitalise on the fall of Vine. You can read a more detailed explanation here.

What’s a TikTok dance?

As an app that grew out of lip-syncing, TikTok has always had musical tracks as its main sound effect. The use of them has evolved to encompass dance. A user will develop a short dance routine – usually around 15 seconds long – to a song. Then every other user will do the same dance to the same song until the meme dies. Some famous examples include Maria Carey and Dirty Ol’ Bastard’s ‘Fantasy’ and SZA and Calvin Harris’ ‘The Weekend’.

Please enjoy the “Basketball Challenge” set to Maroon 5’s ‘Payphone’ below.

 

How did Benee’s song get on TikTok?

Her song ‘Glitter’ has entered the international TikTok lexicon. We don’t know who started using it on the platform a couple of weeks ago, but prolific user Sarah Magusara definitely popularised a dance to it. Magusara, an Australian influencer, has over nine million followers on TikTok and over 850,000 on Instagram. She’s a cross-platform dancer, with confirmed paid content on her Instagram.

It seems like a casual vibe to a lovely summer jam, but over 181,000 TikToks have been made to ‘Glitter’ now, including one by Tawhao Webster (@ahidden.ace), an alumnus of New Zealand’s premier TikTok academy (Rotorua Boys’ High School).

Is being a TikTok dance good?

Benee probably won’t make money off TikTok, but there are few platforms as powerful for building an immediate and global following. At over 11.5 million streams on Spotify, ‘Glitter’ has been listened to almost twice as much as ‘Find an Island,’ which might surprise anyone who’s been listening to the radio lately.

Further proof of TikTok’s power: ‘Glitter’ is currently number 37 on the Australian Spotify chart despite not being on it at all two weeks ago. Here in New Zealand, ‘Glitter’ is being streamed more than any Mariah Carey song (at most times of the year this would be reasonable, but come on – it’s Christmas!). On our Spotify charts, the song has climbed from number 182 a month ago to number nine today.

I’m a local artist. How do I become a TikTok dance?

You could make up your own dance and hope it goes viral, but there’s no real formula to TikTok success. For an app that represents the pinnacle of a digital invasion, it’s weirdly and confusingly organic.

Your best bet is to ask the lads at Rotorua Boys’ High School for a shout out; they’re the new breed of influencers.


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