Mariah Carey Reached Number One Thanks to TikTok, Soulja Boy, and The Rock

A YouTuber is the U.K. Christmas number one and Carey climbed the charts in the U.S. due to TikTok, YouTube and Spotify streams

Image: Mariah Carey/VEVO via YouTube

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and we think we can take a guess at the kind of music you’ll be listening to, whether it’s on Spotify, YouTube or TikTok.

Yep, it’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, obviously. The song is a Christmas classic, and we tend to agree with Tasha Sterrette, who commented under the video yesterday “Not Christmas until you play this song ❤️‼️”. It’s such a moneyspinner that Carey released a new version of it — the Make My Wish Come True Edition — last week.

But that’s not the only way the Christmas classic has been given a twist, especially if you cast your eyes off YouTube and onto TikTok. In fact, Mariah Carey’s version of the song — warbling vocals and all — isn’t even the most popular iteration of the track on TikTok this Christmas.

A version that suddenly switches from Carey’s sleigh bell-laden song into Soulja Boy’s 2007 song ‘Crank That’ has outstripped Carey by a factor of 6.5 on the platform in the past week.

The Soulja Boy-inflected version, which has been given the artist name “Plot Twist” on the app (because obviously) has been used in 13.3 million videos in total — compared to 3.6 million videos in which Carey’s original version features.

The most-viewed video to utilize the unique mashup features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, dressed up as a particularly hench elf, being tripped up by Kevin Hart in a Santa suit as the pair walk out of Columbia Pictures’ Hollywood headquarters.

If you want some sense of the scale of TikTok as we close out 2019, consider this: the video, uploaded three days ago, has been viewed 87 million times.

Of course, such memes — and the time of the year — have a halo effect on Mariah Carey’s online presence. From averaging 5.6 million daily YouTube views for her music in the last week of November, throughout December she’s been getting an average of 7.8 million views: a 40% increase. And on Spotify too, she’s been doing better as Christmas has gotten closer. A monthly average of 20 million listens at the end of September has become 30 million.

Those numbers were enough to propel Carey to the top of the Hot 100 chart for Christmas in the United States, her 19th career number one. A similar phenomenon helped get LadBaby, a British comedy YouTuber, to the coveted Christmas number one slot in the U.K.

And while the YouTube views and Spotify streams helped get Carey her prize (she got 45.6 million of them in a week), the presence of the song and its remixes on TikTok will certainly have driven a new, younger audience to listen to the song on both those platforms.

“She’s going to get a lot of streams this time of year for that tune, so it’s probably slightly difficult to unpick the extent to which TikTok has driven this,” says Craig Hamilton, a postdoctoral music researcher at Birmingham City University. “She may not necessarily have gone to number one without TikTok, and it’s not done her any harm.”

While TikTok currently doesn’t make up any part of any music chart measurement, it’s only a matter of time before it will. Think of TikToks featuring the video as a gateway drug to the full-length version.

The problem with that will be how to measure it. “If you’ve got a clip of a song that isn’t the full song, or it might be a remix, then how does that count? Does it count for Soulja Boy or Mariah, or both?” asks Hamilton. “It’s tricky, and it’s one of those things where the systems in place for counting chart sales or streams aren’t designed to account for something like this.”

Part of the phenomenon of TikTok is the fact that it doesn’t just exist in its own vacuum. The videos often get screen captured and reposted on Twitter or Facebook, giving them a virality far beyond the app’s users. It’s why #Weihnachtsbäckerei, an odd corner of German Christmas baking TikTok, was worthy of attention by FFWD last week. The use of a 32-year-old song in a bunch of TikToks suddenly threw a 72-year-old German folk musician back into the public consciousness. “Social media now plays an important part in spreading the message to all generations,” Rolf Zuckowski told me.

TikTok is the taster version of things — including music — and can push people to listen to extended versions on other platforms that currently count.

It’s the model we first saw with Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ — which we covered earlier this year — and it’s something we can expect to see more of in 2020. But just as ‘Old Town Road’ has been remixed and reworked endlessly, musicians and crooners thinking their original works will go viral without a little tweak along the way may be disappointed: the remix culture is alive and well on TikTok — and TikTok is the future.

“Because young people appear to be using this platform more than Twitter and Facebook, labels are looking on TikTok for trends,” says Hamilton. “If something blows up there really quickly, it’s a fair indication it’s going to be really popular.”

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

Chris Stokel-Walker

Written by

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you: stokel@gmail.com

FFWD

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

Chris Stokel-Walker

Written by

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you: stokel@gmail.com

FFWD

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

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