TikTok is making music super casual
The Future. TikTok is not only changing how music sounds but how artists present themselves to the world. Some are thriving, while others report burnout. But the ones who may really start a vibe shift on the platform are those who find a way to hack the tenets of TikTok (its blink-or-you’ll miss them trends, focus on authenticity, and lo-fi visuals) in service of creating something ambitious and large-scale without looking like it.
From MTV to TikTok
According to Spencer Kornhaber at The Atlantic, TikTok is taking the spectacle out of music videos… and maybe the musicians themselves.
- The MTV era was defined by music videos that felt cinematic in scope and ambition, but the social-media era has changed how artists interact with culture.
- This has peaked with the rise of TikTok becoming a music-discovery hub. Both the algorithm and the audience prefers a sense of lo-fi aesthetics, confessional relatability, and an always-posting pace — a “calculated messiness.”
- That’s been a boon for artists like Lil Nas X and Lizzo (who excel at consistently leveling with their audience), but has rankled others like Halsey and FKA Twigs (artists whose mystical, “larger-than-life” vibe requires more production value… not viral clips).
- But newer artists, like Magdalena Bay, are trying to build a new highly-produced aesthetic (without looking like it) that leans into the best of what TikTok is capable of while also providing a “meta take” on TikTok’s cultural hypnosis.
The conclusion: TikTok is forcing artists to act more like influencers. As Kornhaber notes, “now audiences—or at least the industry that markets to them—want stars to be smaller, more normal. Is there any clearer sign that we live in an age of disenchantment?”
But maybe it’s just the cycle repeating itself. In the 2011 book I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, superproducer Rick Rubin said, “In some ways, MTV hurt music, in that it changed what was expected of an artist. The job changed. It became a job of controlling your image.”
In another ten years, audiences, the platforms, and the whole system could desire an entirely new type of image.