April 21, 2023 | OPINION | By Issa Nasatir

The dilution of music through the soulless machine that is TikTok renders its unfortunate victims meaningless, leaving former songs as mere shells of themselves. The fans that are ceaselessly fed these shells are no longer fans of the artist, they’re fans of the 30-second clip of their hit song.

Steve Lacy smashed a fan’s disposable camera in October of last year. After backlash on social media, he made a post addressing the incident the next day saying, “Maybe I could’ve reacted better? Sure. Always. I’m a student of life. But I’m a real person with real feelings and real reactions. I’m not a product or a robot. I am human.”

When artists are reduced to their 30-second sped-up TikTok audios (more and more artists are releasing sped-up versions of songs in order to cater to their new audience), they’re dehumanized and not seen as the real artists they are.

Lacy has had to deal with this relentlessly since last year when his song “Bad Habit” exploded in popularity and took over the world in June of last year. Just recently, it reached over 600 million streams, and the sped-up version has reached a significant 40 million. On top of this, he has had to deal with the hyper-sexualization of his image while in this unrelenting spotlight.

In theory, people are just lining up to go to his concerts for the chorus of “Bad Habit” and to see him in person, not to appreciate the art that he’s dedicated his life to creating.

Some might argue that TikTok is extremely advantageous for smaller artists to gain popularity, and I am certainly not arguing against that. It’s amazing when someone wins the luck of the draw with the platform’s algorithm. Artists like Beabadoobee have exploded in popularity multiple times because their songs gained traction over TikTok, garnering Beabadoobee multiple world tours from something that started in her bedroom; smaller artists with fewer songs, like hemlocke springs, are starting to find their fanbase and have gained the attention of labels across the country.

But despite these positive aspects, these singular songs going viral reduce the artist to just that song. This drastically affects the concert-going experience. At a Men I Trust concert at the Summit Music Hall in November, the crowd was silent, with the exception of the words to the chorus of “Show Me How,” a song that had blown up all over TikTok recently. The band was visibly frustrated and amused by it.

Lacy was also frustrated with the same thing happening at his concerts and exhibited that discontentment. “Why did y’all stop? Let’s get the next verse, come on,” he asked, incredulously, when the fans stopped singing after the first chorus of “Bad Habit” in a concert last year. He then pointed the mic to the crowd, receiving crickets in return. It’s amazing that even with a song with 600 million streams on Spotify, the crowd at Lacy’s concerts only knew the short clip from TikTok. It’s frustrating for an artist when they’re reduced to one aspect of their work, and possibly not even an aspect that they enjoy or think represents them.

TikTok has also given the music found on the platform a certain stigma. If a song is associated with the platform, it automatically loses value in many people’s eyes. “With the repetitiveness of TikTok, songs will lose their sentiment when you hear them over and over again,” vented Alessandra Tornelli ’26. “A song’s association with a micro trend makes it lose its personal value to me.”

TikTok violently whittles away at these songs until all that’s left are their useless shavings on the floor. It’s a waste of time to try to piece them back together.

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