How TikTok Propelled Absofacto's 'Dissolve' Onto the Billboard Charts, Four Years After Its Release
Absofacto, born Jonathan Visger, has been crafting dreamy bedroom pop since 2008. Early tracks like "No Power" and "Paper Crane" were well-circulated on Tumblr, and the singer-songwriter and producer has since collaborated with acts like The Knocks and Herizen, while also touring with Two Feet.
But things really changed for Visger in early 2019, when his song “Dissolve,” a melodic jam about wanting to do just that in "a pool full of your love,” began making the rounds on a certain video sharing app.
That song has experienced quite a journey to the Billboard charts. “Dissolve” was originally released on YouTube and Spotify on Feb 19, 2015, then taken down, before reappearing in November 2017 as part of his Thousand Peaces EP, after Visger signed to Atlantic Records. The single received an appropriately soothing music video in March 2018, and with Atlantic on board, the song was serviced to Triple A radio -- but only enjoyed a few plays before fizzling. Fast-forward to July 2019, when that same song climbed to a new peak of No. 29 on the Alternative Songs Chart (dated July 13), marking Absofacto’s first-ever Billboard chart entry. Why? The same way several other surprise hits have happened in 2019; namely, a TikTok meme.
It all began when a friend sent Visger a message saying his song was going viral on the app. Visger, who didn’t yet know what TikTok was, downloaded the app and took a look. The main meme, or challenge, entailed people making their mirror look like a portal, falling through as the specific lines (“I just wanted you to watch me dissolve/ Slowly”) played. At that point, he remembers that there were “maybe thirty or forty thousand videos using it.” Now, that number is closer to 1.3 million, his label estimates.
It’s no secret that the video sharing app has recently proven its ability to change an artist’s life -- just look at Lil Nas X and Lizzo. Visger is on his way to enjoying a similar breakout in the alt landscape. “Dissolve” has 67.4 million streams to date, according to Nielsen (many of those streams have been helped by video views, thanks to YouTube compilations of TikToks featuring the track), and continues to rise on Alt Songs.
“I saw it kind of early in the viral moment,” Visger tells Billboard of the "Dissolve Challenge." It was a dream come true to see his song being used so widely, Visger says, because when he wrote “Dissolve,” he wanted people to see something in their mind’s eye. “I think I just hit on something when I made that song that makes people wanna make visuals to it. That's really important to me in my music.”
After about a month, Visger decided to play detective and figure out where the use of his song originated. After watching tons of videos, he realized the first time he’d seen that particular mirror move paired with his track was in a TikTok uploaded by a female marine. “I sent her a message saying, ‘Hey, did you make this up? Because it kind of changed my life,’” he says. The woman wrote back, explaining that she hadn’t invented the mirror portion, but had seen it done to a different song and thought it would fit better with “Dissolve.” Says Visger, “I thought that was so cool, this Marine making TikToks while deployed, and it set my song on fire.”
Of course, it takes a village. Once everyone took notice of the song’s surge on the app, Atlantic's radio promotion and digital teams began working together to ensure "Dissolve" received as much attention as possible. Abso created a TikTok account, gaining tens of thousands of followers as he engaged with other users. You can't fake it on TikTok, as Visger points out, and he quickly learned that the emphasis is on music fans actually like. “It's people, and if they don't like something, they're not going to use it,” he says. “You can't just put your new song on and automatically force it to happen. If people love a song and it inspires them visually, they might create something out of it.”
Jeff Regan, senior director of Music Programming at SiriusXM, says that “Dissolve” landed on his radar a few months back. It was serviced by Atlantic, but Regan also noticed it was being shared and streamed outside of TikTok, and decided to add it to the rotation. “Our listeners [are] super forward-thinking, super open-minded,” he tells Billboard. “They are looking for a new artist, for new sounds. They’re people who want to find that next thing, and [“Dissolve”] fits that bill really well.”
“Dissolve” spent several weeks at No. 1 on the Alt18 Most Requested Countdown, which consists of the week's 18 most-requested alternative rock songs. “That's our listeners loud and clear telling us, ‘This is our song right now,’” Regan says. “This is an artist who's been out there for a while making music and refining the craft and presenting on his terms, and to now be able to shine a light on that [is a cool thing].”
Regan also points out that a song like “Dissolve,” which is not necessarily new but sounds fresh enough, is fun to watch grow organically. “It's holding up next to established names in the alternative space,” he acknowledges. “It makes sense next to Bastille, it sounds great next to Vampire Weekend.”
Visger has more remixes of “Dissolve” in the works, and otherwise plans to keep the momentum going by releasing new music as soon as possible. He’ll also tour with fellow alt chart breakouts Shaed this fall, for which he promises an updated live set with fresh versions of all of his songs. “Dissolve” will be in the mix, of course.
“It doesn't matter if it came out a month ago, or two years ago, or what. It's new to most people,” he says. “It's been amazing to see how people hear it and just like it.”