Within seconds of entering a Zoom call with 18-year-old Lauren Spencer-Smith, she’s already gushing over an Instagram Story she saw from none other than talk show host Jimmy Fallon, who shared her viral heartbreak anthem “Fingers Crossed.”
“So much is happening!” she squeals. “Just today, Ryan Tedder messaged me and said he liked my song. I was freaking out about that. Dan from Dan + Shay messaged me today too. I said to him, ‘I tried to get tickets to your concert when I was 16 and I cried when I couldn’t! I love you!’”
Spencer-Smith’s unfiltered incredulity over the success of her latest single, which officially dropped last Wednesday (Jan. 5), speaks volumes to the authenticity that had Gen-Z connecting with the rising teenage star in the first place. It all started back in November, when the Canadian singer-songwriter and American Idol alum posted a casual clip on TikTok laying back in a baseball cap and sweats as she jammed along to her track in the studio. The 47-second snippet now has more than 23 million views, with more than 40,000 comments begging the star to release a studio version of “Fingers Crossed.”
“I need this after getting out of a 5 year toxic relationship,” one comment read, while another one joked, “Her song should be called: FACTS cause she chose to sing facts.”
“My favorite thing to do is tease things on TikTok,” she tells Billboard of the moment she decided to post the “Fingers Crossed” clip. “I took that video because — usually, when you leave a session, you have a demo so you can listen to it. But this session I didn’t have one, so I asked the producer to play the track. I took a video so I would be able to remember what the song sounds like.”
After getting positive reviews from her manager and friends, she gained the confidence — “without permission,” she jokes — to post the video to her TikTok page. “I feel like because I wasn’t making the video for social media, that’s why it did well,” she explains. “People love natural and raw. Next thing you know, it was a trend. I definitely was not expecting that.”
While many of Spencer-Smith’s fans already knew her from her time on season 18 of Idol, where she reached the top 20, the hype around her heart-wrenching ballad brought in more than two million new TikTok fans in a matter of months, an impressive feat for an artist who is still currently unsigned.
After plenty of “passionate” comments begging for a studio version, “Fingers Crossed” released on streaming platforms in early January, continuing to make its rounds on social media with the same fervor as the previous three months. The buzz followed an eerily similar trajectory to Spencer-Smith’s fellow heartbreak pop queen, Olivia Rodrigo, whose breakthrough debut single “Drivers License” went viral on TikTok around the same time last year before it was officially released.
Like Rodrigo, Taylor Swift and other storytelling singer-songwriters within the current mainstream, Spencer-Smith hones in on the specifics that are equally personal to her and relatable to a wide audience.
“It is the best feeling when you post a song, and so many people relate to it — It doesn’t make you feel alone,” she shares of the next generation of rising artists’ emotional vulnerability online, before adding with a laugh, “In a bad and a great way, I live for the drama — because anything that happens, I’m like, ‘There’s a song!’”
Spencer-Smith goes into detail about the “drama” right from the first line, so much so, that it feels like reading thoughts straight out of the teen’s diary. The track opens by painting the picture of a relationship at its peak: “Introduced me to your family / Watched my favorite shows on your TV / Made me breakfast in the morning / When you got home from work.”
“Legitimately, I envisioned myself in his room with his family watching my favorite shows on TV,” Spencer-Smith explains of her songwriting process. “I’m very specific with what happened in the situation.”
From its devastating storyline, you’d think “Fingers Crossed” was written in a post-heartbreak funk. In reality, though, it was written in reflection while she was feeling loved and appreciated in a healthier, new relationship — and she says she had a blast recording it.
“For a while, I think I was in an ‘I’m heartbroken, nobody loves me, I hate myself’ mindset while writing songs. But for this one, I met somebody new that was raising my standards and teaching me how I should be treated,” she explains. “I went into my session feeling angry and wanted to write a heartbreak song. We came up with the ‘Fingers Crossed’ idea, and I think the song speaks for itself. It has that angsty emotion. It’s not just, ‘Oh, you’re going to cry in your bedroom.’ It’s, ‘I’m mad at this person, I’m angry, I could say sorry but I’m not.’”
With only a couple days’ worth of chart metrics following its release last Wednesday, “Fingers Crossed” already has debuted at No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100, and will likely jump up the chart next week following its first full week of tracking. And with the chart placements, new followers and hype surrounding the song, the 18-year-old takes away an important lesson from the pain that led to “Fingers Crossed,” and the much healthier relationship that came from it.
“Keep your standards high, women!” she concludes. “It’s not you. It’s the men that you’re interested in that aren’t meeting your standards.”