The latest Billboard Global 200 and Billboard Global Excl. U.S. charts, dated Aug. 13, 2022, mark 100 weeks since the worldwide song lists launched in September 2020. This week, we’re celebrating the hits that topped, lingered on, and shaped the surveys throughout their first 100 weeks. Today, we continue with a look at the biggest crossovers from social media to the global surveys.
TikTok success stories predate the launch of Billboard‘s global charts, with such smashes as Lil Nas X‘s “Old Town Road” and Lizzo‘s “Truth Hurts” transcending the app at the tail end of the 2010s and setting the pace for anything and everything being a candidate for short-form virality, be it a two-minute cowboy-rap sing-along by a then-unknown artist or a two-year-old kiss-off anthem by a veteran cult-pop figure.
Since those tracks’ 2019 explosions, there have been few-to-no rules as to what kind of song or visual can create a trend and propel an artist from making the rounds on TikTok to topping the charts.
Here, we’ll run down some of the biggest viral hits, globally, over the last 100 weeks. While many of these songs ultimately go viral in a widespread fashion, it often begins in one of a handful of different ways on TikTok.
The Dance Challenge
The most obvious path to TikTok virality is the dance challenge. Famously, Drake‘s “In My Feelings” spent 10 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in 2018, bolstered by choreography set to the song’s “Kiki, do you love me?” hook. That song’s adopted central dance instruction was a blueprint for many, many TikTok challenges to come. It differed from typical music-video choreography in that while a trained dancer could apply legitimate technique and performance quality to it, the more important component to its spread was that it mimicked the song’s catchiness and was easy — instead focusing on the creator’s choice of location, outfit or whatever other left-of-center perspective one might take.
An early global-chart example of this strategy was “Mood” by 24kgoldn featuring iann dior. Both artists were unproven chart entities prior to the track’s Hot 100 debut in August 2020. But when the global charts launched just a month later, the song had already soared into the Hot 100’s top 10 and placed at No. 3 on the inaugural Global 200, ultimately spending 91 weeks on the chart through this June.
Also on the initial global charts was Joel Corry and MNEK, bringing a double dose of U.K. dance music with “Head & Heart.” Six months later, “Friday” by Riton and Nightcrawlers featuring Mufasa and Hypeman reached No. 9 on Global Excl. U.S., supported by an onslaught of TikTokers dancing alongside a moving car, celebrating the arrival of, you guessed it, Friday.
But while Corry and the Nightcrawlers’ European dance music bred one kind of dance challenge, CKay‘s “Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah)” sparked another. First released in 2017, the slow-burn hit was propelled to No. 2 on both global charts by choreography native to the singer’s home country of Nigeria, springboarding the first global top 10 hit for an Afrobeats song.
It’s important to note that while a song’s musical lineage or a memorable lyric can inspire its viral dance, creators need not be restricted by thematic content. Take Yoasobi‘s “Yoru Ni Kakeru” and Frank Ocean‘s “Lost,” songs with not-so-subtle nods to suicide and drug-dealing. Both songs were lifted on the global charts – the former to No. 6 on Global Excl. U.S., the latter to No. 43 on the Global 200 (10 years after its original release) – by snappy dances highlighted by intricate footwork and cheery performances, throwing caution to the wind against the songwriters’ intents.
TikTok dance challenges don’t always arise upon a song’s release, but they’re always on (or about damn) time. Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” debuted on the April 30-dated Global 200 at No. 74 and fell to No. 133 the following week. That’s when a viral dance challenge kicked in, immediately sending the song back to No. 12, then to No. 10 and eventually to No. 6. While the song continued to spread among social media, and on radio, streaming playlists, NBC’s Saturday Night Live and beyond, fans’ choreography was especially key to its mass appeal.
Bonus Dance Challenges
“Body,” by Tion Wayne X Russ Millions
“Dandelions,” by Ruth B
It might appear that a song needs high bpm and intense theatrics to use TikTok on its way to global success. But several ballads have crossed over, including Tom Odell‘s “Another Love,” which has spent 70 weeks on Global Excl. U.S. Originally released in 2013, the sleeper hit has surfed waves of activity, recently sparked by an acting challenge on TikTok in which creators cry on camera to the song’s tinkling piano line before flipping to wipe away tears and appear stone cold.
But a slow song doesn’t necessarily require a slow rise. In June, Joji released “Glimpse of Us.” Despite never previously making the Global 200’s top half, or the Global Excl. U.S. chart at all, he launched his latest single in the top 10 of both tallies, backed by TikTokers posing in sad expressions with text recalling past relationships or regrets. After arriving on the charts at Nos. 6 and 9, respectively, the song jumped to No. 2 on both rankings and remains in the top 10 on the latest lists.
“Arcade,” by Duncan Laurence
“Go,” by Cat Burns
Not only are TikTokers using music to create short-form video, they’re creating new music to further create video content. Many songs have gone viral via fan-made remixes, with creators often speeding up or slowing down an original track and introducing effects that veer toward Alvin & the Chipmunks or chopped-n-screwed slurred vocals.
Demi Lovato‘s “Cool for the Summer” was resurrected via a sped-up remix that even received an official release on Spotify and renewed radio attention. A similar reworking drove “Ultra Solo” by Chile’s Polimá WestCoast, featuring Pailita, to No. 9 on Global Excl. U.S. in July.
A slowed and pitched-down version of Steve Lacy‘s “Dark Red” brought the 2017 track global recognition in 2021, when the song spent 25 weeks on the Global 200. Less than a year later, his own “Bad Habit” is viral in part from a sped- and pitched-up remix, hitting the top 20 and breaking ground on Global Excl. U.S.
“Love Tonight,” by Shouse
While rhythms, tempo and melody often inspire TikTok dancing, remixing and more, lyrics often drive an on-theme trend that capitalizes on a song’s message or, more broadly, its vibe. Creators made montages of photos and video clips celebrating their friends, family and memories of a season soundtracked to Troye Sivan‘s “Angel Baby” (central lyric: “I just want to live in this moment forever / ‘cuz I’m afraid that living couldn’t get any better”), with the song blowing up internationally eight months after its summer 2021 release. It reached the top five of several Billboard Hits of the World charts in Asia and No. 75 on Global Excl. U.S.
Kali Uchis‘ “Telepatía” garnered global chart success when the song’s “you know I’m just a flight away” line inspired users to employ TikTok’s video editing tools for a variety of poses, transitions and travel-themed visuals. The Spanglish single shot to the top 10 of both global lists in March-April 2021.
“Astronaut in the Ocean,” by Masked Wolf
“Beggin’,” by Måneskin
“Runaway,” by Aurora
The Lightning in a Bottle
Most often, a song going viral on TikTok, potentially leading to chart success, is the result of thousands of users contributing content to bolster the track’s ubiquity. But sometimes, it just takes one video to create a swell of commotion. That’s perhaps never been clearer than when Nathan Apodaca, aka Dogg Face, skateboarded along a highway drinking Ocean Spray juice and lip-syncing to Fleetwood Mac‘s classic “Dreams.” That one video spread far and wide, sending the then-43-year-old song to No. 10 on the Global 200.
And when Nathan Evans‘ posted a typically-not-chart-friendly a cappella performance of “Soon May the Wellerman Come,” a New Zealand sea ballad originally from the 1860s, the clip went stratospheric, as many other TikTokers added harmonies, instrumentation and visual effects. Evans released his version, officially billed as “Wellerman,” hitting No. 5 in March 2021 and hanging on in its 66th week on the chart.
Fleetwood Mac, Frank Ocean, and many others have unexpectedly bounced onto the global charts with years-old songs. But TikTok can be used to make a song popular before it’s even heard in full, with artists taking to the app to share clips of new music in advance of an official release. Just this week, Rosalía manages a No. 6 debut on the Aug. 13 Global Excl. U.S. chart with “Despechá.” While she previously reached No. 55 on her own, with “Chicken Teriyaki,” her new track’s instant virality, with dance tutorials already in motion, sets a new high for the Spanish singer, thanks to cleverly curated pent-up demand on the virtual global stage.
And take a listen to the biggest global hits of the last 100 weeks below.