Over the past couple of years, users and advertisers alike have flocked to TikTok to produce various forms of content. The platform has reshaped the music industry. Over the past few months, there has been a rapidly growing trend in which influencers on TikTok create sped-up versions of songs to dance to, lip-sync or have as a background in their videos.
Though the only change these users make is the speed and sometimes the pitch of the vocals, several of these “audios” have gone viral.
One example is R&B artist SZA’s song “Kill Bill,” whose popularity skyrocketed after TikTok users began using sped-up versions of her song in their videos. Realizing the potential to capitalize on the trend, SZA created a sped-up version of the song, which she released on streaming platforms three days after the album containing “Kill Bill” dropped.
“It’s just smart marketing,” said Dawn Carter, the industry liaison for CBU’s School of Business. “If you’re trying to go after that audience and you see that your audience likes this thing, why would you not make content relevant to that audience?”
The sped-up song trend has also breathed new life into older songs. For example, “Sure Thing” by Miguel, released on Nov. 26, 2010, was sped up and became a popular trend on TikTok in January. Like SZA, Miguel released a sped-up version while funding an ad campaign on TikTok, which featured him playing a stripped version of the song. The advertisement itself is barely 10 seconds, which speaks to the massive change in advertising that has come into play.
TikTok’s design for short videos makes users addicted to short-form content. Carter noted how TikTok has drastically lowered people’s attention spans, requiring advertising to be drastically compact to retain viewers.
“If you can’t grab people’s attention within the first three to five seconds, they’ll swipe past you,” Carter said.
Sped-up songs have become so popular on TikTok in part because they cater to these short attention spans. Kade Spann, junior construction management major and member of the band “Unknown Faces,” said that most TikTok users are not willing to wait more than 30 seconds to get to the chorus of a song, making a sped-up song much more enticing.
“People aren’t going to want to watch a post that has a full two-minute song,” Spann said. “When the song is sped up, it allows them to hear and sing along to a full chorus or verse rather than just a portion of the song in a short amount of time. Slow songs have no place in TikTok videos or social media because they take so long to get to the chorus or the song’s main point. Social media is fast-paced, which makes sense why people like songs sped up.”
Olivia Hagen, sophomore film major and reporter for CBU TV, attributes the virality of sped-up songs to the rapid nature of TikTok content.
“When it comes to TikTok, it’s not a slow-paced platform,” Hagen said. “It’s 60 seconds or less. If you are adding something with transitions, a slow song doesn’t match. It keeps the audience’s attention to whatever the TikTok is about.”
Many trends born from these sped-up songs are interesting to users because creators can make short, engaging content rich with transitions and smooth dance moves. The song “Sure Thing” gained renewed interest because of a trend where users imitated the words of the song using hand movements. More and more users used the audio, putting their own spin on the dance moves and catapulting the song into relevancy more than a decade after its original release.
Due to the free publicity created by these trends, Hagen, a musician herself, argued that this is a positive development in the music industry, referencing a smaller artist named Kinneret. She argued that Kinneret’s song “No Wind Resistance” increased in popularity in its sped-up version, causing her to gain massive exposure.
“Kinneret used her Instagram reel platform to get her song put under her account so she can get credits,” Hagen said. “It didn’t take her long to go viral and for people to find her and all of her music. I think this benefits more than harms the music industry, mostly for newer artists.”
Whether artists like this development or not, the best way to survive the sped-up song trend is to embrace it, whether they post about the viral trend or license their own version. Regardless, Hagen points out that it is likely a temporary fad.
“People still appreciate the normal form music comes in,” Hagen said. “I don’t think that will ever be in doubt. But I think this sped-up phase is a passing trend.”