TikTok is a place that is simultaneously mostly bad and mostly good, a singular paradox that sustains itself on the collective manic energy produced by the general suffering of human existence. How this gets expressed on the app varies. Evangelical teens preach hell and brimfire on girls who wear skirts, while active-duty soldiers do viral dances in towns the U.S. government has drone bombed for decades. On the other side of the planet, some teens in a viral “hype house” do donuts in an abandoned Wal-Mart parking lot, except instead of their parents’ cars they’re in a school bus they bought with Monster Energy drink sponsorship money. Two towns over, a woman trapped in a pyramid scheme documents the bee sting therapy she uses to treat what she suspects is Lyme disease.
The connecting thread, weaving through these experiences together, is the music. As a former lip-syncing app, TikTok relies on a feature that allows users to share sounds with a sort of “retweet function,” allowing them to copy and paste music from a separate video into their own. These sounds vary, like most things on the app, in quality and shareability. You won’t ever see Charli D’Amelio dance to a Hatsune Miku clip dubbed over by the white noise of an anime convention hall in 2012—a sound I sadly lost to the ether—but you might see the teen and her equally famous sister, Dixie D’Amelio, bop around to a Billie Eilish cover.
In a year widely deemed “unprecedented,” it’s no big shock that engagement on TikTok flourished, with college kids stuck in covid-infested dorms, parents trapped at home with kids, and people the world over laid off or fired by disaffected CEOs that have, since March, luxuriated in their summer retreats. As mainstream media has taken notice of this engagement, the prevailing wisdom is that the “teens will save us.” The collective voice of the internet has stamped its approval on the app, and heralded it as the second coming of a new sort of online existence.
But for every “Wendy Williams on The Masked Singer” sound clip, there are a dozen more remixes of the same Shawn Mendes song, or bite-sized samples of pop hits desperate to mine the clout and success of Doja Cat’s “Say So,” which pioneered the industry shift from DMCA takedown notices to pre-approved content libraries on the app. “Say So” is arguably the song of the year, and it primarily achieved that designation because of TikTok and the infectious dance that user Hayley Sharpe invented to accompany it.
Below are just a few of the absolute worst sounds on TikTok this year, from the outright annoying to the overused. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but it should be enough to traumatize the average listener. Enjoy!
“And It Went Like…”
I’m sure all of these study-abroad students and accident-prone adults are very nice people, but there is no conceivable future where I would like to hear Kid Francescoli’s “Moon” for another year. Please, move on! Nobody cares that you did a semester in Europe, or that your parents paid for you to backpack across the Alps.
There is an entire genre of “suspense”-centric content that has existed since well before America’s Funniest Home Videos. A kid falls off a bike, a woman falls down a well, a dive into a pool goes horribly wrong. A popular meme on Vine, which utilized a leitmotif from anime series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, fed on that addictive sense of danger and suspense, and now the trend is back, with this hideous cover of The Shangri-Las “Remember.” No more! No more! I’ve had enough!
“Education Corporate Music” by Blue Whale Music
Most people have probably heard this song in one of those NowThis videos where a dog falls in love with a squirrel. Every time I hear it, another bit of my sanity slips into the void.
“You Make Me Feel…” by Cobra Starship
Perhaps some people don’t know that there is a scene revolution underway on TikTok right now. This Cobra Starship song, unfortunately, is the vanguard’s anthem. Please stop! I’m having middle school trauma flashbacks.
This Billie Eilish Remix
Speaking of scenesters and Billie Eilish, I would like to never hear this song again.
“Mariners Apartment Complex” by Lana Del Rey
Yasmine Sahid is hilarious. This was the first in a series of videos parodying Lifetime movie heroines and also narcissists, and to this day, it fills me with equal parts dread and mirth at the accuracy. But, like most things on the internet, her concept was stolen by 10 billion white influencers, who all suffer from a severe deficit of creativity. No more! Delete them, and let Sahid’s original video stand as an imposing obelisk in their virtual graveyard.
“Potential Breakup Song” by Aly & AJ
Moms on TikTok are generally fine, and this collection of moms also seemed fine, at first. Until this video went viral, and everyone had to suffer through their kids’ attempt to spin the moment into a dismal clout grab. I once heard this song and danced. Now I hear this song, and throw my phone out the window.
Who even knows????????????????????
This man is apparently in the military, and this sound made him moderately famous among Republicans and people who see his content as easily dunkable. That said, the gunshot noises make me flinch. No more!
“Little Dark Age” by MGMT
No, my all-consuming disgust for this song has nothing to do with a Timmy Chalet fan-edit, and I resent the implication that it does.
“Don’t Be Suspicious” from Parks and Recreation
My least favorite things collided into a sound from which I cannot escape: NBC’s comedy lineup and people who quote NBC’s comedy lineup.