On TikTok, one of the latest music trends is speeding up popular songs. And now, fans are demanding that artists comply with their expectations for speedy sounds.
In one recent controversy, Grammy-winning artist Kim Petras faced backlash from her fans after she teased her new song with Nicki Minaj, “Alone.” After she revealed a portion of the track that featured a slower beat, some fans revolted.
“Mother please change the beat,” said one commenter. “Waittttt I thought I was gonna be throwin it this summer, not chillin,” said another. Hundreds of fans commented they wanted a faster-paced song.
The demands from Petras’ fans are just one part of the sped-up song boom on the app.
TikTok has seen an increasing number of ‘sped-up’ songs take off in the last year, according to a TikTok spokesperson.
The hashtag #spedupsounds has amassed 14.8 billion views, and hundreds of accounts on TikTok have gained millions of followers from speeding up songs on their own and posting them to TikTok.
Artists and labels are now leaning into the trend by releasing their own sped-up remixes of songs.
The remixes will oftentimes see even more engagement than the original, according to the TikTok spokesperson. For example, In January, R&B star Miguel released an official sped-up version of his 2010 single, “Sure Thing,” which went viral on TikTok and made its way into the Billboard Top 20 at #15, over a decade after its release.
Bad Friends, a dance-pop producer duo based in London, released their own version of Petras’ “Alone” just hours after backlash started to mount over the slow beat in the most recently released snippet. The duo posted it on their TikTok and immediately saw an influx of views and comments. The producers, Noah Tate and Hugo Shaw, said they came at their version of the song from their dance-pop background and a genuine love of the sample. Tate and Shaw knew that people would want to know what a Minaj verse sounded like on the sample, so they used an AI voice splitter website that allows users to isolate vocals from a song, Tate said. They took Minaj’s verse from her 2012 song “Whip It” and added it to their version of “Alone.”
“There’s always going to be value in changing the tempo or pitch of a song,” Tate said. “People also love mixing different songs, even if they’ve heard the original.”
“From a musician’s point of view, I think speeding up songs and pitching them up, you can hear them in a different light and get a different feeling out of them,” Tate said.
Music producer xxtristanxo has gained 3.5 million followers on TikTok and 5.4 million monthly listeners on Spotify creating sped-up versions of songs and mashups, some of which have over 20 million streams on Spotify. The 21-year-old musician from Raleigh, North Carolina, has signed multiple deals with big name artists and their record labels who have officially released his sped-up versions of their songs. In February, xxtristanxo released an official remix of “Die for You” with The Weeknd through the record labels XO and Republic Records. It has over 8 million streams on Spotify.
“I think people like hearing their favorite songs in different contexts,” xxtristanxo said. “If you went to a club, you’d go to hear a remix. If you went to a concert, you’d hear a live version, or a different rendition. Sped-up songs, mashups and slowed versions are really TikTok’s way of giving that to people.”
The sped-up sound has musical roots going back to the mid 2000s, when it originated as a subgenre called Nightcore. Nightcore amassed a cult-like following starting around 2008, when musicians started posting their sped-up remixes on YouTube and often mixed them with an anime visual to boost engagement. The tracks are no longer colloquially known as Nightcore and they are no longer a subgenre, but rather a full-blown trend.
The sped-up sound’s newfound prevalence could be a sign of a new conceptualization of content creation among the younger generation, said Tatiana Cirisano, music industry analyst and consultant at MiDIA Research, a U.K.-based research company that studies entertainment trends.
“TikTok is one of the first mainstream apps where users are encouraged to put their own spin on their favorite song. They are interested in any way you can actively participate in the thing you’re a fan of and add to it,” she said.
Bad Friends’ remix is just one example of users on TikTok adding their own spin on something they love.
“Tiktok has been flipping the equation of who is making decisions in music. Sped-up songs are just one part of that,” Cirisano said. The platform “makes songs more memeable, it makes them almost funny sometimes.”
Sped-up songs are also a part of a larger trend of people speeding up media to fit in as much content as possible into a shorter amount of time, including podcasts and YouTube videos, said Gloria Mark, chancellor’s professor at University of California, Irvine who has studied attention spans for over 20 years.
Now that several platforms have the option for users to speed up their media, there is a new mentality of having more personal autonomy to adjust media to the speed of their liking, Mark said.
“People can comprehend things at a faster speed, and because they can, they will do it. Because we have this culture where we want to try to accomplish as much as we can, fit as much as we can, do as much as we can into our day, and we do it by speeding up media,” Mark said.
Jovynn, a DJ who has 10.4 million followers on TikTok from posting her sped-up remixes, said that shortening attention spans are a part of why sped-up songs have become so widespread.
“Since TikTok’s a fast-paced app, the audience has a shorter attention span on there, and the only way to allow listeners to stick through the best parts of a song is to speed up the BPM [beats per minute] of a track,” she said.