By Emilee Lindner

What determines a Grammy-winning tune?

Is it how many weeks a ditty spent on the Billboard Hot 100, how much money it made, or how musically endearing an anonymous group of Recording Academy voters deems it to be? Consider them all. But when it comes to declaring last years cream of the crop, TikToks impact cant be ignored.

2020 was the year of staying inside, adopting new hobbies, scrolling for hours, and TikTok taught us new ways to move our bodies as we limbered up to the latest dance trend. As screen time soared, so did the spins on viral tracks that would eventually make our collective quarantine memorable. And they werent determined by record labels or radio DJs. TikTok choreographers and creators became 2020s tastemakers, sending songs both new and old soaring up the charts, and it seems as though the Grammys are following their lead.

Sure, there have been hits boosted by internet virality before (Drakes In My Feelings and the Shiggy Challenge, Rae Sremmurds Black Beatles and the Mannequin Challenge, Katy Perrys Swish Swish and the Backpack Dance). But none of these songs have won a Grammy before. The Whip/Nae Nae and the Dougie were never considered awards-bait. Will this be the year that changes that? Lets take a look at the Grammy nominees and their TikTok come-ups.

Roddy Ricch: “The Box”

@charlidameliosorry to break it to you but i have the best manager and dad ever

The Box – Roddy Ricch

Its not the title of Roddy Ricchs The Box that you remember, its the intro: a squeaky eee-err voiced by Roddy himself. TikTokers turned that sound effect into a phenomenon.

The apps golden child Charli DAmelio posted at least six videos of slo-mo The Box choreography in January 2020, totalling tens of millions of views. While other dance influencers followed suit, more comedy-inclined users turned The Box into skits. In February, TikTokers inexplicably focused on the lyric Im a 2020 president candidate.

Theres no doubt that the masses love Roddy. After all, The Box spent 11 weeks at No. 1. At the 2021 Grammys, its nominated for three prizes, including Song of the Year. But will the Recording Academys taste align with those of the people?

Doja Cat: “Say So

@yodelinghaley#duet with @yodelinghaley 1 year ago today omg time flies

Say So – Doja Cat

Also nominated for Song of the Year is Doja Cats Say So. The disco-pop song wasnt even released as an official single until after TikToker Haley Sharpe (a.k.a. @yodelinghaley) plucked it from Hot Pinks B-side and hurled it to viral heights. Rightfully acknowledging TikToks impact, Doja remixed the song with Nicki Minaj and sent it to radio. She continued to ride the prolonged success of Say So throughout the end of 2020, somehow reinventing the track with each performance.

As TikTok continues to determine fan favorites faster than any focus group could, Dojas rise coincided with the apps. Without this serendipitous timing, she might not have hit No. 1, Cat Zhang wrote in Pitchfork. Without a No. 1, would Doja have caught the attention of the Recording Academy, whose pop categories almost only ever include Top 40 (and, in this years case, Black Pumas)? Doubt it.

Megan Thee Stallion: “Savage

@keke.janajahNEW DANCE ALERT! if u use my dance tag me so i can see @theestallion #writethelyrics#PlayWithLife#foyou#fyp#foryoupage#newdance#savage

Savage – Megan Thee Stallion

Two weeks after dropping the EP Suga, Megan Thee Stallion seemed focused on singles B.I.T.C.H. and Captain Hook. But TikTok had other plans. After user Keara Wilsons Savage dance caught fire, it became clear which Suga track would come out triumphant.

Of course, TikTok heavyweights D’Amelio, Madi Monroe, and Addison Rae all had their fun with the dance challenge, as did celebrities like Keke Palmer, Tinashe, and even Megan herself. It wasnt long until Beyoncé took notice. After Beyoncés remix, the song went to No. 1, and now, its up for Record of the Year, Best Rap Performance, and Best Rap Song.

Its a synergetic pairing. Not only did Meg bag the collab of a lifetime, but Bey got a ride to three more Grammy nominations, making her the most-nominated artist at the Grammys this year with a total of nine.

Harry Styles: Watermelon Sugar

@minidoodlebentleyThere are three kinds of dogs: #TheHighNote#tiktokanimals#ratethings

Watermelon Sugar – Harry Styles

Harry Styless Watermelon Sugar (Grammy-nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance) was released as a promotional single back in 2019, and it took a while for it to pick up steam. Fans shared watermelon-themed photo hacks, makeup tutorials, and fruity recipe ideas. And when it was finally released with an official music video, the song blew up with summer-hungry TikTokers. Its now Harrys only No. 1 single. With 1.3 million documented videos using the song (hundreds of thousands of views on each), its hard to deny TikToks role in its rise a trajectory that netted him three Grammy nods, including for Best Pop Solo Performance.

Justin Bieber: “Yummy


Yummy – Justin Bieber

The organic success of The Box and Say So is mouth-watering for most, but the formula cant always be manufactured. When Justin Bieber released Yummy, his thirst for TikTok fame was all too transparent. He joined the app just to promote the song, attempting to tap into a generation grown on highly sophisticated, multilayered internet culture that can detect bullshit a mile off, according to Alexis Petridis, Ben Beaumont-Thomas, and Laura Snapes of The Guardian.

However, some fans played along, and Yummy soundtracked over 5 million videos. But its success on the app wasnt user-spawned Bieber ended up indulging in a paid Chipotle/TikTok integration, which in turn boosted a hashtag. A somewhat less overt strategy can also be pegged to Biebers Best Pop Solo Performance competition Cardigan. Around the release of Taylor Swifts Folklore, fans couldnt help noticing the influx of Swift merch showing up in their favorite influencers videos. Coincidence?

DaBaby: Rockstar and Dua Lipa: Dont Start Now

Of course, TikTok isnt directly responsible for the success of every hit song in the past year, but certain Grammy-nominated tracks have resonated with the apps users. DaBaby and Roddy Ricchs Rockstar (up for Record of the Year, Best Rap Song, and Best Melodic Rap Performance) has a whopping 7.1 million videos on the app, with The Rock, Kane Brown, and Got7 creating their own amped-up clips to the song.

Dont Start Now (competing in the Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance categories), was the first release from Dua Lipas Future Nostalgia, and it also had us dancing. Hannah Balanays (@thexhan) video for the song now with 6.6 million likes and 53 million views not only started a dance trend, but the ever-popular Fortnite promoted the TikTok dance as an emote, a kind of victory dance, within the game.

This all points to one thing: The connection between TikTok stardom and the Grammys gold is growing stronger. And when March 14 rolls up, well see if the accolades line up with the ultimate peoples vote a double tap on a viral vid.