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Tracking Trends: 'TikTokifcation' of female musicians causes controversy between fans, musicians

TikTok has changed the way people discover music. The social media platform has propelled the careers of artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Lucy Dacus and Clairo. Despite the success, some fans believe the “TikTokification” of the “sad girl” trope of these female artists is getting old.

“TikTokifcation” can be defined as a “reduction” of nuance and complexity of something in order to make it digestible for TikTok users. Some argue the phenomenon pigeon holes female artists into the “sad girl” stereotype, which often diminishes the complexity of the experiences and emotions these musicians write about in their music. 

In an article from Westword, Mitski, a Japanese American alternative singer-songwriter, said her mixed-race identity influences her music creation. However, she doesn’t care for labels. 

Owen Yates-Mcewan, a junior studying public health, said fans on TikTok have disregarded her biracial experience. 

“Quite a lot of white fans are erasing her work about being an Asian woman,” Yates-Mcewan said.

Roosevelt Boone, asophomore studying sociology and criminology, said it is hard to remember where certain trends come from, especially on TikTok. He said an example of this is the appropriation of African American Vernacular English, or AAVE, because it can be used by the wrong people who refuse to hold themselves accountable. 

“People build their platforms off of that,” Boone said. “I think if you’re in a position where you have a lot of influence, that can create a lot of damage and send the wrong message out to young people that are on TikTok today.”

In a YouTube interview with Crack Magazine, Mitski responded to a fan that tweeted her music is for “sad b----es.” She said the “sad girl” trope became “reductive and tired” a decade ago. 

Despite the controversy, some music artists actually support the discovery and community of music on TikTok. 

Phoebe Bridgers, an American indie singer-songwriter, said in a conversation with the music artist Beabadoobee in 2020 she believes the internet is an equalizer for musical success. She cited internet music platforms like Bandcamp that help music artists go viral.

“People need to discredit the music that teenage girls love or invented why it’s cool,” Bridgers said. 

Bridgers said that hating social media, and specifically TikTok, is “classist.”

“So what if someone found music on TikTok? It’s accessible,” Bridgers said. “Who cares if it’s an easy pill to swallow? That’s what’s cool about it.”


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