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Doja Cat doesn’t make music for TikTok, she’s a natural star for the digital age

11 March 2021

TikTok is one of the biggest marketing tools catapulting music artists to viral stardom. However, while I strongly believe it is changing how some artists are making music – check out my thoughts on this here – there’s no denying that for others it has become one of the best digital marketing strategies since dance challenges (pre-TikTok) came into play. And proving time again that it continues to work in her favour is the internet’s favourite pop sensation, Doja Cat.

When Doja releases a song, nine times out of ten it goes viral. It doesn’t matter if she released the song in 2019 or in 2021, it will find a way to gain traction and her latest single Streets is no different. Initially released in 2019 off the back of her sophomore album Hot Pink, the sleeper hit is the singer’s latest song trending following none other than – you guessed it – a TikTok challenge. Dominating our feeds in January, the  #SilhoutteChallenge blew up when user @yoelise uploaded a video that included a “raw photo” of herself posing in a doorway followed by an edited version of her silhouette against a red background while Streets played. Earning one million views in a matter of days, Elise proceeded to share a two-part tutorial on how to achieve the effect, amassing more than 3.1 million views and thus the #SilhoutteChallenge was born. Using the 1959 hit Put Your Head on My Shoulder (previously sampled by Doja Cat herself) prior to the transition into Streets, millions scrambled to submit their entry, including notable figures like Lizzo, Cardi B and, of course, Doja herself. With the song currently number 26 on the latest Billboard Hot 100 ranking thanks to its inclusion in the challenge, the artist blessed fans with visuals for the single, paying homage to the challenge and trending once again.

For Doja, this is definitely not the first time she has taken advantage of her popularity on TikTok, or any viral music moments for that matter. In 2018, her YouTube music video MOOO! blew up, to which the musician quickly assisted with a dance craze. And in 2019, Doja’s single Say So accompanied a dance routine created by 17-year-old TikToker Haley Sharpe, again unintentionally. The song turned into a global obsession that dominated the video-sharing app for months. With the likes of internet sensations Charli D’Amelio and James Charles also adopting the trend, millions of dance videos were created and Say So reached number one on the TikTok Top 200 songs chart. Presented with one of the biggest promotion strategies to impact her career, Doja quickly released a music video for the song where she recreated the popular dance alongside Sharpe and viral Instagram dancer Donté Colley. And within two days of its release, the music video accumulated 10 million views – it’s worth noting that Streets has almost reached the same in just 24 hours.

So, what is it exactly about Doja that draws in such a large TikTok-centered audience? Well, first off she makes naturally good hooks. It’s why she quickly received attention for her debut single So High and why a remixed version of Juicy featuring Tyga was re-released. And I know I’ve criticised other artists for relying on this in the past, but there’s a slight difference – one relies heavily on this to produce commercially-charged music, while Doja just works with what she has naturally to ensure mainstream success. Also, Doja’s music as a whole just leaves room for creativity. Aside from prompting dance challenges, her songs – including Streets – have done quite the opposite. While her Birds of Prey single Boss Bitch saw TikTokers use viral slo-mo moments from last year’s Grammy Awards to create playful skits, the soundbite of Like That features an array of content relating to food, beauty and makeovers.

Outside of TikTok, Doja kept her album Hot Pink relevant through a string of virtual performances on YouTube that garnered millions of views and crossed over to other platforms. Streets in particular grew 267% on TikTok from January 6 to February 6 as a result of this. This formula – paired with her solidified fan base both new and old – is exactly why she continues to have multiple breakout hits despite facing the wrath of cancel culture on several occasions. Music commentators praise her, Gen Z are in awe of her and Doja – a product of her environment – leans into this effortlessly (check out her TikTok). Others – take notes.

By Jennifer Adetoro, culture editor of CORQ.