TikTok’s play in the music industry can sometimes be frustrating – its growing usage to create catchy tunes that go viral has created a sometimes unwanted sound that has become a genre in itself. However, there’s no denying that the short-form app has given us some of the biggest pop stars this generation has to offer. While 2019 saw Lil Nas X break records with Old Town Road – which has become the longest-running number one single on Billboard’s Hot 100 – 2020 saw the mainstream breakthrough of indie artist Doja Cat. Now, in 2021, TikTok star Bella Poarch is on track to become this year’s defining star with her debut hit Build A Bitch.
The Filipino-American singer – who pretty much came out of nowhere – is the third most followed person on TikTok, after Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae. She went viral last year for her lip-syncing video to M to the B (a 2016 diss track by Blackpool artist Millie B), which has become the most-liked video on TikTok with half a billion views and over 49 million likes. After signing to Warner Records, Poarch then dropped her single Build A Bitch and within the first 24 hours of its Friday release, the track became the most watched music video on YouTube globally, trending number one.
For many of us, it’s no surprise that a TikTok star has managed to rack up almost 45 million views on YouTube in less than a week. She has almost 68 million followers and gets an average of 18 to 40 million views on each video she posts. However, when we compare the viral success of Build A Bitch to fellow TikTok star Dixie D’Amelio who also released visuals for her new single F***BOY on the same day – which currently stands at three million views – it’s clear that sometimes numbers and popularity alone aren’t enough. So, what sets Poarch apart? Well, first off, talent. Poarch is obviously more skilled when it comes to music – many have pointed out the TikToker was a singer prior to even joining the app, while it is uncertain whether D’Amelio had plans of pursuing music prior to becoming the seventh most followed person on the app.
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Another striking difference is her creative direction. Similar to the likes of Doja Cat and Lil Nas X, Poarch is playing on what made her popular on TikTok and translating it into her music. In the video for Build A Bitch, where Poarch leads a revolution by burning down a Build-a-Bear inspired factory in which men can create their dream girls, Poarch leans into her TikTok roots. We see the singer embody her animated face movements that – if you’re familiar with Poarch – ties into her whole brand. On top of this, there’s an element of choreography that can easily be replicated and turned into a dance trend using the song. And lastly, there’s the cameo appearances of notable personalities from TikTok and YouTube. By featuring the likes of Larray, Bretman Rock, Valkyrae and Mia Khalifa, Poarch is inevitably going to amass views from an audience outside of her own. If we look at the song itself – one of the more meaningful songs to come out of TikTok due to its female empowerment focus – it’s more relatable to the majority of users on and outside of TikTok in comparison to D’Amelio’s brash F***BOY, which sort of eliminates her core young audience.
While TikTokers like D’Amelio and Addison Rae – who made her entry into music with her single Obsessed in March – are trying to force their TikTok star status onto the music industry, Poarch is simply offering an extension of her brand that just works. And if she maintains this, who knows exactly where she’ll be by the end of year. A Billboard chart topper? We’ll see.
By Jennifer Adetoro, culture editor of CORQ. Picture credit: Bella Poarch via Instagram.