When singer Gayle released “abcdefu” in December, the song was met with almost instant ridicule. One video dubbed it “one of the most annoying songs.” Another deemed it barely better than royalty-free music on YouTube. TikTok users have since writtenparodies that poke fun at the song’s simplistic lyrics. And so the tune quickly became emblematic of the type of music that uses nursery rhymes and forced relatability to go viral on the app.
But the mockery only propelled the song further; it has been used in over 2 million TikToks and reached number one on the Billboard Global 200. And if that weren’t enough, now the song’s virality has garnered it a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year.
“You mean to tell me we complained this woman into getting a Grammy nom?” one TikTok user asked.
But not everyone was quick to make fun of the 18-year-old musician. TikToker karz_2 gave props to Gayle’s management team for successfully turning a hated song into a global sensation. And mariel.mp3, a songwriter on TikTok went so far as to suggest Gayle had ushered in a new era of songwriting.
That said, “abcdefu,” isn’t the only Song of the Year nominee to have a viral TikTok moment. Lizzo choreographed a dance for “About Damn Time.” Steve Lacey’s “Bad Habit” climbed the charts after trending on the app in August. About one million “Break My Soul” dance routines led Beyonce to join the app. Harry Styles fans shared photos from the past set to “As It Was.” And the 10-minute version of Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” provided fans with another way to theorize about the relationship behind the song.
In all, six out of the 10 nominees for Song of the Year have flourished on TikTok. Could this be the Recording Academy’s way of trying to court a younger generation since the 2022 Grammy Awards show barely surpassed the previous year’s record-low viewership? It would make sense, considering 98% of 18 to 49-year-old Americans didn’t even bother to tune into the program earlier this year.
Still, the success of these songs on TikTok isn’t the first time the Grammys have taken their queues from the video-sharing app. Songs like Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” both blew up on the app before winning Grammys in 2020 and 2022. And “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” which began as a personal project on TikTok, won the Grammy for Best Musical Theater album last year.
But Gayle’s meteoric rise to fame is perhaps the first example of how far even a universally mocked song can take an artist. In light of her song’s’ success, moreartists are trying to replicate Gayle’s formula: simple melodies and lyrics borrowed from viral phrases and nursery rhymes.
This is all to say that whatever the outcome of the biggest night in music, Gayle has shown that these days the path to a Grammy nomination and a spot on Taylor Swift’s next tour goes through TikTok. And stands as yet another example of how trying to tear someone down often has the opposite effect.
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