The Scientific Reason Doja Cat’s Music Became The Unofficial Voice Of TikTok
When Doja Cat releases a song, it goes viral on TikTok. That's just the way it goes. A quick scroll through the app reveals that users are dancing, cooking, and showing off their pets with "Say So" in the background. They're flexing, debuting glow ups, and presenting DIY home renovations to the tune of "Boss B*tch," and doing a whole lot of hand dancing to "Like That." But when did Doja Cat become the unofficial voice of TikTok?
Doja Cat first went viral in August 2018 when she released a low-fi video for her song "Mooo!" a novelty track from which you might remember the lyric "B*tch, I'm a cow." The video has since amassed over 70 million views on YouTube. Now, you can't scroll through your FYP without hearing at least one of her songs. According to Isabel Quinteros, the senior manager of music partnerships and artist relations at TikTok, "Say So" alone — which engendered its own dance challenge that trended around the New Year — "racked up over 20 million video creations, helping [Doja Cat] score her first Billboard Hot 100."
What is it about Doja Cat's songs that makes TikTokers smash those likes? According to RedOne, a music producer and songwriter who works with pop acts, though not Doja herself, all of Doja Cat's hit songs are strongly blessed with "magical" hooks.
"The use of repetition is also crucial," RedOne tells Bustle. "If you want people to learn the song, you have to repeat the lyrics and melodies to help them." In Doja Cat's case, RedOne says that "Say So," "Like That," and "Boss B*tch" have mnemonic qualities built into them. (Representatives for Doja Cat did not respond to a request for comment for this story.)
Pop producer Erich Lennig agrees. "Say So" and "Boss B*tch" teach you how to be obsessed with them by playing the same musical patterns over and over again, so you know what to expect and catch on instantly. In "Say So" in particular, Lennig cites the nostalgic "'70s-inspired sound palate" as a musical trick that makes the song feel "both fresh and well-worn at the same time." Essentially, it fools you into thinking you've heard the song before. "It's those rhythmic hypnotic vocal patterns" that give these songs that ear-worm quality, Lennig adds.
As for what makes Doja Cat's songs the perfect TikTok dance tracks, Lennig cites "the relaxed multi-layered choruses and the rhythmic vocal delivery in the verses." When you combine those powerful elements with "funny, evocative, very self-deprecating lyrics, delivered with great confidence, it adds an amazing contrast that really helps connect with people," Lennig says. People are not just dancing to the songs, they're feeling the lyrics, acting them out. "Boss B*tch" in particular "definitely makes you to want to strut the red carpet, and all the TikTok videos showcase everyone doing their best versions of that," says Lennig. Further, according to Lennig, most of Doja Cat's songs have a BPM (beats per minute) of about 126, which makes it the perfect music to dance to — it's not hard to sync up your body with the music.
Musicologist Jared Gutstadt tells Bustle that Doja Cat is the perfect artist for TikTok, particularly in the time of coronavirus, because she is "harkening back to an era before live performances were a huge component of how artists thrived." You don't have to be in a live audience in order to get enveloped by the sound and feel of the music — you can play "Boss B*tch" in your living room and be immediately swept into it.
"This is music that is situational, and most of the time people listen to this type of music in clubs. And right now people are cooped up and wanting to find distractions through dancing and positive output. I think she is doing a really great job, intentionally or unintentionally, of just that," Gudstat tells Bustle.
RedOne, Producer, Songwriter.
Erich Lennig, Producer, Recording Artist.
Jared Gutstadt, Musicologist, CEO/Founder of Audio Up