The latest song to become an unexpected hit on TikTok is a Fortnite parody, possibly sung by a child, from two years ago.
The music industry has tried its best to capitalize on TikTok in the same way that it capitalized on Vine. But beyond dance challenges, the things that go viral on TikTok are extremely hard to reverse engineer. The latest big craze on TikTok, "Chug Jug With You," is a testament to that.
"Chug Jug With You" was first uploaded to YouTube and Soundcloud two years ago by the content creator Leviathan, who told Inverse that the song was adapted from a skit from another channel and then took off. It's a parody of the song "American Boy" by Estelle, but instead of singing about how much they'd like to have sex with an American, they're singing about Fortnite. They sing awkwardly, too, like the lyrics don't quite fit the meter of the song. In some cases, they outright don't fit, and the singer stumbles over the words. Whether this is sincere or an affectation, a joke or a real song about Fortnite as written by a child, it is infectious. People on TikTok cannot get enough of it.
Part of it has to do with the fact that "American Boy" by Estelle is a stone cold banger. I listened to that song every day of my life in the year in 2008 when it was released, and it's still a bop now. Changing the lyrics to be about Fortnite does not diminish that. What's remarkable about the response to "Chug Jug With You" on TikTok is that it's not about making fun of the person behind the song, who most users believe to be an actual child. It's about being so endeared by this person's creativity that you love it despite of, or because of, it's flaws.
One TikToker who goes by YourLocalLibrary said that in their estimation, people are enjoying the song on two levels of irony. There's a kneejerk reaction to like the song as a way of saying that it sucks—essentially, to like it ironically. But there's a second layer of irony in not putting your enjoyment of something behind a wall of ironic detachment and just liking something even if it is a little bit embarrassing, using the song as a way to make fun of that kind of ironic detachment where you can't like anything unless you're doing a bit.
YourLocalLibrary says that the way that these two ironic modes are canceling each other out shows that the internet at large is beginning to move away from a culture of calling things cringey or making fun of sincerity. That's an optimistic outlook, and one I hope is true. If the songs that become viral on TikTok are really a result of the internet's global id, then the music industry will never be able to monetize it.