Why Are We All Obsessed With Sped-Up Songs?

Why Are We All Obsessed With Sped-Up Songs?

Music like all creative mediums has been prone to cycles that have captured our imagination. Up till now, we’ve had the emergence of genres like rock n roll, the birth of rap music through the reimagining of breakbeats as well as the curiosity in autotune which led to Cher’s – Believe. The most recent phenomenon that has been sweeping the globe has taken shape in the form of “sped-up songs”, primarily through Tiktok; this alteration of a song’s pitch and length has sparked a unique interest in an audience base almost riddled with change, but debates regarding both its efficacy and ethicality still loom large. 

The sped-up feature is not something new to the music industry, with the chipmunk soul sound innovated by Kanye West in the early 2000s being a core musical moment. This did however further develop in the mid-2000s, within a subgenre called Nightcore. Nightcore gained a rather intense following starting in the late 2000s, where musicians would post sped-up remixes on YouTube to support boosts in engagement. In 2011, Nightcore music became an Internet sensation with the song “Rockefeller Street” from Eurovision 2011 getting the nightcore treatment and surprisingly going viral. As a result of this other genres quickly went on to start using the effect on their audio.

In modern times sped-up songs have become quite common on TikTok with fan edits. Record labels have also been utilizing this nightcore feature to almost replace the common practice of remixes from decades passed. TikTok can be seen to be filled with accounts dedicated to the creation of sped-up songs like this which have signified the genre’s wide-reaching popularity on the platform.

The nature of the edit’s recognition has shifted the landscape of modern music and how it’s received, as well as also forcing the hand of executives to play ball by factoring sped-up mixes into the official rollouts of some of the industry’s biggest songs. Amber Grimes, executive vice president and general manager of the record label LVRN, says that social media trends are just another aspect of the music industry now. “It’s just too late in the game to be questioning Gen Z or questioning TikTok,” she says. “It’s more of whatever they say goes, and it’s about how you respond to it.” (1)

The ascension of sped-up mixes saw its first “Gen-Z” success with the track “Escapism” by Raye. The initial fear from an artistry standpoint was that these ‘sped-up’ mixes would overshadow the artist’s initial intention by out streaming the original song. However, the opposite seems to be in play. This can be seen with the original version of Raye’s “Escapism” (511 million streams) significantly out-streaming its sped-up remix on Spotify. This has allowed the music industry to buy into the tide of sped-up songs as the long-term financial and exposure-related benefits to their initial investments were being seen to be met. The remixes have also spurred the rebirth of pop cultural favourites for the masses in the shape of Miguel’s “Sure Thing” and helped attain chart successes for The Weeknd’s “Die for You,” Lady Gaga’s “Bloody Mary,” alongside the aforementioned track. 

The compromising of art is another complex element artists are having to navigate, as for all the streaming benefits and potential financial rewards sped-up tracks grant them, the nature and intentionality behind the original concepts are being lost which may make many question their state of musicianship and create an internal space of disposition within them. Justine Skye spoke to this when she said the following “Obviously, you want to make the consumer happy, but the artists have put so much time and effort and care into creating something for people to just completely disregard it and just distort it into whatever they want. That isn’t enjoyable always for the person that’s making it”.

Music has and will always mirror society, from the protest music of Marvin Gaye and Motown being born from the plight of African Americans to 70s discos’ massive growth during economic turmoil, the current sped-up trend is hyper-focusing on the connection networks, information access, and the overall shrinking of the globe which is forcing the music to be packaged and consumed in bite-sized and sped up quantities. A 2018 study of Billboard Hot 100 hits showed that the duration of hit songs has been on the decline for the majority of the 2010s. In 2020, data researchers at UCLA found that the mean duration of songs was approaching the lowest it had been since 1930, and this trend is due to continue with lower attention span rates.

This all-encompassing phenom is reshaping creative outlets as we speak, whilst simultaneously showing no signs of slowing down. The overall long-term success of this new cornerstone in music does however depend on the law’s ability to catch up with its innovation, alongside the degree of freedom able to be secured for all artists.

Discover more from GUAP’s Music section here.


2) https://www.nme.com/en_asia/features/music-features/sped-up-songs-tiktok-hits-raye-oliver-tree-sza-coldplay-jovynn-3382579