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13 ACL Fest artists you definitely know from TikTok

Eric Webb
Austin 360
Doja Cat speaks at the MTV Video Music Awards at Barclays Center on Sept. 12 in New York.

Every night before bed – let’s say an hour or so – it's time to catch up on my TV programs. And by that, I mean it’s time to lie down and swipe through TikTok. 

The social media video app has become a dominant force in American culture, and that includes pop music. TikTok’s responsible for the discovery of up-and-coming artists and for the viral success of songs both new and old. Of course, it’s not just TikTok; any meme, anywhere, is a win for an artist trying to notch a little recognition.  

You better believe Austin City Limits Music Festival is part of that ecosystem. Here are a few of the artists at the fest this year who might make you go, “Hey, I recognize that.” Check aclfestival.com for show times.

Doja Cat 

The meme queen. The empress of the extremely online. There’s only one person who could kick off this list. The rapper and singer’s song “Moo!” went viral in 2018, but it’s her 2019 song “Say So” which became one of the defining TikTok songs of that weirdo year we call 2020, thanks to a dance challenge. Nicki Minaj jumped on a remix and “Say So” went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

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And that’s not all! Some of your favorite viral TikTok sounds might be from Doja joints: “Best Friend,” “Boss Bitch,” “Cyber Sex,” “Freak,” “Tia Tamera,” “Like That,” “Woman,” “Need To Know” and “Kiss Me More” have all likely popped up on your FYP before. (And honestly, that’s probably not all of them.) 

Frances Forever 

“Space giiiiiiiiirl/ I saw a lunar eclipse.” That’s how Frances Garrett’s song called “Space Girl” (of course) goes, and also how some of your favorite TikToks start. The indie artist’s tune went viral on the platform last year thanks to, yes, a dance challenge. Earlier this year, Garrett, as Frances Forever, released a new version of the song featuring singer Chloe Moriondo. 

Mother Mother 

Truly, I had no idea what the words to this song were, and apparently, the viral clip goes, “It started with the hayloft a-creakin'/ Well, it just started in the hay/ With his longjohns on, pop went a-creeping/ Out to the barn, up to the hay.” The song “Hayloft” by Canadian band Mother Mother is often used in TikToks that first show one character and then another that unexpectedly trumps it – like “father who thinks he’s always right,” followed by “daughter who loves to argue.” 

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That second part usually is accompanied by the TikTok creator making a pointing gesture to the opposite arm, an ironic symbol that originally meant “ice in my veins” and colloquially means something like “dang, that’s cold blooded.”   

I don’t know, guys, it’s really hard to explain TikTok trends when you write them out. Just go watch a compilation somewhere online. 

Megan Thee Stallion 

Of course, the H-Town Hottie herself isn’t famous because she’s gone viral; it’s because she’s one of the most exciting rap talents of the modern era. But it hasn’t hurt! “Savage” was her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, thanks to a ubiquitous TikTok dance and a Beyoncé remix. On other videos, you’ve probably heard “Thot S—,” “W.A.P.,” “Cognac Queen” and of course “Body.” (Cue the music: “Body-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody" …) In fact, TikTok said she was the platform's most-listened artist of 2020

Jxdn 

This one’s a little different. Jxdn (real name Jaden Isaiah Hossler) is a Texas-born influencer who rose to fame as a social media personality in 2019. He made his music debut the next year with the pop-punk single "Comatose.” It caught the attention of Blink-182 drummer and emo elder statesman Travis Barker, who signed him to a record deal. Jxdn — oh, it’s still pronounced like “Jaden” — currently has 9.3 million followers on TikTok. 

Tate McRae 

A former “So You Think You Can Dance” finalist, 18-year-old McRae is definitely another artist whose success is inextricably tied to social media. She really started to bubble up thanks to songs posted to YouTube, which landed her a record deal. It’s the emotional and slightly industrial ballad “You Broke Me First,” though, that you’re likely to recognize from your late-night TikTok scrolling. 

Jack Harlow 

What’s poppin’? No, really, “Whats Poppin” is one of the defining songs of the TikTok era, and definitely the reason the 23-year-old rapper is a certified rising star. His feature on Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby” and its smash-hit music video, too, have no doubt invaded many ACL Fest attendees’ feeds.

People also just like talking about Harlow on the internet, sometimes when they’re trying to figure out why exactly they think he’s hot. Seriously. Sometimes, people just have that something special ... 

Remi Wolf 

The creative Cali singer’s “Photo ID” made the rounds on TikTok a bit ago, specifically the line “Ooh baby, turn off the light/ You're gonna make my body fry,” usually used to soundtrack videos of a dramatic transformation: a makeup reveal, a teenage boy changing into a French maid outfit, you name it. 

Greta Van Fleet 

This one is almost cheating, but we’re including it because it makes us happy. People thought singer Josh Kiszka’s performance of “You’re the One” on an episode of “Saturday Night Live” was funny. He’s doin’, like, a funny little head tilt thing, singing the lyrics, “See, where we've been/ Won't you hold my hand and stay a while?” You’ve just got to watch it. Anyway, that went viral on social media and spawned a whole meme where people reenacted it. Not for nothing, it juiced sales of the song, according to reports

Polo G 

The Chicago-born rapper has had a couple songs go viral on TikTok, including “Rapstar” and “Go Stupid.” He also has 4 million followers on the platform. 

Billie Eilish 

Of course. She’s everywhere. Just didn’t want any angry tweets because we left her out. Worth mentioning that the hit song “Therefore I Am," in particular, found its way around the viral audioscape. Oddly enough, Eilish herself didn’t even join TikTok until November. 

Trixie Mattel 

Now, this might just be my FYP, but the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” champion and musician is a frequent ghost haunting my late-night scrolling. Not for her music, so much (sorry Trix), but for soundbites from her popular webseries, “UHNnnn,” with fellow drag performer Katya. Ever heard an “Oh honey” in the internet aether? It’s her.  

Miley Cyrus 

Hannah Montana didn’t need TikTok, but her alter ego sure has profited from it. Songs like “Midnight Sky” and “Plastic Hearts” proved popular on the ol’ clock app. The former song samples Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” and spawned mash-ups on social media between the two; Cyrus and Nicks eventually released an official remix blend. 

Also, let’s not forget that a video of Cyrus covering Blondie’s seminal hit “Heart of Glass” last year at the iHeart Festival went viral. To be honest, the “Party in the U.S.A.” singer has been around in the fabric of pop culture so long that it’s impossible to comprehensively document her contributions to meme culture.

But for our money, it all comes back to the infamous clip of Cyrus performing/screaming “Twinkle Song”: “What does it mean? What does it meeean?!” That one’s gonna stick around the internet for a while.