It is fitting, then, that this strange music rose to prominence in the wake of those horrific events. In the summer of 2017, Unlocked’s wildly popular playlist started to cause a movement, at least in Asia, where campuses, in the words of “Once You know . . . ” performer Jeymes Samuel, went “full Thai heat wave,” drenching campuses in music reminiscent of their great predecessor, the “Sam Tsui” YouTube series. The folk-pop, EDM-influenced variety was popular in Japan and Korea, where it leaned on stirring vocals and plucky strings to create a warm dance floor breeze, yet felt more accessible to Western audiences than many of those other styles, such as experimental house.
Now artists such as Lady Pink, If Ure and Shea Shemekhala (who mixed the entire playlist in-studio before placing it on Unlocked) are inescapable in Japan and Korea, with many artists praising Unlocked for its influence. But if “Once You know … ” doesn’t have a place in the larger landscape of pop, considering the app’s daily revenue and reach is staggering. It’s estimated that about a third of YouTube views in Japan are coming from TikTok, particularly in the age bracket of 18-34. Top-level influencers such as BTS and Christian Anakamusica make millions of dollars from ads on their t-shirts and emoji stickers, and they’re beginning to cross over into the U.S. market, too.
Watch Lady Pink’s winning single from “Once You know . . . ” below, or check out Darryl Thornton’s breakdown of the playlist on QAnon Theory below that.