(Header image via YouTube.)
Last year, rapper Megan Thee Stallion commanded the summer when she coined the movement-starting phrase “Hot Girl Summer,” and it’s looking like she’s hoping to do it again this summer with a remixed version of her song “Savage”(language) featuring Beyoncé. It’s been out for over a month and reached Billboard’s Hot 100’s #1 spot on the week of May 30. Marking the first #1 hit for Megan Thee Stallion, "Savage” is a prime example of the power that remixes and TikTok exposure have on today’s music industry.
The original “Savage”
The original version of “Savage” (language) was released on March 6, 2020, as a part of Stallion’s third EP Suga. The song is lyrically braggadocious in nature, essentially focused on the fact that Megan Thee Stallion is without a doubt a “savage.”
I’m a savage
Classic, bougie, ratchet
Sassy, moody, nasty
Acting stupid, what’s happening?
This hook repeats throughout the song, reminding listeners of all the ways Stallion represents her “savage” status as a person of color and as a woman. The theme of female empowerment continues throughout the rest of the song, albeit in a very dominating way. She has no problem being in control of men. Whether it’s by expressing how rich or sexually desirable she is compared to other women, Stallion certainly views herself as a powerful woman. While we’re all for female empowerment, we wouldn’t say this is the best way to express it.
If you’re worried about your teen being exposed to the language and themes expressed in “Savage,” the best thing you can do as a parent is to simply talk about it. Because with its massive popularity on TikTok (more on that soon) and other forms of social media, the song is almost unavoidable. At the end of this post, we’ll include a list of good ways to start conversation about this song, and we encourage you to explore those with your teen, as you help to add insight and wisdom into the culture they live in.
As COVID-19 forced everyone inside, Gen Z turned to social media to cope with the dramatic adjustment to their everyday lives in an effort to feel connected. Since the start of lockdowns, TikTok has reached two billion global downloads, so it’s safe to say that TikTok’s reach is substantial, especially with Gen Z. On the app, things like dance trends give teens a chance to feel like they’re a part of something fun and communal, and in a time when they can’t go out and spend time with friends, finding people with similar interests on TikTok has become a popular virtual hobby.
Within a week of its release, the original version of “Savage” was trending on TikTok, thanks to 19-year-old user Keara Wilson’s creation of an original dance set to the song.
The dance caught on quickly, with help from celebrities and Megan Thee Stallion herself sharing the original dance with their own flair. Thanks to this extra exposure (Keara Wilson’s original TikTok post has 39.8m views and 2.7m likes), “Savage” shot to the top of the charts. As the #savagechallenge took off on TikTok, the song rose from #98 on the Billboard Hot 100 list to #20 in just one week.
Whether specifically created for TikTok or not, TikTok’s viral nature has given today’s pop songs their footing. In April, the top 10 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 all had some relation to TikTok, be it a dance trend or just being a popular sound to use. Since remixes count along with the original song when Billboard collects its data, the more ways you can keep a song fresh and exciting (a remix, TikTok trend, etc.), the longer it has the chance of rising to the top. This is why a song like “Savage Remix” has been able to stay so relevant.
The power of remixes
Releasing remixes in order to preserve a song’s life and success on the charts is not a new phenomenon. Remember Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” remix last summer? After adding Justin Bieber into the song, “Bad Guy” rose to #1 after having been in the #2 spot for 9 weeks. Also in the summer of 2019, remixes of “Old Town Road” never seemed to stop, keeping it in the #1 spot for a record-breaking 19 weeks. Fast forward to this summer, the #1 hit before the “Savage” remix was Doja Cat’s TikTok hit “Say So,” remade (language) with help from Nicki Minaj.
In all of these instances, the original song was rereleased with an extra verse from another high-profile artist. This way, the fanbase from the featuring artist would also support the song, rapidly boosting the song’s numbers to pull it to the top of the charts.
But rather than simply looping a few extra measures of the song and letting Beyoncé add a small verse (which probably still would have been enough to substantially boost the song), the “Savage Remix” features multiple brand-new verses from Beyoncé and Stallion both, completely restructuring the song and adding new instrumental elements to give it a fresh feel. Just hours after its release, the trend #savagechallenge2 started, boosting the song to #1 in no time.
The appeal of staying “Savage”
Along with its updated production and structure, the remix got a lot of buzz for its lyrical and cultural references. The same braggadocious sexually-charged themes are still present, but Beyoncé’s specific shoutouts to Instagram Live’s stripper performance series Demon Time, OnlyFans (a social media subscription service primarily devoted to NSFW content), and even TikTok itself all caused a stir.
The remix also follows another recent trend of artists donating proceeds from their new music to coronavirus relief organizations. Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé chose to donate to Houston’s Bread of Life. Due to this charitable effort, along with both artists’ prominent status in their hometown, the mayor of Houston announced that Beyoncé and Stallion are getting their own “day” in honor of the remix and its impact on the community.
Talk about it with your teen
TikToks can last anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute, which means that if your teen knows the “Savage Remix” from the dance, then they might only know a fraction of the song. It can be quite jarring to go from a clean snippet to a whole song full of explicit and sexually aggressive lyrics, especially for a teen who only associated the song with a fun little dance. As TikTok remains fairly restriction-free, there is no way to be sure what parts of songs your teen may be exposed to, explicit or not. To survey the contents of the song for yourself, take some time to listen to the “Savage” remix, and then use these questions to get the conversation going.
- Do you like the “Savage” remix? What do you like about it?
- Do you think the lyrics of the song are empowering to women?
- Have you seen or done the #savagechallenge? Have your friends?
- Does an accompanying TikTok dance make you enjoy the song more?
- Do you find the songs you listen to today primarily on TikTok, even though you only hear 15 seconds?
- Does the fact that the song is helping out a non-profit organization make you want to listen to it more?