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How South Africa's Tyla shook up the internet

Achieving Woman
 South-African star Tyla [Courtesy, Instagram]

At 21 years old, the South-African star Tyla has the world dancing to her hit track, Water.

Like several catchy tunes today that have mastered the recipe for viral success on the popular social media app TikTok, Water has captivated global audiences, catapulting the young starlet to international recognition.

Coupled with an intriguing dance routine- turned dance challenge, the track blends pop, R&B, Afrobeats, and amapiano in its sound, as described by Time Magazine.

“[The track] was released in July [2023], and began gaining popularity on TikTok in August after Tyla posted videos of herself dancing to the song and performing it on stage—prompting fans to want to try it themselves,” the report notes, adding, “As of October, the hashtags #TylaWater and #TylaWaterChallenge have a combined 448.6 million views, and the song has been used in over 500,000 videos on the app as people post themselves mimicking her moves.”

The report adds: “The viral dance challenge was created by South African singer and dancer Tyla’s choreographer, Litchi, and she helped the challenge get more traction after she started posting videos of herself doing the dance on her TikTok page. It has dancers shake their hips and kick their legs before pouring a bottle of water down their backs to the lyrics, ‘Make me sweat, make me hotter, make me lose my breath, make me water.’”

Full name Tyla Laura Seethal, the rising star is known mononymously as Tyla, and she has been on the social media and music scene for a while, even before Water became a mega hit.

“This is not her first brush with viral fame. [Last year], the slick song Been Thinking showcased her ability to blend all of the genres she set out to in a fascinating way,” Time Magazine reports, adding, “Her debut single, Getting Late, also had a moment online. Those songs, however, did not have the same wide-reaching impact as her current single, which she says has cracked open a world of opportunity.”

“It’s crazy, I can’t believe this is all happening,” Tyla told Capital Xtra in an interview, opening up about Water going viral and how she’s handling the fame.

The singer supported the American RnB singer Chris Brown as the opening act on his Under The Influence tour in the UK and Europe, and she said that she learnt a lot from the How We Roll singer.

“People don’t know, but I haven’t performed a lot before the tour, so that was like my first actual performance, literally on the O2 stage, opening for the show. I learnt so much, it was amazing,” Tyla said.

She further revealed that she has always liked making music, growing from a child that loved to put on a show for family and friends to a charming artiste set for stardom.

“I was performing in primary school, high school, everywhere I could. I always told my parents that I was going to get into music. They never took me serious but on my last year of school I was like ‘okay guys, I’m done now’ and I got them to let me take a gap year then things started taking off and I got signed to Epic Records.”

She spoke about the hard work she put in even before she got signed, noting that she would make videos, post them on TikTok and Instagram as well reach out to anyone she could in the music industry.

“Anyone that had a blue tick on Instagram I was DM-ing,” she said, adding, “I never got a response, but look where I am today, things are moving.”

In November, the Johannesburg-born singer and songwriter made history as the youngest musician to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, courtesy of her hit track Water. It was her first career entry on the chart.

BBC Entertainment reports: “The song's video received more than one million views on YouTube on the first day of its release on the platform on 6 October. This is the first time a song by a South African female artist has achieved this feat, according to World Music Awards.”

The report adds that the song has so far attracted 10.7 million monthly Spotify listeners for Tyla.

 At 21 years old, the South-African star Tyla has the world dancing to her hit track, Water [Courtesy, Instagram]

To achieve viral success on TikTok, a song has to have “memorable lyrics” according to a report published on the Grammy Awards website.

“Since the video clips can only be 15 seconds long, the app only plays a short segment of the featured song. The audio content of TikTok videos is the song itself and not the user singing, rapping or talking over it, meaning songs with clever or quotable lyrics tend to be the most popular.”

The report adds: “While some tracks that make waves on the platform may be fun and catchy and continue to gain traction in its whole form on streaming platforms and the like, what is most important in successful TikTok hits are the catchy bars that hook people in and allow them to use their bodies and facial expressions—from dance moves, costume changes, creative makeup and more—to put themselves in the song.”

As she continues charting her path as a formidable force in the global music scene, Tyla has hinted at an upcoming debut EP, confirming in multiple interviews that it is a work in progress.

Time Magazine reports on how the singer has built her brand, becoming viral as an individual too.

“Tyla herself has become a viral sensation, with her own videos amassing about 65 million views each. Other videos she has posted of herself doing the dance drew in tens of millions of views each.”

The music video for Water went up on YouTube on the first week of October, and has amassed an impressive 56 million views in just one month.

Her career is one to watch, as she joins a list of African superstars putting Afrobeat and African culture on the global map, like Rema, Burna Boy, Davido and other celebrated personalities.

Billboard Magazine reports that Tyla’s track Water is not just making waves on the charts, but on radio too, landing in the top 20 of Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Rhythmic Airplay and debuting at No. 39 on Pop Airplay in the last week of October.

When asked what fans can expect from her upcoming EP, Tyla told Billboard: “Definitely more bangers. It’s going to be a short and sweet one, but it’s going to be a glimpse into my sound because I do feel like it has developed over time and it’s more where I want it to be. It’s my first project ever.”

She added: “I’ve been releasing music and making music for years now, so it’s exciting for me to start making worlds for people to listen to and tap into. But it’s definitely a new, fresh sound for the world. And it’s a fusion between my African world and my ideal popstar/R&B world. And I’m super excited for people to listen.”


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