Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, is one of the most popular short-form video platforms in China. By September 2020 over half of the 1.4 billion people in China are active on Douyin every day. 

Douyin uses a robust algorithm that personalizes your feed, enticing you to watch nonstop. Surprisingly, most top songs on Douyin are not by singers with household names, but by bedroom and indie artists that had never been heard before. 

Douyin provides equal opportunities for mainstream, indie and amateur musicians to go viral. Here are six of the most popular songs on Douyin in 2020.

  1. 1 마리아 (Maria) by 화사 (Hwasa)

    Hwasa is a South Korean singer and a member of the girl group Mamamoo. Her first solo EP “Maria” was released on June 29, 2020. 

    Its catchy chorus immediately swept Douyin. Users took the song and paired it with transformation challenges:

    “Maria” also made its name through its powerful choreography. Hundreds of Douyin users uploaded dance covers of “Maria” and received up to thousands of millions of likes.  

  2. 2 “少年” (Shào nián, Young Man) by 梦然 (Mèng rán)

    Right before Meng Ran composed “少年,” she hit pause on both her life and her job. Overwhelmed by her life, Meng Ran had no idea what kind of attitude she should adapt for her future. 

    One day, she realized that to overcome the obstacles, she should never forget why she started singing. She eventually wrote “少年,” an upbeat and supportive piece with a positive life lesson: stay hungry, stay foolish. 

    The song resonated strongly with the many people who once shared the same struggle. “少年” made its way to the top of the Douyin Music Chart in early 2020.

  3. 3 云与海 (Yún yǔ hǎi, Cloud and Sea) by A Yue Yue

    There is almost no information online about A Yue Yue. In the singer’s NetEase Music bio, she describes herself as an “amateur singer, singing for fun.” 

    A mysterious background is not unusual for those who go viral on TikTok. “云与海” compares the relationship between two lovers to that between the clouds and the sea: although they are in love with each other, their differences ultimately tear them apart. 

    Fans of the song recorded multiple covers on Douyin:

  4. 4 踏山河 (Tà shānhé, Across My Country) by Shi Qi Shu Ne

    Shi Qi Shu Ne is a popular Douyin singer with about 5.6 million fans, who started out on Douyin by covering songs. In the past few months, Shi Qi Shu Ne’s cover of “燕无歇” (Yàn wú xiē) gained massive traction on Douyin. 

    Thus, his release “踏山河” naturally received wide attention from the very beginning. The first video of “踏山河” gained over 3 million likes in less than one month. 

    Both “燕无歇” and “踏山河” belong to a genre called “Gufeng,” (古风, Gǔfēng) which is popular among Gen Z. Music in this style often incorporates traditional Chinese musical elements, including Chinese instruments and Chinese opera singing. The lyrics of Gufeng music usually imitate the style of traditional Chinese poems.  

  5. 5 隔岸 (Gé àn, On the Other Side of the River) by 姚六一 (Yáo liùyī)

    “隔岸” belongs to the same Gufeng genre as “踏山河.” Very similar to how many Douyin songs became viral, this piece wasis made popular by covers, dances and transformation challenges. The DJ remix of “隔岸” embedded strong and consistent beats under the original, making it easy for users to dance along. 

  6. 6 飞鸟和蝉 (Fēiniǎo hé chán, Bird and Cicada) by 任然 (Rèn rán)

    “飞鸟和蝉” is a nostalgic summer love song about two lovers parting because of their different life goals. Ren Ran’s soft, calming voice makes the song easy to pair with any video. The more people enjoy “飞鸟和蝉”' as background music, the more popular it is on Douyin. 

    While Ren Ran has been on the music scene for a long time and has several highly praised songs, she is still not widely known by the general public. Some of her other songs are “空空如也” (Kōng kōng rú yě), “疑心病” (Yí xīn bìng), and “无人之岛” (Wú rén zhī dǎo).

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