There is a large and loyal following of sea shanty enthusiasts in the depths of TikTok.
One of the top trendsetters in so-called “ShantyTok” is a deep-voiced Delaware County teenager.
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Luke Taylor, a Garnet Valley High graduate, has more than 920,000 followers on the video-sharing social media platform. He’s known for adding bass lines to other singers’ shanties, a form known as “dueting.” His videos have gained more than 9.5 million likes.
Sea shanties are a type of sailor folk song focused on treasure, pirates, mermaids and rum. They can be traced back to the 1400s but are getting newfound fame, thanks to TikTok.
Taylor is among a group hoping to bring sea shanties to a live audience — once it’s safe to do so. He recently teamed up with five other shanty creators to form the virtual singing group “The Anchor Men.”
Michael Quinn founded the group under his production company, Ginger Quiff Media, after seeing Taylor’s success on the app. He envisions The Anchor Men playing live concerts or festivals full of whiskey, pirate cosplayers and sea shanties — or maybe they’ll even take the show to the high seas on cruise ships once the threat of COVID-19 subsides.
“I think that’s the most important thing for me, that when we do get back to the real world, there’s that joyous feeling of being all together again, and I think that’s what this can bring,” Quinn said.
Taylor lends his deep basso profondo — the lowest vocal register — to The Anchor Men’s harmonious sound.
He got his start on TikTok months ago after he missed performing in his school’s choir. He said he mostly set out to sing country songs, but one day he heard Scottish singer Nathan Evans perform the shanty “Soon May the Wellerman Come” and thought it needed a little bass, PhillyMag reported.
He used TikTok’s duet feature to harmonize with Evans’s song and the video went viral — it was viewed more than 6 million times, Forbes reported.
The song became so popular that it soared onto the top 10 on the United Kingdom’s Official Singles Chart. Evans signed a record deal with Polydor Records.
Taylor, Evans and four other collaborators also teamed up to record a single of “Wellerman” to raise money for the UK-based Marine Conservation Society.
Sea shanty singers around the world use the duet feature to sync up to each other’s videos and harmonize their vocals to create a choir of singers from miles away.
After his first dose of fame, Taylor started posting more videos of himself singing shanties for a band of loyal followers, earning him a top spot in the trend.
“I feel like they’re very powerful songs,” Taylor told PhillyMag. “People need strength nowadays. Hearing people come together to sing these songs is really unifying.”
Evans echoed those sentiments, saying the songs give people much-needed hope and unity during the pandemic.
“Everybody is stuck at home, is down, feeling sad, and the song and TikTok, and all these people joining, brings a sense of happiness, fun, friendship, unity,” Evans told Forbes. “It lifts everybody’s morale and everybody’s mood, stomping their feet, clapping their hands. It’s a modernized sea shanty: it worked back then, it works now.”
Instagram’s TikTok clone Reels is now available in the Lite app in India
Instagram’s TikTok clone, Reels, has officially launched last August, but so far it’s only been available in the main Instagram app. From today on, however, you can also find Reels inside Instagram Lite in India.
As with all of Facebook’s Lite apps, this one is designed to be less data intensive and also use less resources on your phone, so it’s perfect for people who either have lower-end devices or small data plans, or both.
Reels is a feature that lets you record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects, and a bunch of creative tools. If that sounds familiar to every TikTok user out there, it’s because it should. Facebook and its various properties have never been shy about wholesale aping of successful features from other competing apps – Snapchat in particular has been copied a lot, and because of the reach of Facebook’s apps, its copies may end up being more successful than the originals. It still remains to be seen if that will be the case in the Reels vs. TikTok battle, but Instagram sure seems serious about Reels.
Instagram Lite, while gaining the Reels feature, still doesn’t have IGTV or Shop. And while you’ll be able to watch Reels in Instagram Lite, you still can’t create them there – you need the main app for that. But maybe the company is betting that more people would be willing to switch to that after seeing all these Reels, if that gets them to want to make their own.
The addition was apparently expedited for India, because of the traction Reels is seeing there, as well as the early adoption of the new Instagram Lite app, which has been available since September.
The beauty of TikTok’s secret, surprising, and eerily accurate recommendation algorithms
Why it matters:
It’s flipped the script on who gets famous online.
Deven Karpelman would never have joined TikTok if it hadn’t been for the pandemic. And she certainly never expected to be famous on it. But the app has a way of rewarding good content with views, dropping new creators in front of a broad spectrum of fans. That’s how Karpelman, a 57-year-old who works in special education and started making videos to stave off lockdown boredom, ended up with 327,000 followers, many of whom are a fraction of her age.
In one of her breakthrough videos from July, Karpelman—known as @tequilaanddonuts—re-creates the makeup looks she used to wear in the late ’70s. Her wavy white hair, which normally falls around her face in a granny-like halo, is pinned and clipped into something like a faux-hawk. She’s covered her face in white powder, painted her eyelids black, and drawn a thin line of dark lipstick. The video cuts, and when Karpelman comes back, she shows off her “fancy going-out face.” The black eyeshadow has extended all the way across her face and both eyes, as if someone had made an angry swipe with a paintbrush.
In the hours after she shared this makeup experiment, it was shown to hundreds of thousands of people on their “For You” pages, the lifeblood of TikTok. It wasn’t obvious to her why this particular post was suddenly so visible, except that TikTok’s recommendation algorithms had made it so.
Making it big
Since TikTok launched in China in 2016, it has become one of the most engaging and fastest-growing social media platforms in the world. It’s been downloaded more than 2.6 billion times globally and has 100 million users in the US. And the unique way it finds and serves up content is a big part of its appeal.
The “For You” page is what most TikTok creators think makes the app different from other social media platforms, because anyone can get famous there. Good content is rewarded faster, supercharged by the algorithms that show users an endless stream of videos tailored to their tastes. While other social media platforms favor viral content with mass appeal, TikTok’s algorithms have proved especially adept at plugging creators into niche communities that share interests, hobbies, or a particular identity.
A video’s chances of ending up on your “For You” page are determined by, among other things, the captions, sounds, and hashtags on it. And as with any other social media platform, what TikTok chooses to show you is based on how you use the app—which videos you’ve liked, what content you create. The difference is that TikTok is better at it.
Already-popular creators do have an easier time getting attention, but TikTok doesn’t take a creator’s following or viral history directly into account when figuring out what content to seed where. That’s why “For You” pages mix viral hits with new videos from unknown creators, some of which have just a few views.
Over time, TikTok’s algorithms get better at guessing what users are interested in, not only connecting them to videos in their own areas of interest but bringing them into new spaces that have some overlap. (One viral video laid out TikTok’s communities like a treasure map: to get to the wholesome world of Frog TikTok, you had to leave Straight TikTok, find your way to Stoner Witch or Cottagecore, pass through Trans and Non-Binary, and “go through the portal to reach the promised land.”)
Karpelman started doing makeup videos after teens on TikTok tried to correct her about an aesthetic that she lived at its peak. “[They were] trying to school me about being hardcore and, you know, being alternative. And I was like, ‘Oh, honey child, you did not invent sin,’” she told me when we spoke on Zoom in December.
Now her videos appear a lot in communities devoted to LGBTQ+ and mental-health issues and recently gained an audience of women around college age, she says. Followers say she has “grandma energy,” a distinction she has alternately leaned into and dodged.
Last year was an interesting one for TikTok: just as its cultural relevance exploded, it also faced challenges. India banned the app, and the Trump administration threatened to do the same unless TikTok’s Chinese parent company cut all ties. (The threat was not carried out.)
TikTok has had to release more information about how its algorithms work, partially in response to security concerns about its ownership, and competitors like Instagram, Snapchat, and Triller have sped up attempts to copy what it is that makes their rival’s recommendations so good.
At the same time, the platform has been forced to reckon with its increasing role in amplifying misinformation, and many Black creators have said that racism and harassment are disturbingly prevalent on it.
For Karpelman, TikTok has allowed her to connect with strangers during a difficult and lonely time, but the fame it bestowed on her has brought its own worries. Fans have reached out to ask her for help with serious mental-health issues and interpersonal conflicts. Sometimes they want more from her than she feels she can give.
Her experience working with students comes in handy: she sets boundaries and helps young fans learn to advocate for themselves. “Let’s do some Googling,” she says. “Let’s look at your [high school’s] admin. Oh, it looks like there is a district-wide psychologist. I will help you put together an email. You send it to me, I’ll proofread it and send it back to you, and then you send it to these people. Give it a try.”
But Karpelman has found another way to connect with her young audience: by talking about what they have in common. In one video, she demonstrates how she pretends to be on the phone in order to dodge a particularly aggressive salesperson in a mall. “There were a lot of kids that commented in there that said, ‘I had no idea that grownups had these social anxieties,’ and that kind of blew my mind,” she says. “Kids just have no idea that older people are human.”
Yale TikTok: A potential market for Gen-Z students
TikTok has become an increasingly popular social media outlet for many Yalies, with the top videos from Yale students averaging half a million views.
In today’s pandemic climate, social media has played a vital role in helping people feel connected, contributing to TikTok’s astronomical rise in popularity during the initial quarantine last year. Before we knew it, videos of whipped coffee and dances to “Supalonely” had consumed the teen media bubble, but this was only the beginning. The TikTok phenomenon took on a life of its own, branching into the affectionately dubbed “College TikTok,” where students shared videos of their high school stats and day in the life videos, acting as inspirations to high school seniors all across the world.
The success of NYU TikTok where students shared videos of dismal quarantine food options made national news in August 2020 and drew the eye of the public to this exponentially growing realm of the app. Yalies have made their own space on this social media platform, with “#yale” boasting a combined total of 124.2 million views.
“I’ve actually never heard of NYU tiktok (possibly because I’m Australian),” Tia Chitty ’24, who runs a TikTok with 94.9k followers at the time of writing, wrote in an email to the News. “I started making TikTok content on the very same day that I downloaded the app, so my content wasn’t based on what anyone else was making. I would love for Yale tiktok to grow and create its own little community — I think that could be really fun and a great way to connect!”
Browsing the tag is bound to yield a host of familiar faces, due to the capability of TikTok’s algorithm to launch a video into the viral stratosphere overnight, inspiring wannabe creators to make content.
The popularity of college videos then leads to several questions: What is inspiring these students to create? Are they leveraging the Yale name for clout, or do they truly hope to offer insight? The News spoke to three TikTok creators about their thoughts.
“I’m inspired by creators who make me feel genuinely happy,” Chitty said. “I often feel a little bit down after scrolling through social media, but there are a few refreshing, genuine and positive creators who make me smile,” she said.
Chitty, who runs a YouTube channel as well, also cited the record of memories she has captured as an inspiration to keep filming.
Jasmine Oang ’24, who runs an account with 4,084 followers at the time of writing, shares a similar sentiment with regard to content creation, citing her desire to help people and make interesting content, as well as being inspired by the content that she herself enjoys watching, such as day in the life videos.
Dania Baig ’23 has 1,798 followers on TikTok. According to Baig, part of Yale TikTok’s draw is that potential applicants are looking for ways to vicariously experience college, and can only do it through social media due to the lack of Bulldog Days, which is traditionally a three-day-long event where accepted students can get a taste of life at Yale.
“I think there are certain creators who definitely have the potential to be shouted out on national news because of the nature of their content — Kahlil Greene, most notably, but also Noelle Mercer for her series where she covers a prominent black woman artist every day this month,” Baig wrote to the News.
Both Chitty and Oang detailed that their main audience are people in their teens and early 20s, with Chitty also referencing her status as an international student contributing to the large numbers of Australian teens following her for a glimpse into life at an American college.
According to Oang, though her most popular videos are ones detailing tips for the SAT, she enjoys making day in the life videos most.
“I love making SAT tip videos because in high school, there were a lot of resources that cost money and really reinforced the elitism in academic success, but as a first-generation student with a single mom, they weren’t as accessible for me,” Oang said. “I spent a lot of time looking into opportunities and I really wish I had someone to point me in the right direction through all of it, so I try to do that through TikTok.”
However, Oang cited the ease and fun of day in the life videos as reasons why they are her favorite to create.
Chitty also enjoys making “day in the life” content or videos detailing specific events in her life the most.
Her most popular video to date, with 3.4 million views, was about her taking her first Yale economics midterm in Australia at 2 a.m.
“I enjoy sharing these experiences with people and also love capturing the moments so I can look back on them in the future,” Chitty said. “Most of my followers are Australian, and so they also enjoy my ‘skit’ videos where I act out conversations between an Australian and an American.”
Though the Yale name does give videos a certain boost, both Oang and Chitty believe that they would still be making TikToks whether they were at Yale or not.
Since its launch in September 2016, Tik Tok’s popularity has grown exponentially, and is reported to have 1 billion active users as of February 2021.
Mai Chen| email@example.com