The success Steve Lacy is experiencing with “Bad Habit” shows how TikTok could help a beloved song compete against today’s biggest pop hits — both on the charts and at the awards.
This year, we’ve seen a number of unexpected songs make their way to the top of the charts. Thanks to the latest season of Stranger Things, Kate Bush’s ’80s classic “Running Up That Hill” became one of the songs that will define 2022, peaking at No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 this year. But there’s been another song that has seen an unexpected rise on the chart throughout the year, too. A track that hasn’t only peaked at No. 1 after being sandwiched between pop hits like Harry Styles’ “As It Was” and Lizzo’s “About Damn Time,” but has now been nominated for some of the Grammys’ biggest awards — “Bad Habit” by Steve Lacy.
The second single from Lacy’s latest album Gemini Rights, “Bad Habits” is a jangling guitar ballad about the would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve of an unpursued attraction — a notable contrast to the upbeat pulse of “As It Was” and “About Damn Time,” as well as other big hits of the year like Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” and Nicki Minaj’s “Super Freaky Girl.”
i know every lyric alr😭😭 album finna be insane. I WISH I KNEW
Now, how is it that “Bad Habit” hasn’t only peaked at No. 1 (for three weeks at that), but has been nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year (along with Best Pop Solo Performance)? Well. it’s primarily thanks to TikTok. The song has been used in almost 594,000 videos, including brand promo videos from TikTok’s most popular users like Charlie D’Amelio and Hailey Bieber. It’s also not tied to a specific trend (as is usually the case with a song making the rounds on the social media platform), with NYLON noting how the song “seems to be linked to almost every type of video — people doing mundane tasks, getting dressed, and walking around – and some more thoughtful ones using the lyrics as inspiration for the video itself.” This has all helped “Bad Habit” have a slow but steady climb from its No. 6 debut on the Hot 100 to peaking at No. 1. But that isn’t the only chart the song has topped this year. As Billboard reported back in early September, “Bad Habit” is the first song to ever top their Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot R&B Songs, Hot Rock & Alternative Songs, Hot Rock Songs and Hot Alternative Songs charts at the same time.
That “Bad Habit” has found itself leading charts across genres and receiving Grammy nods is understandable. The song, like the rest of the album, is a fusion of sounds, primarily R&B and indie rock. Now, will this become more of a norm — where lesser known but still extremely popular artists (or even just lesser artists) may find themselves at the top of the charts or included in Grammy nominations alongside ubiquitous pop stars? Possibly. We’ve seen before how a social media trend or a notable celebrity can transform a relatively unknown song into a hit. There’s also the unpredictable democracy of TikTok at play too, where the expected current big hits may find themselves alongside decades-old songs like Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” or an R. Kelly song that really shouldn’t be the soundtrack to a viral dance trend.
And, lastly, there’s “Bad Habit” itself: a good song that has the elements necessary to be both a TikTok favorite and unassuming pop hit — an instantly memorable and good hook with an instantly infectious and good melody.
Hopefully, “Bad Habit” hints at more unexpected, slightly left-of-field, genre-blending artists getting notable recognition like this, where the TikTok virality translates into the moment Lacy is having.