Thanks to TikTok, Pavement Finally Have a Gold Record

The social media platform, with the help of Spotify, has landed the California rock legends in the good graces of the RIAA for the first time since forming over 30 years ago.

Music Features Pavement
Thanks to TikTok, Pavement Finally Have a Gold Record

Ask a Pavement fan what their favorite Pavement song is and you’ll likely get a different answer every time. “Range Life,” “Major Leagues,” “AT&T” and “Here” would all be good choices. Before 2022, how many of them would have said “Harness Your Hopes,” though? Well the Brighten the Corners B-side isn’t just one of the band’s most beloved songs ever now, it was just certified Gold by the RIAA—and it’s the band’s first Gold certification ever, coming more than 30 years after their formation and 25 years after their last studio album.

Initially, Spotify’s algorithm was taking notice of the B-side and started recommending it to its users at the ends of their playlists or in their Discover Weekly mixes. Cue a new music video directed by Alex Ross Perry and a bevy of online dances specifically choreographed to Stephen Malkmus’ catchy, nonchalant lilt, and you’ve got a one-in-a-million shot at making some noise. And TikTok accounts began clinging to the 1997 afterthought and spreading it like wildfire. I remember being on Pavement’s Apple Music page at one point, before I’d even become aware of them being a thing on TikTok, and was puzzled about why “Harness Your Hopes” was their most-streamed song on the platform and not “Cut Your Hair.” You can’t see individual stats on Apple Music, but on Spotify they’re clear as day: “Harness Your Hopes” has 148 million streams and “Cut Your Hair” has 42.5 million. That is a colossal difference, especially for a rock band that broke through in the 1990s and hasn’t made a record together in any decade since.

But what’s really interesting about Pavement’s recent Gold certification is that “Harness Your Hopes” is no longer as popular on the platform as it was, say, a year ago. We’re now getting a real look into the aftermath of such a feverish virality, and it’s why Pavement released a “sped up” version of “Harness Your Hopes” onto streaming last month, an easy-access option for content creators. Pavement’s B-side took the place of Lord Huron’s “The Night We Met” and was, in due time, replaced by Djo’s “End of Beginning.” That’s how it works on TikTok. Earlier this year, Hozier’s “Too Sweet” had a moment; right now, a demo by Strawberry Switchblade is starting to gain audio virality. After The Batman came out, Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” ballooned to over 450 million streams (passing “About a Girl,” “Dumb,” “The Man Who Sold the World” and “In Bloom”).

You’ll never know quite where lightning is going to strike. In 2022, I couldn’t scroll past more than five or six videos without stumbling upon clips of Tyler Childers, and now he’s one of the biggest country musicians working today. Colter Wall’s “Cowpoke” also had a surge in popularity. And remember how, in 2021, TikTok made the Mountain Goats’ “No Children” a massive song (it has 20 million more streams than the next song in their catalog, “This Year”)? A 10-second clip of Chappell Roan’s “Good Luck, Babe!” went viral on the app weeks before it was officially released as a single! Gen-Z are unpredictable, and the algorithms revel in that kind of chaos.

Maybe the best instance of TikTok’s widespread popularity being capable of changing the commercial DNA of any song is when a snippet of an unknown synth-pop song went viral—even though no one could figure out who it was by and where it came from. It got so big and mysterious that a subreddit community was formed in an effort to unmask its true identity. After months of internet sleuthing, the track—known separately as “Everyone Knows That” and “Ulterior Motives”—was discovered to be from a 1986 porno called Angels of Passion.

Pavement getting a Gold record because thousands of people put “Harness Your Hopes” as the audio on their TikTok videos very well might be one of the last flash-in-the-pan success stories the platform is largely responsible for catalyzing. Congress is trying to ban the app—in the name of privacy concerns for TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, and its alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party—and they included the proposal in a bill that also sends foreign aid to Israel, who are currently carrying out a genoicde in Gaza. If the ban ends up happening in the next year or so, we will be forced to look onwards to whatever entity will, inevitably, rise up and take its place.

But we cannot undersell just how important TikTok has become in people, especially members of Gen-Z, broadening their tastes across all art mediums, be it music, film or even television. Hell, even the gaming (video and board) community on the app has inspired me to branch out toward genres I’d have never thought twice about five years ago. So, for now, I guess we should all just enjoy Pavement getting some flowers for a really great track that, let’s be honest, probably should’ve been on Brighten the Corners to begin with. What song takes flight on TikTok next isn’t up to any of us (crossing my fingers for a Rilo Kiley renaissance, though), and who knows how much longer that kind of virality will even be possible.

Matt Mitchell is Paste’s music editor, reporting from their home in Northeast Ohio.

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