Trendsetters: “See Nobody” Challenge

How TikTok helped Wes Nelson achieve a Top 5 debut single

By Milan Charles

Thursday, 12th of November 2020

Some musicians spend years attempting to break into the Official Singles Chart Top 100, releasing song after song only for it to fall on deaf ears. So how did ex-Nuclear Systems Design Engineer Wes Nelson achieve a Top 5 hit with his debut single ‘See Nobody’ without any previous music experience or industry reputation?

If you’re not familiar with Wes Nelson, here’s a quick recap. Wes starred in the fourth season of ITV2 reality series Love Island and has since competed on Dancing on Ice and The X Factor: Celebrity. Wes first gained popularity as a part of an on-screen bromance alongside co-stars Jack Fowler and Josh Denzel. While Wes and his fellow Islanders might have rapped a bar or two and hummed a tune here and there, what nobody could have predicted was his sudden post-island musical success.

After the show, Wes’ co-star Jack Fowler dabbled in the music industry, releasing his single titled ‘Back to Yours’ in early 2020. The track barely reached 400,000 streams on Spotify and failed to touch the UK Top 100, despite his coveted social media popularity. In October of last year, Wes competed in The X Factor: Celebrity as a part of a group called No Love Lost, which was made up of former Love Island stars Samira Mighty, Zara McDermott and Eyal Booker. Despite releasing numerous live performances in a downloadable and streamable format, they failed to see chart success. So what was different for Wes this time round?

Introducing the power of TikTok.

For many, TikTok may still feel like a mysterious Gen Z hub of overly complicated dance sequences and bizarre challenges. What you may not realize is how much this app is shifting the music industry and the way that we discover music. Users can upload and create audio or choose from other existing users’ audio to create a video. These audio tracks can include anything from major hits to independent artists, as well as soundbites from popular culture. Many artists like Lil Nas X, Meg Thee Stallion and Drake have been leveraging TikTok to share their music and gain further popularity.

For artists, uploading audio can help increase their popularity from a brand awareness perspective. A large part of the most recent top hits list is owed to TikTok. The apps algorithm is unique to other social platforms in the sense that it works to always expose users to the latest trends, with artists experiencing success from the app because users are repeatedly exposed to the same music when a trend goes viral. 

However, it’s not as easy as ‘just going viral’. In this case, Wes might have Lewys Ball and Olivia Neill to thank for his sudden surge of TikTok virality. Lewys Ball is a blogger, vlogger and spokesmodel who covers beauty and fashion on his YouTube channel ‘lookingforlewys’, while Olivia Neill is a Northern Irish YouTuber who primarily creates beauty and lifestyle content. In early September, Lewys and Olivia took to TikTok alongside their friend Flossie to choreograph the first routine to Wes’ single. The routine was posted to Olivia’s TikTok profile and has since been recreated and shared well over 220,000 times. 

While millions of TikTok users have attempted to create viral dance content, not everybody sees success and neither did Lewys and his friends, until ASDA employee TJ Richardson performed the routine in his uniform. TJ then challenged a fellow retail worker from Tesco to perform the dance alongside him using the apps ‘duet’ feature. After the Tesco worker obliged, a stream of different supermarket employees, including those from Iceland, Sainbury’s, Waitrose, M&S and Aldi all joined in to partake in the challenge that has taken TikTok by storm. 

Wes’ single, which features rapper Hardy Caprio, currently occupies the number three position in the Official Top 5. With the ‘See Nobody’ challenge continuing to pick up momentum and beginning to reach US audiences, Wes might just be celebrating his first number one with his debut single this weekend.