The success Steve Lacy is experiencing with “Bad Habit” shows how TikTok could help a beloved song compete against today’s biggest pop hits.
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” has become one of the songs that will define the year, having been on Billboard’s Hot 100 for 34 weeks, peaking at No. 3. More recently, there’s been a song that has found itself sandwiched in between the No. 1 (Harry Styles’ “As It Was”) and No. 3 (Lizzo’s “About Damn Time”). A song by a contemporary artist one wouldn’t expect to have the No. 2 spot — “Bad Habit” by Steve Lacy.
The second single from Lacy’s latest album Gemini Rights, “Bad Habits” is nothing like its top 10 counterparts. It’s a jangling guitar ballad about the would’ve, could’ve, 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 top 10 hits 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, why is “Bad Habit” at No. 2? Primarily thanks to TikTok. Currently, the song has been used in over 446,000 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 where it’s now at. But that isn’t the only chart the song is currently at the top of. As Billboard reported on Tuesday (September 6), “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 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 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 enough streams that results in the moment Lacy is having.