tiktok

If You Want to Be Big on TikTok, You’ve Gotta Go Country

The most flourishing community on the app self-identifies as ‘rednecks’

“I am the redneck, bitch,” the song declares over the background of a small lake surrounded by 20 or so ATVs. “My weekend > yours,” the caption reads, along with the hashtags #country #countrygirl #redneck and #hillbilly.

The video was posted on TikTok, a micro-vlogging mobile platform where users create six- to fifteen-second videos, most commonly involving lip syncing or dancing but often simply capturing a random moment. The lyric is from “Hillbilly” by Upchurch. More than 3,400 other videos on the app use the song as well. In fact, it’s one of the many anthems of Country TikTok.

TikTok might not be as much a part of the daily cultural dialogue as Twitter or Instagram, but it won’t be long before your grandmother is asking about it. Its biggest stars are all young teens, some of whom have more followers than Ariana Grande and Bruno Mars on YouTube. Not to mention, it’s the third most popular app on the App Store’s Top Charts, and as of January, has more than 75 million users. Meanwhile, many of the memes generated therein have spread to other social networks, even if just to laugh (or cringe) at the people on TikTok.

As for the #country tag on TikTok, it has 437 million views, while #redneck has another 32 million. (For comparison’s sake, Instagram has 18.5 million posts tagged #country, and just under 2 million tagged #redneck.) “Redneck” is also interchangeable with “hillbilly,” “country,” “Southern boy/girl” or “outlaw.” Whatever the term, the themes remain the same: big trucks, camo and dip tobacco, to name a few.

Cody Daniels, a 21-year-old electrician’s apprentice living in Ohio, is a popular face of Country TikTok with 164,700 fans. He found the app about six months ago as a way to goof off. Like many others, he started off with a simple lip-syncing video in his car. His most popular video, which has racked up more than 100,000 likes, features him in a baseball hat, thick chain necklace and sleeveless T-shirt (exposing his large American Flag tattoo on his bicep). In this clip, however, he’s not lip syncing. Instead, it begins with him standing 10 feet away from the camera, with his back to us. “Oh hey,” the Kelsea Ballerini track “Love Me Like You Mean It” begins, at which point, Daniels turns around and saunters closer. “Boy with your hat back / Mmm I kinda like that / If you wanna walk my way,” the song continues as Daniels flips his hat forward and flashes a crooked smile.

It drove the women of Country TikTok wild. “The eyes! They make me want to melt!” one wrote. “Whomever catches your attention is definitely a lucky gal,” responded another. Not surprisingly then, heart-eye emojis are sprinkled throughout the comments section, which also contains numerous references to someone named “Kurtis.”

The Kurtis in question is Kurtis Conner, a YouTube comedian with 750,000 followers who creates reaction videos. He’s based in Toronto, and often wears a beanie and nose ring. His videos, “The Country Boys of TikTok” and “The Country Girls of TikTok,” are among his most popular videos, having amassed 3.2 million views collectively.

Daniels is the primary subject of Conner’s country boy video. “This is the ultimate country boy,” Conner says. He then shows Daniels’ “Love Me Like You Mean It” video, and proceeds to roast each and every detail. “Nothing says ‘country boy’ like the shortest ceilings in the world. His ceilings look like a school,” Conner jokes, proceeding to also goof on Daniels’ hat and the blueness of his jeans.

Daniels is aware that some people like Conner are making fun of him, but he doesn’t let it bother him. “If you do something that’s considered weird or stupid to someone else, they want to make that person feel as low as possible — whether it be expressing yourself on an app or out in the real world. But you just keep being yourself and don’t let them take you under,” he says, adding that he gets joy from making people laugh, regardless of whether they’re laughing with, or at, him. “As long as they have a smile on their face, that’s what matters,” he explains.

“It was my goal when I made a TikTok to make it into a cringe compilation, so I was super stoked when I was featured and made the thumbnail [of Conner’s “The Country Girls of TikTok”],” says Emma, a 24-year-old from Virginia. The thing about Emma, though, is that she isn’t actually a country girl. “I’m from the South, but I’m not a big redneck and grew up in the city so the majority of it is a joke,” she says about her account. (The video that was included in Conner’s roundup features Emma in head-to-toe camouflage and posing and twirling to “My Baby Looks Good In Camouflage” by The Bone Collectors.)

Emma’s original TikTok channel was deleted for reasons unknown to her, so the video no longer exists on the app. However, she’s had a new channel for about three weeks, on which she currently has more than 7,000 fans. The videos there feature much of the same schtick: She’s usually wearing camo and lip syncing to a country song, occasionally throwing in some light twerking. “Most people [who watch my videos] are generally country, and a lot of them don’t realize I’m not actually a real country girl,” she says.

But maybe not for long: “Granted, since starting this whole thing, I’ve been listening to country more and dressing like a real Southern girl.”