photo of the two musicians that recorded "Pope is a Rockstar"

wearenotsales/Instagram Remix by Max Fleishman

How a misheard lyric gave way to a ‘mega-wholesome’ TikTok trend

'It's a really cool lyric they are hearing.'

 

Audra Schroeder

Internet Culture

Published Jan 7, 2022   Updated Jan 8, 2022, 12:25 pm CST

That One Sound is a weekly column from senior internet culture writer Audra Schroeder that explores the origin of popular sounds heard on TikTok. Suggestions? Tips? Email [email protected].

It’s very easy to misinterpret a TikTok sound, but what about to the point where the misinterpretation is collectively embraced, and a new interpretation evolves?

The sound

The sound is a snippet from a 2016 song by Orlando, Florida duo SALES, called “Pope Is a Rock Star,” and the audio has been used in more than 2.5 million TikToks. The song went viral on TikTok in early December, and the user deebo.spins posted a popular version of the audio on Dec. 2.

But the lyric “Pope is a rock star” has apparently been misheard as “Go little rock star,” a phrase often included in TikToks that use the sound. Many videos are encouraging or emotional, or focus on kids or pets.

https://www.tiktok.com/@jfam.ily/video/7041669354987031814?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc&web_id6891292833719813638

Where’s it from?

Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih debuted SALES in 2013, releasing a few bedroom-pop singles independently, leading up to 2016’s self-released SALES LP, which includes “Pope Is a Rock Star.”

As pointed out in multiple TikToks, “Pope is a rock star” is the actual lyric but the group doesn’t have an issue with the misinterpretation.  

“It’s a really cool lyric they are hearing, and the trend is mega-wholesome,” Morgan tells the Daily Dot. 

A December upload of the song on YouTube channel Vibe Music has more than 2 million views, and the comments seem to mirror Morgan’s. “Ik it’s ‘pope is a rockstar’ but ‘go little rockstar’ gives me a sense of comfort,” said one commenter. Others said hearing “Go little rock star” motivated them. TikTok comment sections are also filled with people who claim “Go little rock star” just works better.

The song’s popularity has translated into a streaming bump for the band as well. 

But TikTok is creating new versions of the song, too. One popular remix replaces “Pope is a rock star” with the Vine-famous “What the fuck is up, Kyle?”

It was also stitched into Post Malone’s “Rockstar.”

Sound off

This isn’t the first time SALES’ songs have gone viral on TikTok: Two other singles, “Renee” and “Chinese New Year,” preceded “Pope Is a Rock Star.” Last year, Morgan told Stereogum: “We haven’t put out music in like three years and our music is doing better than ever before.” SALES now has a TikTok account, albeit with just one introductory video

“We’re an independent band,” Morgan tells the Daily Dot. “We worked our jobs and recorded these songs in our bedrooms. The songs are really special to us, but we never could have imagined them reaching so many people.” 

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*First Published: Jan 7, 2022, 12:45 pm CST