TikTok Resurfaced Most-Streamed Throwback Songs on Spotify

  • Spotify released its annual Wrapped report, which shows its most-streamed music of the year.
  • It listed the most-streamed “throwback” songs, including Coldplay, Nirvana, and Fleetwood Mac.
  • Three out of the five most-streamed throwbacks were the subject of TikTok trends in the past year.

Three out of the five songs Spotify identified as “throwback” hits in its annual Wrapped report went majorly viral on TikTok in 2021, something that may have contributed to their


success on the platform.

Spotify released the data on Wednesday, providing personalized insights to users regarding their listening habits over the course of the year as well as the most-streamed songs and trends on the platform globally.

That included tracking the popularity of “throwback songs,” which the platform defined as tracks that were released over 20 years ago. The five most-streamed in the category were “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Yellow” by Coldplay, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Nirvana, and “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. 

a spotify graphic displaying the top streamed throwback songs released more than 20 years ago, which were dreams by fleetwood mac, bohemian rhapsody by queen, yellow by coldplay, smells like teen spirit by nirvana, and every breath you take by the police

Spotify released the top-streamed “throwback” songs as part of it’s annual Wrapped report.


All of these songs have massive staying power in their own right — “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has landed in the top 10 of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” lists in 2004 and 2012 and “Bohemian Rhapsody” is considered to be one of the greatest songs ever written, Insider previously reported.

But TikTok may also have played an important role in bringing these hits to new generations.

‘Dreams’ went hugely viral on TikTok following a video posted in September 2020

“Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, was Spotify’s most-streamed “throwback” of the year.

In September 2020, Nathan Apodaca (also known by his TikTok handle @420doggface208) posted a video showing himself longboarding down a highway, jug of Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry juice in hand, recording himself lip-syncing to the 1977 song. The video, to date, has amassed 12.9 million likes on TikTok alone, and 82.8 million views. 


Several weeks after Apodaca’s video, “Dreams” returned to the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart for the first time since 1977. On TikTok, the song has been used in upwards of 613,000 videos, many of them referencing Apocada’s original. 


‘Yellow’ sparked a popular trend where TikTokers played homage to their favorite things 

Coldplay’s wistful 2000 track “Yellow,” which stood at number three on Spotify’s list, sparked a trend on TikTok in which people referred to their most beloved people, pets, or things that brought about happiness as “my yellow,” In The Know reported in October 2020.


Multiple versions of the song on TikTok, some of which have been edited or remixed, are associated with hundreds of thousands of videos on the app.

A slowed-down version of the song has been used in over 292,000 videos that were posted over the course of 2021. Another one, uploaded in November 2020, cuts from the original Coldplay recording to a stripped-back, a cappella version at the chorus.

The original version of “Yellow” has been used in 194,200 videos on the platform. While many of them don’t adhere to a specific trend, the song is typically used in heartwarming or emotional content. 

The line ‘whatever, never mind’ from Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ also resonated on TikTok

Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has also seen steady use on TikTok over the course of 2021. While the official audio of the song has only been used in 13,400 videos, one user upload of a snippet of the track has been used in over 150,000 videos from June onward.

It’s associated with a trend in which TikTokers lip-sync the lyric “whatever, never mind” while describing scenarios from their lives. 

A different upload of the song was used in 97,900 videos and circulated on TikTok in June and July. It was similarly associated with the “whatever, never mind” trend, as well as another comparing celebrities’ appearances to that of the late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. 


TikTok reflects and influences the broader pop culture landscape

The other songs rounding out Spotify’s throwback list — “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen — also saw circulation on TikTok this year, although it wasn’t strongly trend-based. The official upload of “Every Breath You Take” has been used in 81,500 videos dating from 2019 through 2021; the official upload of the 2011 remaster of “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been used in 55,600.

TikTok’s influence on resurfacing old hits plays into the app’s growing interaction with broader pop culture and streaming habits.

As Insider previously reported, TikTok’s influence shone throughout Spotify’s data, from the creation of playlists associated with trends like “no bones days” to increased streaming of sea shanties after they went viral on TikTok in January. Most of the songs nominated in major categories at the 2022 Grammys also went viral on TikTok.

For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider’s Digital Culture team here.

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