TikTok Star David Kushner drops sonic garbage – The Michigan Daily

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If you haven’t heard of David Kushner, you have probably heard his hit single “Daylight,” which dropped in April and blew up on TikTok over the summer. The song became practically inescapable and racked up 500 million streams on Spotify. Kushner has stated that his music is inspired by his Christian faith, and “Daylight” is no exception. He is one of the newer “pretty-boy” singer-songwriters who have sprouted up on the TikTok, and I have yet to hear or read an inkling of disapproval directed at him. Since he’s popular enough not to read this, and we’re both around the same age, I feel it’s fair to be his first hater. “Daylight” serves as a reminder that TikTok will highlight attractive, talentless people before platforming those who deserve it.
I pressed play on “Daylight” for the first time, and the moment the dreary opening piano chords hit, I sensed the horny ambiance of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church.” Many others on TikTok heard the similarity, though the sonic resemblance is not by mistake — both songs were accredited to the same producer. In fact, Kushner asked Hozier repeatedly on TikTok to feature on the song. Hozier never got back to him.
My anticipation for the track dissipated when I realized what cheap, sterile dreck “Daylight” had turned out to be. A Hozier copycat? Yes. A good or even passable one? A thousand times no — though I could tell how badly Kushner’s religious lyricism coveted Hozier’s hunger for atonement and sense of intensity. Instead, his sexless writing is banal gospel music at best. He brings out the Biblical buzzwords for this track: “Lust,” “sinners,” “atone,” “prayer” and “washing away the blood (he’s) spilt” are all cooped up within the same short verse, as if he’s trying to make the track as vaguely blasphemous as possible. Unlike Hozier, he’s much too reverent to go into detail, right? 
This is what made the track’s appeal stretch far beyond Christian audiences: The lyrics that detail Kushner at a moral crossroads are nondescript yet relatable enough that they could be applied to just about anyone. When he exclaims during the chorus that he “love(s) it” and “hate(s) it at the same time,” the “it” in question may be sex, partying or drugs. Yet the lyrics are so devoid of passion and elucidation that he clearly doesn’t love or hate any of it. Instead, he comes off as priggish, leaving the track’s climax to fall emotionally flat.
Let’s forget about the lyrics. Kushner simply does not have the pipes to sell this sort of track. He can’t hit low notes with much clarity, so “Trying to wash away all the blood I’ve spilt” sounds more corny than reconciliatory. I’d also like to know why the producer decided to add in the mic distortion on the chorus. The added fuzz is painfully grating, clouding any sort of lucidity or grandiosity Kushner is attempting.
Remember when I called the track “gospel music?” I was being generous. This track sonically embodies the feeling of a funeral dirge: Soulless and sans momentum, it whines and drags its feet. It does not hold a candle to the pathos of “Take Me to Church,” or most of Hozier’s discography for that matter. For a track that’s a clear wannabe, that’s a bad sign. Yet, for some reason, it has grappled onto the hearts of thousands of people and been used in 2.4 million TikTok videos. The sound is used frequently to this day. It has become a staple on TikTok for emotional videos, which is frustrating, considering it is lyrically stale and sonically cliche.
“Daylight” is just one example of the bad, copycat music proliferated on TikTok. Leah Kate, another TikTok influencer, is an Olivia Rodrigo copycat whose claims to fame were her kitschy, early-2000s pop-rock-inspired singles: “10 Things I Hate About You,” an obvious reference to the movie of the same name, and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Bitch,” in which she interpolates the age-old nursery rhyme as a blatant cash grab. She has somehow accrued more than 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify merely for being unoriginal and using nostalgia as a crutch for her lack of ingenuity. 
Like Kate, wealthy, big-name singers and producers have churned out TikTok-ready music in efforts to garner the same virality. “I’m Good (Blue)” by David Guetta and Bebe Rexha, two well-established pop superstars, is a ripoff of the 1998 Eurodance classic “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” by Eiffel 65, though Guetta and Rexha’s version climbed to the number four spot on the Billboard Hot 100 earlier this year and became annoyingly widespread on TikTok. Likewise, country singer Walker Hayes received attention on TikTok for “Fancy Like,” which is cheap and gross with its mixture of fast food references and sexual innuendos, ready for the average consumer’s radio waves. It even got buoyed by a remix with the early 2010s pop icon Kesha, saturating the track with yet another layer of nostalgia. 
While “Daylight” is not as overt or offensive with its gimmickry as these contenders, Kushner still played into the Hozier comparison on TikTok. The half-hearted, shallow lyrics on “Daylight” don’t read as inspired or imaginative; they read as trite, backed by production evidently built to recreate Hozier’s success. When factoring in Kushner’s unsuccessful entreaties to Hozier over TikTok to feature on the track, it becomes painstakingly obvious that Hozier probably thought he was being copied, too. Kushner’s best hope is to quit indulging in the Hozier comparisons and forge his own path before he’s written off as yet another TikTok-borne tryhard.
Daily Arts Writer Zachary Taglia can be reached at ztaglia@umich.edu.

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