Gen Z is discovering these songs for the first time thanks to TikTok

4 min readDec 15, 2021


A recent survey of 2,000 U.S. adults found that about a fourth attribute this discovery to a viral trend on social media. (Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash)

Oldies, but goodies? Almost half of music fans in the U.S. have recently discovered a song that was released over a decade ago, new research suggests.

A recent survey of 2,000 U.S. adults found that about a fourth attribute this discovery to a viral trend on social media.

Among those polled, these unearthed hits include “Purple Rain” by Prince, “Hotel California” by The Eagles, “The Boy is Mine” by Brandy and Monica, as well as viral songs found on TikTok such as “Rasputin” by Boney M. and “Beggin,” which was recently covered by Måneskin.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Dolby Laboratories, the survey found that U.S. adults are feeling nostalgic.

This sentiment was very high among Gen Z with nearly 70% stating they have recently discovered an iconic song from a decade ago for the first time while over two-thirds are rediscovering classics from their past.

Results also found that six in 10 adults feel like they were born in the wrong era because of their taste in music, including nearly 80% of Gen Z. For most, the era that best matches their music preferences was the 2000s (40%).

That may be why close to 70% of people would be embarrassed to share their playlists with others, particularly their boss.

And 45% have rediscovered an iconic artist, album or song during the last two years.

“Songs of past eras are seeing a revival as more Americans are discovering, or rediscovering, these iconic classics for the first time. This includes Gen Z, who have shown a keen interest in music of past eras,” said John Couling, Senior Vice President of Entertainment at Dolby Laboratories. “This is a powerful phenomenon that we believe will have a lasting influence over the listening preferences of many Americans.”

Six in 10 have also discovered a new artist or song after watching a TV show or movie. Some cited music-specific shows such as “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice,” while others were inspired by “F9,” and binge worthy favorites like “Bridgerton” and even “Squid Game.”

Most respondents said social media is the main way they usually discover new tunes (57%), along with recommendations from streaming services (53%).

YouTube (79%) topped the list of social networks for finding new music, while platforms like Facebook (71%), Instagram (68%), and TikTok (57%) also had a significant influence.

At the same time, 44% said social media got them obsessed with a genre they’d previously disliked.

Over two-thirds say they spend more time listening to music each day than before the start of 2020, with over half listening to music four hours per day or more.

Fifty-five percent indicated that they spend more money on music purchases each month, such as streaming subscriptions.

Many are also prioritizing audio quality above all when choosing to pay for a music streaming subscription.

Nearly 90% stated enhanced audio quality is a “must-have feature” while about two-thirds who pay for a music streaming subscription noted that better sound quality was more important than other features, such as ad-free listening, exclusive content, or the ability to add multiple users to their account. In addition, nearly half of Gen Z who pay for a music streaming subscription want access to the latest in cutting-edge audio technologies with their plan.

And over 70% said they were likely to purchase a new audio device within the next six months to enhance their experience when listening to music. This was highest among Gen Z (86%).

“Whether tuning in to a new or old favorite, spatial audio technologies like Dolby Atmos offer an unparalleled listening experience that brings listeners inside their favorite songs,” Couling added. “It’s a completely new way to enjoy music that and will blow away what they thought music could sound like.”


  • “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  • “Euphoria”
  • “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  • “Lucifer”
  • “Money Heist”
  • “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”
  • “Ted Lasso”
  • “Saturday Night Live”
  • “The Umbrella Academy”
  • “Yellowstone”


  • “A Song for Mama” by Boyz II Men
  • “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
  • “Jump” by Van Halen
  • “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
  • “Obsessed” by Mariah Carey
  • “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga
  • “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa
  • “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees
  • “Umbrella” by Rihanna
  • “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong


  • Abba
  • Adele
  • Beyoncé
  • The Beatles
  • Drake
  • Elton John
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • Pearl Jam
  • Justin Bieber
  • Queen

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