The song in the spotlight was “Cars That Go Boom,” a flirty ode to guys who have cars with powerful subwoofers that landed in the middle of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988.
And see, my boyfriend really knows where it's at
He’s got 50 inch woofers all along the back
He makes a comment on going to my room
But I’d rather stay out with his car that goes boom
We like the cars, the cars that go boom
We’re Tigra and Bunny and we like the boom
Though the song is a classic, it’s not one you might expect to hear too often in 2020. Yet a YouTube video of it uploaded in May has already racked up more than 2.7 million views.
The reason, as is so often the case these days, is TikTok — the short-form video app that has become one of the largest social media platforms in the world. A trend emerged last month among Gen Zers of dancing or lip-syncing to the song, probably because of its infectious beat. It now soundtracks nearly 2.5 million TikToks, including one made by Charli D’Amelio, the platform’s most popular creator, who dances to the song for her audience of three dogs.
“I have 29 nieces and nephews, so I was getting a couple of calls or texts a day. It’s just the cutest thing,” Bunny D said.
“It’s been a pretty crazy experience,” added Lady Tigra. “It’s nice to be part of people dancing together and sharing music cross-generationally. Especially when quarantine can be so boring and so depressing for so many people.”
The song stands out in the landscape of hip-hop for being so unapologetically light.
“We would write about what was happening to us. Shopping at the mall and boys. We were teenage girls,” Lady Tigra said. “One of the things that was very popular at the time in Miami was car culture, cruising culture where you’d cruise down the road and blast music.”
That certainly wasn’t the typical perspective of the genre in the late ’80s.
“When we were kids, we wanted to be kids,” Bunny D said. “Back when we were out, there was no fun rap. There was Public Enemy and everybody was really serious. They were like, ‘How could you just have fun, when we have message to get out?’ We used to get ridiculed for that from other artists when we were on tour. But I think there’s room for everybody in hip-hop, and there should always be a place for fun rap, because the world is so heavy already.”
Perhaps that’s one reason TikTokers have clung to it now. And its newfound popularity is “confirmation that what we were doing is right,” Bunny D said. “And I can feel good about it now that I’m older.”
Not only can kids listen to the song without encountering adult themes, but they can actually share it with their parents. Lady Tigra heard from a junior high classmate who told her he was having trouble bonding with her teenage daughter. Then one day, he saw her dancing to the song and grabbed his old yearbook.
“And all of a sudden, he was the cool dad,” she said. “It opened up this communication and mutual respect between them, and I was really touched by that.”
Bunny D had a similar experience with her own children.
“Our kids all think that we’re dorks anyway. The most validation for me is when my kids all of sudden want to come and talk to me, thinking ‘Oh my gosh, my mom is a big deal!’ ” she said, adding with a laugh, “As a parent, we kind of get what we can get.”
The song’s resurgence also speaks to the power of TikTok. The Internet has already blurred the lines between past and present, and TikTok capitalizes on that fact. Pick any song from any era, add a dance or a lip-sync or a joke and it will instantly feel contemporary, sitting there between Doja Cat’s “Say So” and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” Since the app encourages endless scrolling though videos, it all blurs into a escapist present — exactly what many people are looking for during quarantine.
“TikTok is such a great place, bringing so much joy right now with comedy, how-to videos, social justice. I’ve seen cops standing in [solidarity] with protesters on TikTok. It’s a platform that’s really so accessible,” Lady Tigra said. “So it really is, in terms of bringing the world together, it’s been a light during all of this.”
The idea of a three-decades-old song going viral because of a social media platform, of course, would have been unfathomable when they were cruising through Coconut Grove in Miami in 1988. The whole thing strikes Bunny D as "surreal, because everyone doesn’t get that experience. It’s really funny how life works itself out.”