The first time the English singer Jay Sean released “Ride It,” a feathery single about seduction on the dancefloor, the track became a hit pretty much everywhere. “That was huge for me,” Sean recalls. “I had a global fanbase already on top of the songs I did with Virgin Records. ‘Ride It’ got played around the world [in 2008].” But one country remained unmoved. “The only place it didn’t take off was America, because nobody really knew me there at all,” the singer says.
Now “Ride It” is getting a second chance Stateside: A house remix by Regard — tempo pushed higher, vocals pitched lower, but otherwise faithful to the original — topped the Spotify viral chart in the U.S. last week. “When a hit’s a hit, you can’t hold it down,” Sean says happily. “It wanted to be a hit in the first place.”
The second life of “Ride It” is due in part to its popularity on the video app TikTok: All summer, users have been soundtracking clips with Regard’s remix, which has been put in more than two million videos.
This is hardly the first old song to receive an unexpected boost from TikTok users ravenous for soundtrack material. “We’ve got songs in our catalog that are popping up into the Top Ten, Top 20 on TikTok for no reason other than people are using it,” Jeff Vaughn, VP of A&R at Artist Partner Group, told Rolling Stone earlier this summer, citing Kyle’s “Hey Julie” and Absofacto’s “Dissolve” as examples. “It’s causing us to go back and work some of those records, put more resources behind them.”
Sean had no idea “Ride It” was poised for this sort of resurgence. But two months ago, he was alerted by a 14-year-old cousin: “Oh my God, you’re all over TikTok.” “I know the app, but I’m like, why am I going viral?” Sean recalls. “It turns out the remix is nice.”
Maybe the singer should have guessed that “Ride It” would come back into style: It had already proved its viral potential over a decade ago. In 2008, “YouTube was kind of a new thing, just in the way that apps like TikTok are popping now,” Sean explains. “At the time, we didn’t really know how songs could get leaked. Every singer was getting hacked, and a demo version of ‘Ride It’ leaked on to YouTube — we don’t know how.”
This could have been disastrous: At the time, record labels did not know how to respond to leaks. But instead, Sean’s fans responded enthusiastically to the demo, and the singer watched its views climb rapidly. As a result, he says, “we decided to shoot a music video for [‘Ride It’] and make it a single.”
This turned out to be a savvy move: “Ride It” reached Number 11 in the U.K. Beyond chart position, the success of the track “signified a shift in my career from the old Jay Sean to the new Jay Sean,” the singer adds. “There was a time when I had spiky hair and I was doing Indian-influenced R&B fusion songs. But on this one, I went all the way R&B.” Sean subsequently connected with Cash Money Records and went on to hit Number One in the U.S. with the Lil Wayne collaboration “Down.”
Now that a new generation of listeners are falling for Regard’s version of “Ride It,” Sean’s voice is back on the airwaves. “It’s playing on radio in England a lot,” Sean says. (It also debuted on the U.K. singles chart this week at Number 69.) “My friends back home go, ‘Yo, man, I hope you’re getting paid for this!'” Sean adds. “I’m like, yeah — I wrote the damn thing.”