For every previously unknown single that reaches ubiquity after earning the affection of TikTok users — from Sub Urban’s “Cradles” to StaySolidRocky’s “Party Girl” to Claire Rosinkranz’s “Backyard Boy” — there seems to be a random oldie that experiences a sudden resurgence thanks to the app: Ciara’s “Get Up,” Ke$ha’s “Cannibal,” La Roux’s “Bulletproof.”
The latest is “Because of You,” a gliding 2007 single from the R&B triple-threat — singer-writer-producer — Ne-Yo. The song has now soundtracked more than 800,000 TikTok videos, many of which feature a pair of users pretend-fighting before making up and dancing cheerfully.
“Because of You” was earning between 450,000 and 500,000 audio streams a week in the U.S. for most of the summer, according to Alpha Data, the data analytics provider that powers the Rolling Stone Charts. When TikTok discovered Ne-Yo’s track, streams doubled to over a million in the third week of August. The song’s download count, while remaining modest, also more than doubled, climbing from 179 to 427.
Ne-Yo released “Because of You” in the middle his mid-2000s hot streak, which started when he helped pen Mario’s indelible mega-hit “Let Me Love You,” which ended up becoming one of the biggest hits of the decade. After that, Ne-Yo reeled off several Top Ten singles for himself — “So Sick,” which remains sticky sweet, plus the great “Miss Independent” — and several for other superstars. He co-wrote and co-produced Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” and Rihanna’s “Take a Bow,” both of which went all the way to Number One, and added the buoyant hook to Ghostface Killah’s “Back Like That,” which became the veteran rapper’s biggest solo hit.
Working frequently with the Norwegian duo Stargate, Ne-Yo got a lot of mileage out of just a few sounds. He was especially enamored with a pretty, almost harpsichord-like keyboard; you’ll hear it in “So Sick,” “Sexy Love” (another Top Ten single), “Let Go,” “Because of You,” and “Miss Independent,” among others.
Ne-Yo would often sing against those bubbling keyboard lines with little other melodic accompaniment, meaning his tracks could often be distilled into simple, aching piano ballads. His voice was airy and slicing, reaching back to the likes of Ralph Tresvant and Michael Jackson, capable of darts and pirouettes that matched well with lithe dance moves.
“Because of You” is one of several Ne-Yo tracks, including “So Sick” and “Addicted,” that present love or lust as a habit-forming narcotic. It’s a theme that listeners connected with: “Because of You” is certified double platinum.