In conversation with the tiktok musician Michael Aldag.


Jack Barton catches up with rising musician and TikTok star to talk bastille, festivals, and nativity

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Image by Robin Clewley

By Jack Barton

TikTok started as a dancing app that most of us reluctantly downloaded in lockdown ‘as a joke’, and now it is the most popular social media app on the planet, with over one billion monthly active users. The platform has transformed from teen-choreographed Doja Cat dances, into a global community full of a whole heap of trends with a diverse ecosystem of creators and content. Combining short bursts of content with the chance of virality to an unlimited audience, it is no surprise that TikTok now holds a massive grasp over the music industry sending artists like BENEE, Olivia Rodrigo, bbno$ or PinkPantheress to stardom as they graced our ‘for you pages’.

Earlier, I got a chance to catch up with Michael Aldag. You may recognise the red headed scouse who has popped up on your ‘for you page’. His simple videos vary from taking the piss out of Prince Andrew for his ‘alleged’ links to pedophilia, or Boris Johnson for being incompetent. His witty and comedic takes on anything from global issues to Lush bath bombs have amassed 41 million likes for his 15 second comedy skits.

Aldag is now carving his own path as a musician utilising his large platform to further his musical career, and it is clearly paying off, from supporting one of his hero’s ‘Bastille’, to playing at ‘The Neighbourhood Weekender’. The young artist shows no sign of slowing down, following a strong debut EP ‘Navel-gazing’. 2021 has already proved to be a successful year for the Liverpudlian, from headlining BBC introducing, selling out shows across the country or featuring on Radio 1, with 2022 looking to be another great year for Michael. Between long hours in the studio and spending time in the Lake District, I got a chance to catch up with the rising stars about TikTok, Nativity, and Bastille…

5980Michael Aldag recently released his latest single ‘Teenage Drama’. The song offers a radio-ready, catchy song with established production and honest lyrics on the problems and ‘drama’ associated with our young teenage lives, from messed up sleeping patterns to toxic relationships with an ex. The first single of 2022 following a strong 2021, the scouser looks to accelerate his growth even further.

Whilst he may be originally known for his comedy, music has always been a passion of Aldag’s. He chose to study ‘Popular Music’ at the University of Liverpool, a passion which was ignited by a young school Nativity performance:

I started singing ‘Silent Night’ when I was seven with a teatowel on my head in the school nativity and about seven years later started writing my own music and haven’t stopped since. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I didn’t get cast as that shepherd!!”.

Michael’s sound has now departed from the festive tones, as he looks to create from all angles, from honest writing to an experimental ‘synthey’ production. When asked to describe this in three words, Aldag said “I think Electro, Pop and Catchy. That’s what I aim for anyway!”, this is certainly true as his latest release demonstrates, with a clear element of electronic production alongside poppy lyrics resulting in a catchy, radio ready tune.

On the topic of production, Michael finds himself at home at a piano “off-loading all my woes” before taking the song onto Logic, “and if that sounds good then I’ll take it to a studio with a producer and try and turn it into a proper record!”. His recent single ‘Teenage Drama’ takes inspiration from “listening to too much male manipulator music” as he makes a catchy tune out of the sort of music that validates destructive behaviour.

The music video was released last month, and follows a poker theme. When asked about the theme, Michael had this to say: “I wanted the video to be more conceptual instead of me performing to camera the whole way through just because I think the song subject matter is pretty clear anyway, so I was watching Casino Royale and thought ‘It’d be so cool to recreate this but with a younger (more teenage) cast’. Then I spoke to Océane who directed it and she made it happen – she is amazing.

Discussion then moved to his support for Bastille, who “have had such a huge impact on me since I was super young, and I definitely wouldn’t be making the music I make without them”. He cites the band as one of his biggest musical influences alongside The Killers, and 1975… “I have listened to them all since I was young and am always subconsciously trying to be like them and failing. I saw The Killers live in about 2015 and thought ‘this is definitely what I want to do with my life”.

Aldag is also a keen writer, creating deep and insightful lyrics that speak to the Gen Z experience. He notes that if he could have a dinner party with any six people in history they would be “John Lennon, Shakespeare, Phillip Larkin, Liz Pichon, Brandon Flowers, and Phoebe Bridgers. They’re all really good writers so I’d just quiz them to see what I could learn. It’d be an informative dinner!”

To support and play for one of your idols and inspirations must be incredible, and when given the chance to support Bastille, Michael talked about his admiration for the band, “I was like a little kid in a sweet shop, I genuinely spent the whole day in a state of awe. It was great to get a chance to tell them that and say, ‘thank you’. They are also just genuinely nice, polite, and kind people.”. Frontman of the band, Dan Smith offers distinct and recognisable vocals that have clearly inspired Aldag’s sound. Michael undoubtedly noted it as the highlight of his career (so far): “For me it was a marker of how far I have come but also how far I have to go and how much work I need to put in to get where I want to be.”.

The scousers’ ambitions do not stop there, pointing to further ambitions beyond supporting… “I want to do an arena tour one day so if I ever get to play the arena in Liverpool that’d be special. Obviously, Glastonbury’s Main Stage is basically everyone’s dream so that too of course. Also, I really want to do an open-air festival in America I think that would be amazing.” On the topic of festivals, those attending ‘The Neighbourhood Weekender’ will find him performing onstage as thousands of people soak up the sun alongside headliners such as ‘Kasabian’ and ‘Blossoms’. When asked who would headline in his own festival Michael said “THE KILLERS!!!!! And The 1975 and Bastille and Post Malone and Phoebe Bridgers and Headie One and 100Gecs. All of them. It would be a wild festival.”. And I completely agree, getting 100Gecs, Bastille and Phoebe Bridgers at the same festival sounds like a blast.

Whilst Michael continues to rise as a musician, many of us know him for the funny 15 second skits on our for you page, so conversation moved to TikTok’s relationship with the music industry. The app has clearly had a great impact on Michael’s career – he noted that the original plan was always to use the social media platform for promoting his music to a wider audience. I brought up whether it was hard to separate the humorous TikTokker with the musician? To which he answered: “Not really, I think some people want me to separate the two, but I don’t want to.” Continuing, Michael mentioned how his TikTok, and musical personality shouldn’t be split and:

“Both are who I am, and I think it is an outdated way of thinking to say that you can only be one thing in this day and age. One of the best elements of my music, I feel, is the humour in it, so in that sense the two are intertwined.”.

Michael clearly understands the power of what was once a small dancing app, and the grasp it holds over the industry. With 75 percent of users finding new artists specifically on TikTok, it’s clear that this rings true. In fact, in 2021 over 175 songs that trended on TikTok charted on the Billboard Hot 100 – twice as many as 2020. Whilst commercial success is clear, Michael also noted that it is so much more than an advertising tool, it’s a place to meet new people: “For me it has helped massively. For example, the cast of the Teenage Drama video is full of friends that I’ve made via TikTok. I thought it’d be cool to get them involved since that was where the track first gained popularity.” Michaels latest single ‘Teenage Drama’ is out now and available on Spotify and Apple Music.