Before 18-year-old Loren Gray became known to the world as a leading voice among a generation of uber-famous teens who populate the massively popular social media platform TikTok, she was a small-town girl growing up outside of Philadelphia with a smartphone and a passion for Taylor Swift.
Gray began posting videos of herself on the then-named Musical.ly app while still in middle school. In her videos, Gray would dance and lip-synch to songs like Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” or “Trust Issues” by The Weeknd. In one Musical.ly video, Gray seats dozens of her young schoolmates together for a group shot, while they jovially sing along to Justin Bieber’s 2012 hit “Boyfriend.” Gray shared these videos with her classmates, but when kids from neighboring schools began sharing them as well, her popularity exploded. Her clips became featured on the app’s discovery page, gaining her tens of thousands of followers in days. “I noticed that a bunch of my videos had been featured and I had like 30,000 followers,” Gray told Interview. “I went to my parents and I was like, ‘I don’t know what this means.’ I’d just turned 13. It was scary, for sure.”
She moved to Los Angeles with her mother and the support of her family at 15, her eyes set on a career as a pop singer and influencer. Upon arrival, Gray began building her audience in earnest, utilizing her freestyle dancing skills, picture-perfect smile, and collaborative friends to draw viewers. She now has more than 76 million followers across her social media accounts (her TikTok reigns supreme with a following of over 47 million), winning fans for her willingness to, at times, strip down the glittering facade: Last New Year’s Eve, Gray uploaded a short montage including shots of Gray as a child dancing in front of her TV, playing with her pomeranian, and hugging fans at meet-and-greets. The post became one of her most liked of 2019.
Now, Gray is among an emerging wave of TikTok creators infiltrating the music industry, using their considerable social media might to negotiate major record deals. Gray’s own viral fame and musical chops got her signed to Virgin Records in 2018. Dixie D’Amelio, big sis to Charli D’Amelio and member of the collective Hype House, signed with United Talent Agency in January, and Darak Figueroa, better known as the rapper StaySolidRocky, signed with Columbia Records after his single “Party Girl” blew up on TikTok. Gray’s anthemic 2018 debut single, “My Story,” appealed to fans with its powerfully uplifting lyrics, reaching No. 1 on the Spotify Global Viral Chart, while the brooding “Queen” has amassed over 28 million streams on Spotify alone.
Gray’s latest, “Alone,” is a pulsating pop ballad that flaunts Gray’s astonishing vocal range. The aptly titled song and corresponding video were recorded with a skeleton crew from her apartment under quarantine. Its lyrics confess a deep love for someone — she doesn’t disclose who but, surely, it’s complicated. Likewise, the visuals express Gray’s unrestrained yearning. We find her alone in her room, writhing around her studio floor, pining for her loved one, who, true to the times, is nowhere to be found. Shadowy photos of him float on the walls, giving viewers a glimpse but never a full look. Sporting her now-signature big, blonde hair and a relaxed, baby-pink pajama set one moment, then vaulting into a glittering Michael Costello bodysuit and matching sparkling makeup, Gray finishes her performance with a disco-diva dance-off.
While previous releases have hinted at Gray’s considerable musical talents, “Alone” is a flagpole track for the young singer, proving that “the original queen of TikTok” has a more intimate, mature sound to share. MTV News speaks with Gray about quarantine, creating the “Alone” video from home, and what it takes to make it as a TikTok singer.