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MUSIC

How this Emerson senior’s Olivia Rodrigo TikTok mashup led him to the VMAs

Nick Johnston, a senior at Emerson College, created the mashup "misery 4 u," which was nominated for a VMA.
Nick Johnston, a senior at Emerson College, created the mashup "misery 4 u," which was nominated for a VMA.Nick Johnston

When Olivia Rodrigo’s third single, “good 4 u,” dropped in May, TikTok was rife with nostalgic millennials likening the track to Paramore’s 2007 song, “Misery Business.”

Emerson senior Nick Johnston created “misery 4 u,” an audio mashup of both songs that gained momentum when TikTok users began borrowing the sound to create videos parodying their adolescent emo phases. “Me at 30 in 2021 wondering why I love this song so much,” wrote influencer @the.navarose, jamming to the first lines of “good 4 u”'s chorus in a June video. “Me at 16 in 2007,” she concludes when the video transitions to a VHS-esque filtered flashback as “Misery Business” kicks in. Johnston’s “misery 4 u” sound spawned 38.9k videos.

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@the.navarose

it was never a phase #oliviarodrigo #paramore #millennial ib: @celeste_manthey @livbedumb

♬ misery 4 u - Nick

The 43-second sound clip was nominated for Best Audio Mashup in MTV’s Trending: VMAs, a branch of the network’s annual Video Music Awards highlighting TikTok artists and creators who have helped make some of today’s biggest songs (and some old classics) hit viral status. While Johnston didn’t take home that prize Friday night — a Britney Spears x The B-52′s x Rob Zombie mashup by @djcummerbund won — his clip still inspired a major generational trend on the app.

@nikjaay

🚨 New Sound Alert 🚨

♬ misery 4 u - Nick

Johnston, who has amassed over 30,000 followers and 2.7 million likes on TikTok, said he was surprised when MTV contacted him about his mashup post via direct message on Aug. 31. At time of reporting, the video hasreceived more than 600,000 views and 90,000 Likes on the platform.

“It was absolutely shocking to me because of how simple the whole mashup was. It was just a transition from one song to another,” Johnston said. He also recognized he is not the only user to blend the two tracks together, noting fellow creator, Adamusic, who was also nominated for his mashup, “Baby One More Time x Levitating,” in the same category, released a blended “good 4 u” x “Misery Business” track in May.

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The nomination arrives as Olivia Rodrigo is paying royalties to Paramore’s Hayley Williams and Joshua Farro due to her song’ssimilarities. According to Billboard, Rodrigro will pay Williams and Farro 50 percent of royalty shares from “good 4 u” after Rodrigo added the two to the songwriting credits. Johnston thinks many people are creating discord where they shouldn’t because even though the songs sound similar, he acknowledges they are still different.

“She has made some good music that has resonated with a lot of people, and I feel like a lot of people are trying to discredit her for that,” Johnston said. “They’re trying to do whatever they can to say, ‘Hey you copied this,’ but in reality she just grew up with that music and it’s the kind of thing that inspires her.”




Riana Buchman can be reached at riana.buchman@globe.com.