‘Dance Monkey’ Teenage Singer Went from Streets to Global Stardom

Nov 20, 2019 | AFP, ART, Asia, NEWS, POP

by AFP

Watson’s rapid rise has been fuelled by online platforms/ afp

Australian pop hit "Dance Monkey" is topping global charts and has spent a record 16 weeks at number one Down Under, propelling teenager Toni Watson from busking obscurity to instant fame.

Just months ago the 19-year-old, known by the stage name Tones and I, was living in a van and singing on the street in the coastal town of Byron Bay, south of Brisbane.

Now her latest release has reached number one in 18 countries including Britain, France and Germany, as well as at home where it broke the record held by Ed Sheeran’s 2017 smash “Shape of You”, which spent 15 weeks at the top spot.

Before her debut single “Johnny Run Away” came out in March, Watson had spent a year playing her keyboard in public, too nervous to speak to passersby between songs.

But while she is now selling out shows worldwide, the singer says she looks back on those days with fondness.

“When I was busking, when I was paying for petrol with silver coins or when I was sneaking into hostels so I could park my van up and sleep in it, I had the best time of my life,” she told Nova radio.

“Dance Monkey” has racked up more than 500 million plays on Spotify and is the first Australian tune to peak at number one on the streaming service’s Global Top 50 chart.

It has even begun to infiltrate the tough North American music world – it is number two in Canada and 23 in the US, where it jumped 18 places from the previous week.

Although Watson’s rapid rise has been fuelled by online platforms, “Dance Monkey” relates the challenges she encountered as a busker trying to capture attention from audiences distracted by smartphones and social media.

“People were so used to being able to swipe to see something different to entertain themselves that the patience had diminished,” she told triple j radio.

“You have to be quick… get on with the song.”

Watson signed with Warner Chappell Music in August and returned to Byron Bay that month to play at a local music festival.

Her midday set drew a crowd of 20,000 people — a record for an opening act — dwarfing anything she ever may have imagined just a year earlier.