Ever since they first emerged on the indie music scene in the 80s, The Smiths have inspired unfailing devotion in music fans, and they remain one of the most influential bands in history. Beloved for their unique blend of maudlin balladry and jangle-pop, with guitarist Johnny Marr’s crystalline guitar tones making for the perfect framework for Morrissey’s poignant and often anxiety-ridden lyrics, the Manchester group have never failed to comfort millions of lonely hearts across the globe.
Listen to the best of The Smiths here.
In fact, over the past few years, The Smiths have seen huge surge in popularity on TikTok, thanks largely to the platform’s role as a hub for music discovery. Most notably, Gen Z – the cohort of young listeners born between 1997 and 2013 – have been showing their love for The Smiths on TikTok, lip-syncing to homemade dance videos and nostalgic throwback clips. Not only are these expressions of creativity and individuality a testament to the band’s enduring relevance, but they also highlight the power of social media for introducing new generations to music created long before they were even born.
Here’s how The Smiths are making a comeback on TikTok, and why it matters for Gen Z…
A light that never goes out: Behind Gen Z’s love of The Smiths
The birth pangs of The Smiths’ resurgence on TikTok can be traced to 2009, when the song There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, from the group’s landmark 1986 album, The Queen Is Dead, was featured in the popular indie romcom 500 Days Of Summer, starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The famous scene, in which Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt bond over the song in a lift after she hears it emanating from his headphones, instantly pierced the hearts of many viewers (“I love The Smiths,” Deschanel says, striking Gordon-Levitt with Cupid’s arrow).
@violetharmonscardigan maturing is realising summer was in the right #foryou #500daysofsummer #thesmiths #zoedeschanel #500daysofsummeredit ♬ there is a light the never goes out – neve ୨୧
This cultural moment has inevitably become a TikTok meme, enabling The Smiths to be rediscovered by a whole new generation of fans. With many taking to TikTok to showcase their love for the band, lip-syncing Deschanel’s dialogue from the film over The Smiths’ original song, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out has inspired a viral challenge which has spawned over 250,000 videos resulting in over 1.5 views. Even Zooey Deschanel herself has jumped on board.
@zooeydeschanelI said what I said.♬ there is a light the never goes out – neve ୨୧
The reason this iconic scene in 500 Days Of Summer resonates so strongly is that The Smiths’ music has traditionally spoken to those misfits who identify with Morrissey’s outsider world view and feel like they don’t fit in. As a result, this TikTok challenge is significant, with many female content creators echoing Summer’s sentiments to prove that women do appreciate the same music as men, something which ultimately helps Gen Zers form online connections with like-minded people.
@ezrawr_rawr Anyone that called me b4 knows #relatable #fypp #fypシ #foryoupage ♬ there is a light the never goes out – neve ୨୧
The trend is representative of the seismic impact The Smiths have had on music history, and is an endearing confirmation of the group’s continued relevance in contemporary culture. Inspired by social-media influencers who have shared their own personal connections to The Smiths’ music, many TikTok users have become dedicated fans of the band, going on to explore their music beyond the song they first head in a meme.