Music is such a powerful entity capable of crossing borders, breaking linguistic barriers, gender stereotypes, and racial divisions. Go over the charts in Billboard or check out the latest craze in TikTok and you’ll see people singing and dancing along to songs written in different languages, sang by artists from all parts of the world.
It’s so refreshing to see, that despite the bad rap that social media platforms are earning, hope springs from content creators who are using their accounts to showcase their musical talents, promote positivity, and encourage self-acceptance – just like the viral TikTok artist, Aeden Alvarez.
Getting to Know the TikTok Sensation: Aeden Alvarez
Known for his rewrites, Aeden became an instant hit in TikTok after his cover of Lorde’s ‘Royals’. The Filipino-born music artist who grew up in Hong Kong currently has an astounding 695k followers and 16.3M likes on the said platform.
Behind these statistics, Aeden humbly thinks of himself as a person who likes to bring people together in any way he can. He believes that the reason why his music thrives is because of the stories he incorporates in them. Growing up, he learned that when people can resonate with your music and stories, these can make them feel seen, heard, and particularly good inside.
The young artist is currently in his second year of college, major in Musical Theater and minor in Creative Writing. Based on the narratives shared by his mom, his love for singing and creating music began as early as when he was five years old. Aeden recalls writing his first song titled, ‘The fish and the butterfly’ and from there, he never stopped singing. He fondly remembers how his classmates get annoyed with him for always singing in class.
Aeden began creating his own music when he got his first guitar from his uncle when he was thirteen. Such musical instrument allowed him to easily form songs and make sense of his ideas. He took inspiration from his life and experiences by turning people into songs. Instead of plainly writing from experience, he brings up a person who has heavily influenced him and turns that person into a song.
Creating Music with Aeden Alvarez
From songwriting, Aeden developed his way of creating content by making covers from his perspective or other people’s perspective. He wanted to create something that already exists but making it totally different. Like, getting the melody of a popular song and then switching its meaning so that people from all walks of life – gay, overthinker, social misfits – can resonate with it.
Reflecting his real emotions on songs that already exist makes Aeden write better. “I like to rewrite songs because I don’t have to create something totally new. You know, I can just pick a different meaning and a different story, and put it on top of an already existing song that people already like.”
While the majority of the lyrics from the songs he recreated are based on his personal feelings, there are some covers in which he also experimented by putting in emotions that he didn’t experience himself. Taking up Creative Writing paved the way for him so he may know how to write about them and create videos that reflect as if everything is really coming from him. Such talent.
The Untold Story of Becoming a Content Creator
Behind the glitz and glamour, Aeden also feels pressured to consistently providing quality content to maintain his huge followings. This is partly the reason why he kind of migrated to YouTube. When he started TikTok around February of 2020, he had so much energy and commitment to create videos every day after he was told that they won’t be coming back to school.
Knowing how active he is, he knows that he’ll be super bored if he stayed at home and do nothing. Hence, TikTok became a project he put upon himself. Every day, he creates singing videos that he posts online. Over time, he learned that such consistency has helped him grow in TikTok.
However, when Hong Kong banned TikTok, he lost around 200 to 300 thousand of his followers. This made him rethink his options and strategies – if he really wanted to continue what he started. He had to battle with his feelings, of losing his audience, of feeling that he’s not enough. He tried to understand the algorithm but it only brought so much pressure that he decided to take a break from social media.
Aeden knew that everything was becoming more and more unhealthy for him. He knew that there’s nothing wrong with what he is doing. But with the changes that happened, he began to doubt his very own existence. Before he falls deeper into his pandemonium, Aeden decided to start a new project by migrating to YouTube. With everything he learned from TikTok, he put the same skill set to YouTube and was lucky to have such a great outcome.
While it may not be seen on screen, Aeden admits that it’s definitely difficult to find motivation. “It’s so easy for someone to say ‘just do what you love, keep focusing on what you love’ but it’s hard when you are next to people who are doing the same thing as you, who are performing better in terms of engagement and vanity metrics.”
Instead, what Aeden wants to impart is that: you have to focus on what you know. And he knows well that his strengths lie in music. He does not know how to gain more followers in a day. He does not know how to reach a certain audience. But he knows how to make music. So, he focused on it regardless of the outcome. Yes, it was a hard pill to swallow. “People want to do great on social media. I’m lucky to have an audience that I’m still trying to reach every single day. But at the end of the day, I know that whatever I do, it’s going to be music. It’s going to be my passion. So, whatever your passion is, you’ve got to really want to do it regardless of people. Regardless of who sees it. You’re creating art. You are doing something that no one else is doing. So do it.”
Becoming Aeden Alvarez
Aside from steadily growing his followings in TikTok and subscribers on YouTube, Aeden’s talent was also noticed by renowned artists like Meghan Trainor who followed him back on TikTok, and Shawn Mendez on Instagram.
At present, he is in the process of finding a more professional method of producing and releasing music. A lot of opportunities were opened to him, like in a studio in LA, but things didn’t go through. It definitely made him sad but if there’s something that he has kept in mind, it’s that he still has the power to control what he likes and create good music for the followers that he had. “I’ve been releasing music since I was 17 and I’m 19 now. I don’t have a lot of music out there. But I never want to make it feel forced just for the sake of releasing music. It’s always because it feels like the right time. And it feels good. My followers are still hyping it up and enthusiastic about the EP I released last month. Even the new classmates I’ve met this year are listening to my music.”
Aeden hopes that he gets to a point one day when there’ll be a label or management opportunity. Right now, he’s controlling everything, from the music to the album cover and release. He wanted a more collaborative team. It might not be now, but he believes he’ll get there.
Sharing Thoughts about Social Issues
Being a part of Gen Z, Aeden also shares his thoughts about the pros and cons of his demographics. He thinks that while the members of Generation Z are of advantage when it comes to technological advancements, people of his age are also way too focused on vanity metrics, in terms of social media. He finds it scary that people grow up with phones in their faces – and that’s all that they know. And it becomes unhealthy.
“I think Gen Z are the people who deal with depression most usually because of social media and the pressure they put upon people – at a really young age. With social media accessible to even 10 years old, they grow up with all these tools and get exposed to unhealthy things. And that’s sad because there’s so much life outside of a phone.”
On the other hand, what he sees as an asset among the members of Gen Z is that people his age don’t have filters. When they have an idea, they express it to the fullest extent. They’re the trendsetters. When they see a problem, they face it head-on and confront it – the very common reason behind the usual commotions on social media, the clashing of ideas between generations. “Some people just don’t care. But for us, we’re like, this is our world, we’re gonna fight to save it and make it how we want to make it. I don’t think we’re afraid to get what we want. Nicely. We’re doing what we can, respectfully, in order to make a better community.”
When asked about gender expression and gender fluidity given his background as a Filipino who grew up in Hong Kong and now in the West, Aeden shares how such pressing matters still affect the way people think, especially in terms of clothing. While the members of Gen Z are more accepting of people’s choices, believing that clothes don’t have gender, there are still people who are sold to the traditional idea that there’s a single way of categorizing what should and should not be worn. There are still those who are filled with disgust when they see guys wearing feminine clothing and girls who opt to wear masculine clothing.
“Growing up in Hong Kong, I definitely felt like I couldn’t walk out the way that I am now in the US. Because you don’t see that in public. You don’t see guys wearing cropped tops or showing that area of their skin. I don’t want to stand out all the time but when I’m in Hong Kong, it doesn’t feel right. Because the community isn’t just there yet, in terms of acceptance and appreciation.”
Identifying himself as a gay man, Aeden believes that aside from acceptance, creating a safe space for everyone is also important – whether you are part of the LGBT community or not. “Pronouns don’t hurt anyone. It just reinforces something. Doing it benefits the environment and the community. So, it just infuriates me sometimes when people don’t see the importance in that. What I love about my school and many other colleges, they suggested that you include your pronouns after your name. And our teachers even ask us at the start of the year to introduce ourselves and also the pronouns every single time. It’s just so refreshing how people identify themselves. How you refer to people, how you talk to people. It’s just nice. And it’s not hurting.”
Aeden utilizes his platform to express himself as who he is. This includes being vulnerable. He believes that showing one’s vulnerability is also a strength. It helps bring people together, go through things and get through things. Allowing them to know that their emotions are valid as well. “The only difference is that I’m expressing it out loud towards people, in front of people. I would continue to stay real and lead by example. The way I express myself is a form of protest, in my opinion. I’m showing people that guys like me can wear whatever we want. We can do whatever we want. We can sing whatever songs we want. But I don’t tell people like ‘you should do it.” I do it myself because that’s what I can control.” He believes that by expressing love in different senses, he gets to inspire people to stay true to themselves knowing how hard it is on social media.
Aspiring and Living the Dream
A year ago, Aeden had already envisioned himself finishing college and focusing on his solo career or trying to get into Broadway. However, after meeting so many people, his perceptions changed and the list of things that he wanted to accomplish got longer.
Now, he wanted to flourish his music career at the same time pursue theater. He felt so much inspired after collaborating with like-minded artists and creatives. He describes that these relationships built through his journey can be likened to Alessia Cara’s song ‘Stone’ which reminds him how important it is to lean on other people, to keep himself grounded, and hold on to what is constant.
“And I will follow where this takes me. And my tomorrows long to be unknown. When all is shaken, be my safety. In a world of uncertain, be my stone.”