Tyla On The “Water” Bacardi Dance, TikTok Virality, & Her Debut Album

There’s so much more to come from the Grammy-nominated singer.

In Elite Daily’s series At The Moment, celebs dish on their current projects, pop culture hot takes, and everything taking over their group chats. Below, singer Tyla talks about her musical influences, her TikTok algorithm, and how the viral dance to “Water” came about.

Tyla has always been the main character. The South African-born singer grew up in a household where music was always being played, so in typical it girl fashion, she would put together shows to perform for her family.

“All my life, I just remember loving music,” she tells Elite Daily. “Before I started to do music as a career, I was always making videos, writing, and posting on social media.” As a Gen Zer, the 21-year-old had the Internet constantly around while growing up — and in turn, it played a major role in her rise to fame. “I’ve always been a social media girl and was on Instagram and Musical.ly before it was TikTok,” she says. “I’ve always just loved creating content.”

In 2020, Tyla started posting videos of herself doing viral dances across Instagram and TikTok. At the time, she was only 18, but she began building a community that she interacted with via her comment section. That same year, she hit 100,000 followers on TikTok.

In the meantime, she was sending her cover songs to “literally anybody famous” in an attempt to secure her big break via Instagram DMs. Eventually, her efforts paid off, but not quite the way she anticipated — she signed her record deal with American label Epic Records in May 2021, after the label reached out to her via email.

Tyla’s success on TikTok reached a significant turning point in August 2023, when “Water” and the dance that accompanied it went viral. With 1.4 million fan clips on TikTok, the song not only made her the first South African in 55 years to enter the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, but it also earned her a 2023 Grammy nomination for Best African Music Performance — all before the release of her highly anticipated debut album.

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The Afrobeats-inspired song was catchy on its own, but Tyla’s choice to incorporate Bacardi, a South African dance, into the song’s choreography was the icing on the cake. “Originally, I was doing Bacardi for a different song,” she says. “Then, during rehearsals for ‘Water,’ I was like, ‘Let’s try it with Bacardi.’ And that’s when my choreographer made up the dance.”

While “Water” remains a trending sound on TikTok, the singer has no intention of slowing down when it comes to releasing music. Most recently, she worked with rapper Travis Scott on a remix of the track. “I’m releasing a few new songs very soon that fans will have access to when they pre-save my album,” she says. “It’s just a little bundle of songs that I’m excited about.”

Though the release date for her debut has yet to be confirmed, fans will be able to pre-save the album on Dec. 1. And it’s hopefully coming sooner rather than later — Tyla says her new year’s resolution is to release her first full-length project. “The album is a huge one,” she says.

Below, Tyla discusses the weird corners of TikTok she’s on, reveals her favorite nonsocial-media app, and offers some tips on how to do the “Water” challenge.

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Elite Daily: Do you have any tips for those struggling to do the Bacardi dance?

Tyla: I feel like it’s very hard to teach, especially South African dance moves, because it’s not just moves. It’s in the swag, you know? But for now, wear something very baggy by your bum, and that will do half of the work for you.

ED: You’ve been traveling a lot as your career has taken off. Where are your favorite places you’ve gotten to go?

T: I really love Ghana — the vibe, the culture. It feels like the hub for Africa. And London, which feels like the closest thing to home outside of South Africa.

ED: What’s the first thing you like to do when you get back home after a trip?

T: Go to my parents’ house. I’m putting on pajamas, I’m jumping in their bed, and all my siblings are also jumping on the bed, and we all just talk and laugh all night.

ED: What nonsocial-media app do you spend the most time on?

T: I really like playing chess like on my phone. I’m low-key competitive like with games like that.

ED: What’s your daily screen time?

T: I spend way too much time on my phone. I try to chill, but TikTok gets you. Once you start scrolling, forget it.

ED: Are you on any weird corners of TikTok?

T: There’s a thing where it’s like a bowl of wood and water. The person just mixes it, and it just sounds nice. I don’t know why, but I watch that when it’s late at night.

ED: Who’s your favorite follow right now on TikTok?

T: Monet McMichael! She makes lifestyle content. I like watching her videos.

ED: What’s your favorite trending TikTok sound?

T: Honestly, I’m not just saying it, but “Water.” Especially the remixes. When people make videos with their own unusual version of the song, I love seeing how it’s evolving.

ED: What’s your zodiac sign? Do you relate to it?

T: I’m not much of an astrology girlie — but I’m an Aquarius.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.