Atlantic Records Denies Claims 'abcdefu' TikTok Start Was Marketing Ploy

Pop sensation GAYLE's record label has denied claims that hit song "abcdefu" and its TikTok beginnings were an industry marketing ploy—a theory made popular by a video with over 13 million views.

"abcdefu" is the biggest song in the world right now. It's currently on its fifth week at No. 1 on the Billboard Global Excl. U.S., until this week was reigning on the Billboard Global 200 chart too, and you can't open TikTok on your phone without the tune blaring.

The song, which expresses anger towards an ex, has been paired with 2.4 million videos on TikTok and viewers heard it for the first time in July 2021. GAYLE, 17, originally shared the song with an acoustic rendition on her TikTok ahead of its release.

GAYLE posted on her account to ask for songwriting ideas, receiving one from an account named Nancy Berman asking if she could write a breakup song based on the alphabet. Weeks later, the song was released by Atlantic Records.


Reply to @nancy_berman definitely not based off personal experience... #orginalsong #newmusic #plslikethisaccount #hastagsworkapparently #acoustic

♬ abcdefu - GAYLE

The video can also be viewed here.

In January, TikToker Daniel Wall took to the same app to inform his followers that they had been "lied to about this song." According to Wall, the comment was left by a marketing manager at Atlantic Records, rather than being an organic fan comment that had inspired the impossible-to-escape tune, as many had believed.

"A lot of people are pushing that this song happened because of TikTok and it definitely blew up because of TikTok," he said, showing countless videos that use the audio.

"But we gotta talk about what actually happened," he continued. Wall cited the video "where GAYLE asks for song ideas" and pointed out the comment where Nancy Berman asked if she could write the song. Hey presto, TikTok meets the song.

The catch? Nancy Berman works for Atlantic Records as a digital marketing manager. Wall did the hard work and tracked down her LinkedIn.

"Even though this was planned, it worked and there's so many other artists and labels that do this because people love to be a part of something and they love a story they can follow," he claimed in his video, which can be seen here.

Wall is right in that aspect—fans do love an underdog, and to feel like they were there from the start, witnessing the organic growth of a song or an artist before their eyes. Cue industry plants—artists with careers kickstarted by label backing, only to diminish any affiliation in the public eye so as to appear home grown.

According to Atlantic Records, however, Wall isn't right about it all being planned.

Atlantic Records confirmed to Newsweek that the comment was left by Nancy Berman, a marketing manager at the label, but that it was simply a playful comment as both she and GAYLE knew the song was about to drop, with the track and the video already recorded.

The teen singer had mentioned the song in previous TikToks too and people from the label regularly comment on TikTok videos, said Atlantic Records.

Despite the comment and acoustic rendition being pinpointed by many as the starting point for the song, this isn't true according to the label. The label told Newsweek that the song received a small amount of attention after the initial TikTok video, and weeks later on its release—but that didn't even scratch the surface of what was to come.

"abcdefu" truly took off months later in November 2021 after a TikTok video translated the song in American Sign Language, going viral.

It's not the first time TikTok users have rushed to "expose" an industry plant. In 2021, pop-punk girl group Tramp Stamps became the focus of similar accusations after going viral on TikTok, with users speculating that the group didn't exactly have an authentic punk feel or background. The mystery behind it gripped the whole of the video-sharing platform.

Newsweek has contacted Daniel Wall for comment.