You probably know who Lubalin is even if you don’t realize it. If you’ve spent any amount of time on TikTok over the past several weeks, you’ve no doubt heard of “internet drama.” The dramatic songs with lyrics provided from other people’s internet drama are the brainchild of Canadian artist Lubalin. While the TikTok videos are extremely entertaining and have cemented the musician’s place in TikTok history, these short songs aren’t all he can do. In fact, he’s been making music for years — music he calls his “not so funny music” — and will continue making music long after the internet drama has died down. Amid his TikTok streak, Lubalin released his latest song “long txts,” reminding us that he’s a true talent and one to watch, both on and off TikTok. I spoke with the musician to learn a little more about the stories behind internet drama, what it was like working with Jimmy Fallon, and what’s coming next for him.
What were you seeing on TikTok that birthed the idea of internet drama?
I was seeing a lot of musicians, there’s a lot of musical humor. I feel like it’s pulling from Bill Wurtz and Jack Stauber and that realm and then has evolved into a TikTok format. And there were people turning things into songs already. And I just thought, OK, well I make my own songs. I do my own production. And I feel like I’ve really pushed in these, even a few months before I started, I had really been pushing my skills in terms of mixing and pop writing and stuff. And so I was like, OK, well let’s test it out. And I know TikTok, it’s about the algorithm. Every piece of content lives and dies on its own merit. So I was like, this could be a cool test of my skills.
The other thing I was seeing, in general is just if you have a hook and you deliver, it’s watch time. It’s so easy to skip that you have to make it a thing where it’s like, oh, I want to see where this goes. And I guess I’ve found one that people like.
I think part of it is I’m an obsessive TikTok user. I spend a lot of time on TikTok, so I know what I want to see, I guess.
How did you decide on the internet drama to use for the videos?
So the broccoli casserole one, I just remembered it. I remembered having seen it and I was like, “Oh, that one was funny.” For the butter one, so since then we’ve been digging for content and it’s actually, at first I thought, “Oh, this will be easy. There’s so much arguing on the internet.” But it turns out if it’s too harsh, it’s not fun. And then there’s just ones that just aren’t funny. I’m figuring it out. I’m trying to broaden it because I realize how limited it is. The butter one to me was funny because there’s something extremely relatable about. Somehow a lot of them end up food related. I think maybe food is just a benign topic that ends up being fun.
You set out to become a hit on TikTok, but did you think you’d get to this level of virality?
I had no idea that I would be. I mean, it’s not like I came up with these things either. I built on top of them. So I didn’t, but I think that’s what culture is. Someone builds on top of something else. But I am blown away at bits that people stick with and the emails I get. It’s just so cool. I could not have imagined.
Did you create the song that you and Jimmy Fallon and Alison Brie used on the show?
The people at Tonight Show, first of all, are so cool. They were so supportive. They wanted to make sure that everything was cool with me. We went over the edit together. So they actually came to me and they wanted to do a concept, another internet drama. There are a lot of funny ones that are just one character, but the ones that are multiple characters are actually harder to find, because I guess it’s hard for two people to be funny. And it’s much more rare, but I was already working on my next one, which was blue cheese.
So I sent them the demo. They loved it. And then they found Alison Brie to get in on it. And yeah, and it’s been a dream. It’s crazy.
So you mentioned it takes a while to do these. How long have these taken from start to finish?
Finding them is really hard. But once I find one, then I’ve got to mess around with the melodies and the chords and try to find something that feels the way it sounds, but also elevates the emotion and makes sure that there’s an arc so I spend time on that. And then I spend time on the production and fleshing that out and making that a full song. And then I do the mix and then I start storyboarding, and then we shoot, and then I edit, and then there’s revisions and stuff. So all in all, it’s between five and seven days.
Obviously you are a legit musician who makes real music, that’s not TikTok fodder.
I call it my not so funny music.
How, if at all, are you taking what you’ve learned with this TikTok trend to translate into going forward with your not funny music and the rest of your music?
That’s a good question. I think TikTok is a really interesting place to test content because it, a little bit, doesn’t matter who you are. I guess at this point the franchise is helping itself. People are just ready for the next one. But I think the other way that it has helped me is because, well, I’m not writing the words. So that saves me some time. And then I’m creating these very short songs, but they still have lots of the stuff that a pop song has. So in a way it’s almost been a bit of a boot camp for making pop records or producing them anyway and singing them. So I think all of that’s going to translate.
What can you tell me about the music outside of TikTok that you’re working on?
So there are a few singles lined up. It’s been hard to find time to work on music lately. But yeah, there’s a few singles lined up. There’s one that just came out, it’s called “long txts” and there’s maybe some collabs brewing. I’m just excited to put out cool stuff. So far, it’s really impressed me how much people come from the TikToks and go to the music. And they’re like, “Yeah, I love the music.”
You do pretty much every aspect of music creation yourself, so I would love to know more about your musical background.
When I was a kid, I had a Playskool cassette recorder, and I was fascinated with the fact that you could capture sounds and then you had them. That was wild to me. So I think that sparked my production interest. There was also always a guitar in my bedroom. And one day I was like, “Oh, what is this thing?” And I picked it up and somebody taught me how to play “Smoke on the Water.” And I just played that over and over for two weeks and it just evolved from there.
I remember how excited some people in my neighborhood were about Eminem’s new CD coming out. I think it would have been The Eminem Show and how much glee they had with the CD coming home and I was like, “I want to do that. I want to be the person.” So I started rapping and stuff. And all these things just merged together, I guess, over time.
How much more of these internet drama songs do you foresee?
I am definitely going to keep doing them for a while. I’ve never done anything that worked like this. I feel like I’ve found a button and every time I push it, amazing things happen. I’m going to keep pressing the button. I would say a few more for sure. And then we’ll see.
“long txts” just dropped — can you tell me the story behind the song?
So people might think that “long txts” was written after the fact, because it’s about text messaging and my successes around internet conversations. But actually I wrote that a long time ago, before COVID. So I was on a Greyhound bus at night, traveling from my hometown back to the city I live in now, in my feelings, listening to Blonde by Frank Ocean, which by the way is the album to put on when you’re on a Greyhound at night. And across the aisle, I could see someone’s phone and I can’t see what they’re writing, but I could see these super long text messages. And I was like, “Oh, I’ve been there.” Yeah. That’s a vibe. And so I just quickly jotted down sending long texts, getting a long text back. And then later on, I built the song.
How was your creation during COVID?
It’s a mixed bag because terrible things have come with this. So it feels a little weird to be like, there were some nice things. But it was nice to not be expected to go anywhere for someone who likes to hide in their apartment and to do everything digitally. I was like, finally, the world works the way I wanted it to. So I actually got to create a fair bit and I feel like the songs that are coming are really interesting.
I try to be a little weird. I feel like in the TikToks I’m trying to be pop. I’m trying to go right down the middle because it’s already weird from the lyrics. But with the music, I’m trying to bring something different and make it have something to it. It’s been good for creating actually. Not bad.