From Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” to Doja Cat’s “Say So,” TikTok has become a launch pad for musicians to go from virtually unknown to viral. The platform’s latest success story? A cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s 2006 track “Put Your Records On” by an indie artist called Ritt Momney (yes, a play on the name of Senator Mitt Romney). With the (old) song’s newfound fame has come rave reviews from teens, rampant criticism, and nostalgia for the quintessential dance-in-your-bedroom original. Below, we break down the history of the track and how it resurfaced as a viral sensation nearly 15 years later.
In 2006, British singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae’s sunny commercial hit “Put Your Records On” peaked at number two on the UK Singles Chart and earned the top spot on the Singles Downloads Chart and the UK R&B Singles Chart. The song also earned her three Grammy Award nods a year later—for record and song of the year, and new artist.
While the song pays homage to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” (“Three little birds sat on my window/And they told me I don't need to worry”), it is most fondly recalled for its celebration of Black women and their natural hair. “Don't you let those other boys fool you/Got to love that afro hairdo,” Bailey Rae sings at the end of the track. “I remember when I first started wearing [my hair] out and feeling self conscious and people were making fun of me as well because it’s so different, and living in England, it was against what was considered to be a nice way to have your hair,” Bailey Rae told Genius.
At the time of its release, it also paid tribute to her “favorite song,” which she told Genius was Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love:” “I used to sort of sing that in the mirror with the hairbrush and just be like, ‘She’s amazing.’”
The viral TikTok cover by Ritt Momney
Salt Lake City-based indie rocker Ritt Momney (aka Jack Rutter) released a cover of Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On” in April, which, to his surprise, quickly went viral on TikTok. Since then, more than 1.4 million videos with the audio have been created. And Rutter’s success hasn’t stunted: He’s earned an inaugural spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and helped boost his 2019 LP Her And All of My Friends. By September, he landed a major label deal with Disruptor/Columbia. But Rutter’s rise to fame wasn’t well-received by all.
With the release of his rendition — which features his own twist on the lyrics — he called Bailey Rae’s hit “one of the greatest pop songs of all time” and added that it was one of his mother’s favorites that he’d listen to on the way to soccer practice growing up. “Fast forward to March 2020 when I got the idea to do a fun little cover of this song I’ve loved my whole life to combat some of the dreariness I was feeling,” Rutter said.
Rae tweeted her enthusiasm for the cover saying, “Happy this cover of 'Put Your Records On' is connecting with so many. Writing a song is like setting a bird free … where will it fly to? Looking forward to talking to @rittmomney & loving how deeply people feel connected to the original. Thank you.”
TikTok Success and Criticism around Ritt Momney’s Cover
A TikTok user named Skiian went viral for posting a video of them putting on their makeup to Ritt Momney’s “Put Your Records On.” It prompted the “10 seconds vs 2 hours of makeup” challenge where a TikTok user would apply makeup in 10 seconds and cut to the final look after two hours.
Despite its popularity, Rutter’s cover received criticism on Twitter for finding success from a song originally by a Black woman. “The name 'Ritt Momney' is trending, in regards to a song written by a Black woman, a name based off a CONSERVATIVE politician,” wrote indie-rocker Shamir.
One Twitter user was frustrated that people were giving credit to a white man for a Black woman’s work: “Just a reminder: Corinne Bailey Rae wrote 'Put Your Records On.' It’s about Black girls loving their hair. It was written for Black girls by a Black girl. Please for the love of GOD stop giving men credit for the work Black women do it’s exhausting.” Another Twitter user agreed, saying: “WHO????? u mean CORINNE BAILEY RAE????? stop discrediting Black women !”
On Nov. 16, Rutter issued a reply to the criticism on Twitter in a thread: I think it was stupid of me to cover a song by a Black woman, especially one that mentions aspects of Black life that I obviously have no experience with. If I could go back and simply cover another song by someone else I would.”
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