A band who went viral after TikTokers mis-heard their lyrics explained why they don't mind that people got it wrong

A band who went viral after TikTokers mis-heard their lyrics explained why they don't mind that people got it wrong
Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih, of the Florida band SALES, went viral on TikTok.SALES
  • A 2016 song called "Pope is a Rockstar" has become a huge trend on TikTok.
  • The song's lyrics have been misheard, though SALES, the band behind the tune, don't mind.

A 2016 song called "Pope is a Rockstar" has fast become one of the biggest earworms popularized on TikTok in the last few weeks — but there's a fundamental misunderstanding about Florida band SALES' song.

A clip from the song has been used in more than 2.7 million videos, many of which are designed to pull at your heartstrings. The song soundtracks inspirational photo montages of college football players looking to make their dead grandmother proud and friends glowing with pride about the people they care for growing up and getting married.

@lucky_theblackcat_1 #golittlerockstar #adopted #rescuecat #rescueanimals #adoptdontshop #fyp #foryou #foryoupage ♬ Pope Is a Rockstar - Sales

Its slow, languid lyrics have been interpreted as "You can be the highlight / Go little rockstar / Hoping on a late night."

But that's incorrect, as fans of the Orlando-based band, comprised of high school friends Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih, have pointed out. The line "go little rockstar" was never written into the song, it appears to stem from people mis-hearing the real lyric, "Pope is a rockstar."

But the band isn't precious about how people use the song.


"TikTok is pretty liberal when it comes to referencing music, and we're totally cool with that," Shih told Insider. "There's a lot of outrage about: 'What's the real lyrics?' but we've always been very open to people's interpretation of what's going on."

'Pope is a Rockstar' went viral years after being written

Shih told Insider "Pope is a Rockstar" was written in 2016 by the band, which was formed three years earlier.

Morgan was in a grocery store when she saw a magazine rack full of publications, including one with the Pope emblazoned on the cover. An older lady who was buying items looked at the magazine and said, "Wow, the Pope is a rockstar," Shih told Insider.

"The way Lauren writes lyrics is very in the moment," he said. "There wasn't a lot of thought of connection to religion or the Pope, but she just felt that phrase was kind of compelling and catchy."

They realized the song was going viral when friends began sending them videos of users including it in their TikToks in late 2021 — and misunderstanding the lyrics. In December Morgan even posted a tweet saying she wished she'd thought of the alternate lyrics to the song.


Its popularity caught Shih and Morgan by surprise.

"We were kind of witnessing this from the sidelines, just being very excited," Shih said.

The song's popularity has bolstered the band's streaming numbers

When the song was written, Shih, who worked in a call center while Morgan worked as a cashier at a store, said the pair had no idea they would soon have a career in music.

Now Shih and Morgan work as full-time musicians. The duo continues to record new music, and intends on performing live once more later this year — COVID-19 pandemic allowing.

In part, that's because of the tremendous success TikTok has given them. Prior to "Pope is a Rockstar" taking over TikTok, the band was averaging around 3.6 million listeners on Spotify each month.


"Now we're at over 7 million monthly listeners just based on this trend's virality," Shih told Insider. "The growth has been phenomenal. We can't complain. We don't nitpick or care too much about the lyrics."

SALES had prior success on TikTok

In June 2020, the band received an email from TikTok representatives letting them know their 2013 single "Renee" had gone viral on the app. The TikTok staff member helped the band set up their own profile on TikTok, which now has 42,000 followers.

TikTok also helped corral users to post videos using "Renee" into a theme and under one hashtag, #yougotit. Shih said TikTok thought the catchy chorus of "Renee" — which repeats the mantra "You got it" — was likely to be something TikTokers would latch onto.

@devonrodriguezart More reaction videos coming soon ok #drawing #fyp #nycsubway #artistsoftiktok ♬ Renee - Sales

The song has been used in over a million TikTok uploads.

"The videos are all very positive, kind of triumphant, inspirational types of videos," Shih told Insider. "That one got huge; billions of views. But this one's even crazier: Pope is a Rockstar."


For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider's Digital Culture team here.