If Olivia Rodrigo is Gen Z’s answer to Alanis Morissette, Gayle is their Avril Lavigne. Her pop-punky DIY aesthetic and grassroots rise to fame has positioned her as the next big thing for angsty girls everywhere, and she’s even nominated for Best New Artist at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards. But if you have no idea who I’m talking about, don’t worry. She’s still kinda niche, and I’m here to explain.
Taylor Gayle Rutherfurd (sometimes stylized as GAYLE but imma call her Gayle) is an 18-year-old singer signed to Atlantic Records. Her song “abcdefu,” about a worthless ex, blew up over the course of the latter half of 2021 on TikTok, being paired with literally millions of videos.
There was a small controversy over the song’s origins, which I will sum up briefly, but you can read about in full on Newsweek. Basically, as part of the release strategy, Gayle teased the song on TikTok, and in one video responded to a commenter asking her to write something based on the alphabet. TikTok being TikTok, viewers took this very literally and assumed that the song was written as a response to the comment’s prompt, so when it went viral, they pointed to it being a sui generis TikTok hit.
But as a “debunking” video pointed out, that initial comment was left by someone who works at Atlantic; the song had already been written and recorded, and an accompanying video filmed. In their response, the company explained that this was a friendly comment not intended to fool anyone, and Gayle never tried to hide the fact that the song already existed. TL;DR: yes, the record company played up a narrative, but this was savvy PR, not a conspiracy.
Anyway, back to Gayle. The song enjoyed moderate success in summer 2021 and into fall, then became huge on the app in November 2021 and made its way up the Billboard charts as well. By February 2022, it was the “biggest song in the world,” per Newsweek.