Peggy Gou’s ‘Nanana’: How a Festival Video and a Mashup Turned It Into a Breakout Dance Hit

The scene will be immediately familiar to anyone who has attended a music festival: a DJ riling up a crowd, playing a hit but ratcheting up the anticipation by toying with the melody before the drums charge to the rescue. Only this time, the hit hadn’t come out yet — the South Korean producer Peggy Gou was teasing an unreleased single titled “(It Goes Like) Nanana.” 


Attendees at the Lost Nomads festival outside of Marrakesh hardly seemed to mind; a TikTok video capturing Gou’s set shows listeners throwing their hands in the air with abandon. One onlooker, standing behind the DJ’s right shoulder, removes the cigarette hanging unlit from his lips to unleash a hoot just as the percussion hits. 

That sunset TikTok clip helped kickstart a viral chain of events that has turned “(It Goes Like) Nanana” into Gou’s mainstream breakthrough. The single is her first to scale the Billboard charts, climbing inside the top 40 on the Global 200, and it’s earned 24.5 million on-demand streams in the U.S. since its release, according to Luminate. For a time it was the lead track on Spotify’s flagship playlist Today’s Top Hits, a spot usually taken up by major-label superstars, not dance producers on the independent label XL. 

No one is more surprised than Gou. She didn’t have TikTok when “(It Goes Like) Nanana” started to go like viral; she found out about that success from her friends. She also doesn’t watch the charts. “I really did not expect this reaction,” Gou says. “My song was never on a chart before. In the beginning I wasn’t sure what [charting] meant exactly.”

But the excursion into new commercial territory is welcome — a relief, in fact. After her rubbery 2019 single “Starry Night” became popular on dancefloors, Gou felt pressured to top it. “Sometimes pressure is a good thing,” she says. “It always kind of pushes me.”

“(It Goes Like) Nanana” was born during the pandemic, while Gou was binging dance music and hip-hop from the 1990s. The simplicity of the house music she absorbed from that decade stood out: “A lot of the hooks are repetitive, but it’s still catchy, you don’t get bored.” She cites SNAP!’s chugging hit “Rhythm Is a Dancer” and the German producer ATB as touchstones. 

Musical train-spotters on TikTok have thrown out a handful of other references in video comments: Kylie Minogue! (Presumably because she knows her way around a “la-la-la,” which isn’t too far from a “na-na-na.”) “I Like To Move It”! (Maybe in the progression of the bass line?) A Touch of Class’s “Around the World;” Gala’s “Freed From Desire” — take a fistful of Ultimate Dance Party CDs from the second half of the ’90s, throw them in a blender, and you might get something along the lines of “(It Goes Like) Nanana.”

Gou’s biggest tracks to date — “Starry Night” and “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)” — are sung predominantly in Korean. But when she tried that approach on “(It Goes Like) Nanana,” “it didn’t really work,” so she ended up singing it all in English instead. Gou also subbed in an entirely new bass line at the last minute before she started playing it out at festivals like Lost Nomads. 

Badr Bounailat, who shot the popular video of Gou near Marrakesh on June 3rd and posted it June 5th, has two theories about why it amassed over 7 million views. First, he says, “I’m a photographer, and that’s a good frame.” (The top comment on his post: “Can we talk about that zoom quality ouffff.”) Second: “People were in it, they were responding well to the song.” 

The scenic locale may have helped as well. Harmony Soleil, music director for KNHC, a dance radio station in Seattle, was excited to find the video of Gou in her feed. “I’m a tiny bit obsessed with her, in a not weird way,” Soleil jokes. “She’s always in amazing places. What do you mean, you’re in Morocco and you’re in Spain and you’re in Japan?” (Soleil has been playing Gou on KNHC, jumping at the chance “to support an artist who hasn’t had a lot of U.S. radio airplay otherwise.”)

Thanks to all the online attention, by the time “(It Goes Like) Nanana” was officially released on June 15th, Gou felt like the track “was already out.” She was quickly inundated with requests from DJs — from “EDM to jungle to soul to hardcore techno” — asking for stems to make their own remixes. 

The biggest re-work has come from Ian Asher, a DJ and producer with a large following who has a knack for making mash-ups that drive TikTokers wild. Asher, who calls “Starry Night” “a classic,” decided to fuse Gou’s single with CamelPhat’s “Cola,” a skipping but hard-nosed dance track that became an international hit in 2017. “What I love about it is that you have two party songs,”  Asher explains, “but one is very bright and summery, and the other is like you’re going into a nightclub.”


Im performing at Slate NYC this Friday July 21st… should I play this? #housemusic #cola #itgoeslikenanana

♬ NANANA COLA IAN ASHER EDIT Out Now On SoundCloud – Ian Asher

His mash-up from July went bananas on both TikTok and Instagram, appearing in more than 780,000 user created videos. The “Cola x Nanana” meld is not officially available, which in practice means there are bootleg versions on Spotify, YouTube, and SoundCloud as of this week. “It keeps getting taken down, but people keep re-finding it and uploading it on every platform,” Asher notes. “It’s a whole mini-drama.” (It gets taken down because the remix is technically unauthorized; Gou only gave stems to the German DJ-producer Boys Noize.)

The social media fervor around “(It Goes Like) Nanana” in its various forms propelled the track out of the world of independent-label dance music. “I first became aware of Peggy about three years ago on more of an underground level,” says Jonathan Geronimo, vp of electronic/dance programming for SiriusXM. He found out about “(It Goes Like) Nanana” from his colleagues overseeing TikTok Radio, saw that it was “exploding globally,” and put it into rotation a few days after its official release. SiriusXM has played the track more than 700 times since, and Geronimo believes it has “a shot” to make the jump over to pop radio, “especially with the format really keeping a close eye on what’s happening on TikTok.”

Gou’s single hit the Global 200 in July and has since climbed to No. 33, giving her a strong tailwind as she finalizes her full-length debut, due out early in 2024. The album also draws on her recent dive into ’90s sounds. Once again, though, she is feeling the need to top herself. “I don’t think there’s any track on my album that’s as catchy as ‘Nanana,’” Gou says. “The second single that’s coming out is very different — close to pop.”

That said, predicting audience reactions is notoriously difficult — she didn’t know that millions of listeners would find “(It Goes Like) Nanana” so bewitching. Still, the pressure remains. “My mindset is always: I can do better,” Gou adds. “I can do better.” 

Powered by Billboard.

Related Articles

Back to top button