Forget the Billboard charts and the most popular celebrities on them – there’s a new breakout star in town, and most Nintendo fans have heard his music for weeks through remixes, social media videos and trendy TikToks (as well as in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, of course).
K.K. Slider is an acoustic-guitar-playing white dog most famous for his appearances in all the Animal Crossing titles to date. The NPC visits towns (and now islands) to give regular concerts, and in previous versions of the game was known by his alter-ego DJ KK. But K.K.’s music is no longer just for Animal Crossing players; since the release of New Horizons, his music has found new life and thousands of new fans, with artists and musicians posting viral videos and covers on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.
YouTube has consistently been a popular platform for K.K. remixes, like the K.K. Bubblegum remix by Qumu shown below. K.K. Bubblegum has been one of the more popular songs across platforms, and Qumu, an anonymous internet musician, created their first K.K. remix after Patreon subscribers encouraged the choice in a poll. They later decided to do Bubblegum, too, which has turned into their most popular K.K. song.
Qumu said they owe a lot of their recent YouTube growth to New Horizons release, which boosted views on previous K.K. remixes released years ago.
“Just after the release of New Horizons, [previous Animal Crossing videos] were getting around 5 to 10 times the amount of plays per day,” Qumu said in an interview with Nintendo Life. “Bubblegum K.K. has been my fastest-growing cover ever, even becoming my second-most popular track. I couldn’t have predicted or even hoped for anything like this.”
To date, Qumu, with more than 144,000 YouTube subscribers, has created three K.K remixes and one other Animal Crossing remix video. The Bubblegum remix has been the most popular, clocking more than 1 million views, but the others are also a hit, with none under 100,000. A single YouTube search for “K.K. Bubblegum” returns thousands of videos – some of them covers, some of them gameplay – but the song is a real hit for many.
Qumu, who was inspired to become a musician after playing games like Guitar Hero back in 2009, said they didn’t expect Slider’s popularity to be so viral. The artist said the cute dog’s music is diverse and covers many genres, which could be a reason why so many people love it.
“I had no idea that K.K. Slider as a character, and as a music phenomenon would blow up to such a degree, so I’m absolutely surprised by just how popular he and his music became,” Qumu said. “I think K.K Slider’s music has a broad appeal.”
If K.K. Bubblegum is popular on YouTube, it’s nothing in comparison to the song’s prevalence on TikTok. Teens and adults alike love the track, posting videos of their villagers singing along, using it as background music for cosplays and even creating their own covers. Like the YouTube search, a TikTok search for the song brings up thousands of videos, most with thousands of views and comments.
Another artist who jumped on the K.K. trend on TikTok said they’re glad their video of a villager singing along to Bubblegum could distract and provide some smiles to people stuck inside during quarantine, calling it a “serotonin video.” The clip is a hand-drawn animation of Lolly, a cat villager, sitting underneath a blooming cherry tree and has nearly 50,000 likes. It also features the English lyrics, which Bun, the artist, said are a compilation of several fan-made lyric covers.
Most K.K. songs are nearly uninterpretable, full of the typical Animal Crossing gibberish-language speak. This cover, however, includes the lyrics as translated by fans, and even if they aren’t perfect, they’re cute and uplifting. “When the bubblegum pops, I want you to smile. And remember every good time, when skies are grey,” the lyrics read.
Bun has put nearly 300 hours into New Horizons and perhaps as many into previous Animal Crossing titles like Wild World, City Folk and New Leaf. They started an Instagram art account a few weeks after New Horizons released, but quickly archived original posts. After a short video of two villagers got attention on TikTok, Bun decided it was time to continue making new content.
“I realized how much I enjoyed sharing this kind of art, and so did anyone who came across those videos,” Bun said in an interview with Nintendo Life. “From that point on, I continued to draw and animate silly little videos just to bring people some happiness.”
Other artists on TikTok have taken K.K. trends and layered them with other ones, including a video in which artist Emma Elise Gamboa, a storyboard artist and illustrator, transformed a popular TikTok musician’s album cover into a K.K. Slider album cover.
In the video, Gamboa shows a time-lapse of redesigning Mxmtoom’s recent “Masquerade” album, exchanging the TikTok star with K.K., giving the dog character Mxmtoon’s crown, dress, and shy posture. Mxmtoon launched her musical career on TikTok, and the video, unsurprisingly, is set to her cover of K.K. Bubblegum. On TikTok, it’s common for multiple trends and memes to overlap this way, often feeling like deep cuts from internet culture that aren’t as funny or understood on other platforms.
Gamboa said she is usually “behind” on internet trends, but saw other artists creating K.K. Slider album cover remixes and had to join in. She said it was initially difficult to think of one she could do adequate justice, but finally settled on the “Masquerade” album and got to work. Gamboa also said this is among her most popular videos, and that using the K.K. trend brought a lot more attention to her work.
“I was really surprised by how popular my video and post had gotten. Most of my posts get at most 500 likes, which I am very grateful for, but this was something else,” Gamboa said in an interview with Nintendo Life. “I kept checking my notifications every so often and the numbers kept rising. It really boosted my motivation at a time where I wasn’t sure I was doing things right art-wise.”
Gamboa said she’s been an artist as long as she can remember, and echoed Qumu’s thoughts about the diversity of K.K. Slider’s music. “I love that K.K. Slider’s music is not just one thing,” Gamboa said. “Not many artists can say they can play it all. Also, since the game is kid-friendly, it’s a good way for a younger audience to get introduced to different types of music.”
Of course, the K.K. songs are really a product of the Animal Crossing development team, as he is, after all, only a video game dog. Still, people love the game’s soundtracks, and in a recent video, the team behind New Horizons’ main theme performed a socially distant, virtual concert.
K.K.’s music is bringing happiness and smiles to people all over the world through original tracks, remixes and covers. Qumu, Bun and Gamboa are only three of the thousands hopping on the trends. And whether they’re playing Bubblegum or another track, with a setlist that includes dance, reggae, salsa, pop, traditional Japanese festival songs and more, it’s no wonder so many people are boosting Slider’s pop star status.
“It’s truly heartwarming to hear how a piece of music might’ve affected someone’s life in a good way,” Qumju said. “There’s definitely a K.K. Slider song out there for everyone.”