Striking TikTok craze in March this year: young women (men too, but mainly women) who filmed themselves cutting a poster of the new Antoon single with scissors, a screwdriver or a box cutter Hi hung together from a pepper box or poster wall.
Thousands of posters, specially made for the city where they were posted (‘Hallo Utrecht!’, ‘Hallo Tilburg!’), ended up in student houses and teenage bedrooms: an old-fashioned advertising campaign with posters and paste can also go viral online.
“In retrospect, it was much better promotion than the posters themselves,” said Antoon, the 20-year-old pop singer from Midwoud, near Hoorn, the creator of the song.
Nine months later Hi streamed over 31 million times on Spotify alone. It became Antonon’s first real number 1 hit in the Top 40 and Single Top 100.
It contributed significantly to the statistics recently released by Spotify Netherlands: of all artists, Valentijn Antoon Remmert Verkerk (nickname Tijn, stage name Antoon) was the most streamed in the Netherlands. More often than all his Dutch colleagues, but also more often than Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd, Drake and David Guetta, who complete the top-5.
Most streamed song in the Netherlands? Does not Hibut Emergency lane by the collective Kris Kross Amsterdam, with vocal lead roles for singer Sigourney K and, yes, Antoon: listened to more than 58 million times. Emergency lane appeared in December 2021, three months earlier than Hi.
In the last moment of his overwhelmingly successful year, Antoon performs two nights in the Amsterdam Ziggo Dome, something usually reserved only for big international stars: Saturday and Monday, both nights sold out, more than 30,000 tickets.
And yet Antoon is still a pop artist who raises the desperate, sometimes slightly agitated three-letter question of many Dutch people over 40 and without small children: ‘Wíé?’
Welcome to the wonderful world of TikTok. The poster is raving around Hi made a full circle, because Antonon’s success story also started there, out of sight of many. His first hit Hyperventilation already appeared in 2020, went viral on TikTok, and appeared in June 2021 as Antoon’s first Top 40 hit.
Hyperventilation and Hi give a good impression of what Antoon stands for. His music is emotionally aligned with Dutch hip-hop, but more often it is electronic pop with influences from EDM (‘Electronic Dance Music’), as the chart variety of dance is usually called. ‘Hip pop’, says Antoon himself.
He sings about the city’s millennial life. Hyperventilation and Hi is, like several of his songs, about youthful infatuation (‘You had me at ‘hello!’ / Right upside down’) and related themes such as fear of commitment (‘That bitch wants a relationship / Hyperventilation!’).
In interviews, Antoon casually let it be known that he was looking for a beautiful, stylish word to carry the song. He found ‘hyperventilation’ through the site hardwords.nl.
With it he appeals to a young audience (and according to him three quarters of them are women), but with his success the average age has also increased slightly: among primary school children, high school students and students, nightlife for young adult audiences and listeners of Dutch-language music channels such as Radio 538, slam! FM and Xite. Antoon belongs to the new Nederpop, with Froukje, S10, Maan and Flemming.
Work ethic and encouragement
In interviews, he often refers to his work ethic (‘to push through’, ‘not to play but to work’) and the fact that his parents gave him unconditional encouragement. A side job? No, said Father Verkerk (also his manager), quite generous pocket money so he could invest his time in music.
Antoon, who as a child focused on playing the piano, drums and deejaying, interrupted his pre-school education at the age of 15 so that he could attend the Herman Brood Academy, the pop academy in Amsterdam, where he was the youngest. students ever to enroll.
Twan van Steenhoven, better known as Big2, the white, tall half of the North Dutch duo The Opposites, worked there as a teacher. He became Antonon’s mentor and record manager: hyperventilation, and everything after that appeared through Big2’s DreamTeam label, distributed and promoted by Cloud 9.
When asked, Van Steenhoven, with whom Antoon also produces duo songs, always points to the work ethic, the energy: A session with Antoon always results in a song that can be used by himself or someone else. In two and a half years an album (The night is ours2020), a duo EP with Big2 (holy water2020), seven singles in 2021 and three EPs in 2022: Hi, Olivia and knock Knock.
That’s a lot of songs and a staggering amount of streams for a boy who hasn’t yet turned 21 and only started living in Amsterdam on his own this year.
The success story unfolded with lightning speed and becomes even more unimaginable when you consider that he suffered a brutal blow at the beginning: the death of his mother from colon cancer, which she battled for five years. He had not yet turned 19.
“At first I put my grief away,” he later said. ‘Work hard, make new music. When people asked me how I was, I blasted out a prepared tune. I didn’t want to come to terms with my feelings’.
As his career progressed, he did what he was never good at: talking about his grief, his deepest feelings, including with a psychologist. Not Antoon for a while, but Tijn.
Of course, it also spawned a song: Storm (March 2021): ‘Sometimes when I’m alone for a while I hear your familiar voice in the distance / the wind at my back because you’re around me / Thunder in the sky, but I’m not alone. ‘
Childhood photo as a work of art. Moving video clips full of intimate private images. We can see her, you can ask him about her, and she will be there in the Ziggo Dome, if only in Storm: the young woman who had to stay behind while her child rose to become the most popular pop star in the Netherlands.
On average, 1.8 million Spotify users listen to Antoon every month. It seems modest compared to Tiësto (38 million) or Martin Garrix (20 million), but they are listened to worldwide. In the Netherlands, they are below Antoon in terms of listenership.
In Flanders, Antoon’s solo work has not yet taken root, but his monster hit Emergency lane with Kris Kross Amsterdam and singer Sigourney K was also a big hit in the Flemish Ultratop 50: second place, just like in the Dutch Top 40.
The multimedia TV channel StukTV is closely connected to the Dutch social and pop world. In the popular program The hunting season a celebrity must stay out of the hands of ‘Team Stuk’. Antoon’s episode appeared on YouTube last month and has already been viewed 1.2 million times.