What's the story behind "Dance Monkey"—the record-breaking, chart-topping viral hit that's playing just about everywhere? First released on May 10, as the second single off of Tones and I's debut EP The Kids Are Coming , the song has since dominated airwaves and by November it broke Australia's chart record for most weeks at number one, becoming the only Australian single to hold that distinction. The song also reached 1 in over 20 countries, topped the UK singles chart, and reached 5 in the United States—not to mention the single has over 1. Toni Watson, the singer behind "Dance Monkey" may be well on her way to becoming a household name in the United States as the viral hit has vaulted the Australian busker, who once lived out of her van, to the global stage. The lyrics to the indie-pop song draw directly from the year-old singer's experience as a busker in Byron Bay, Australia.
The Australian artist, whose real name is Toni Watson, erupts on the snappy alternative track, exposing how entertainers are treated like monkeys who are constantly being harassed to dance and perform more only to find satisfaction within themselves. Go again, again, again! The singer-songwriter also told Apple Music about her manager's fear that "Dance Monkey wouldn't blow up the way it did. I have confidence in the songs that I've written and I'm not going to change anything. Ooh I see you, see you, see you every time And oh my I, I like your style You, you make me, make me, make me wanna cry And now I beg to see you dance just one more time. So I say Dance for me, dance for me, dance for me, oh, oh, oh I've never seen anybody do the things you do before They say move for me, move for me, move for me, ay, ay, ay And when you're done I'll make you do it all again. I said oh my god I see you walking by Take my hands, my dear, and look me in my eyes Just like a monkey I've been dancing my whole life And you just beg to see me dance just one more time. They say Dance for me, dance for me, dance for me, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh I've never seen anybody do the things you do before They say move for me, move for me, move for me, ay, ay, ay And when you're done I'll make you do it all again. Ooh all again, all again Woah-oh, woah-oh, oh Ooh all again, all again Ah ah, ah ah, ay. They say Dance for me, dance for me, dance for me, oh, oh, oh I've never seen anybody do the things you do before They say move for me, move for me, move for me, ay, ay, ay And when you're done I'll make you do it all again.
The song was produced and mixed by Konstantin Kersting. Upon release, Tones and I said the song is about the expectations that are placed on musical performers. It peaked within the top ten in many other countries, including the United States, at number four, where it also became the first top-five hit solely written by a woman in over eight years. In the United Kingdom, "Dance Monkey" broke the record for the most weeks spent at the top of the UK Singles Chart by a female artist when it remained at the top of the chart for an eleventh week. The following week, "Dance Monkey" entered the US Billboard Hot top ten for the first time at number nine, and later peaked at number four on the chart. When interviewed by DJ Smallzy in July on Australian radio station Nova FM, Tones explained that Dance Monkey's lyrics are about the relationship she had with her audience when she was busking on the streets of Australia:. And if they didn't like it, when they looked at their phones they could just click something else; So if you replace [the lyric]: 'dance for me, dance for me' with 'sing for me, sing for me,' it's pretty literal," she said.
I used to work at a surf shop on Bourke Street, which is really the busiest part of Melbourne. And there was like, you could busk on Bourke Street. I really, really wanted to busk. One of my friends was like, you should come to Byron because you can literally just park up and busk out of the side of your van. So I bought a van, moved to Byron Bay and started living in my van. That was pretty cool. She came in, and lived with me and my family for a while after there, and worked out of my studio a lot in that first year while she was busking. I was busking day, day, day, day — in the winter, when no one else would busk. In the rain, when no one else would be busking, I would be busking. It was about, no matter what, being able to get more fans.