Can Harry Daniels Sing for You?

arry Daniels and
his sister Madeline are sitting in the lobby of the Edition Hotel in West Hollywood waiting for Dua Lipa’s publicists one Friday morning. It’s a busy press day for Lipa after she announced her new album, Radical Optimism

I’m at the Edition to interview the pop star. Daniels is here to sing one of her songs to her.

The 20-year-old TikToker, known online as “the guy who sings off-tune to celebs,” makes his way upstairs at the Edition and is given some instructions by Lipa’s team before he strategically hides behind a wall near her dressing room. Soon, a glammed-up Lipa struts down the hallway and “bumps into” Daniels as she’s turning the corner.

“Can I sing for you please?” he asks before breaking out in an off-tune rendition of “Houdini” in the middle of a hallway. Lipa watches in surprise, duets with him for a moment, and tells him he did a good job.

The video and meet-and-greet is a big moment for Daniels, who has not only stanned Lipa since he was 13 (he showed her a video of himself squealing at her first tour) but also because he has created a brand for himself as the TikToker who makes celebrities feel awkward by singing to them in public.

In less than two years, Daniels’ often-cringe, always-funny, sometimes-annoying videos singing to, rapping for, and dancing off with the likes of DJ Khaled, Kendall Jenner, Gypsy Rose Blanchard, and Charli XCX have built Daniels a following of nearly 1 million on TikTok alone. His videos have become such a staple on the platform that Doja Cat (a fellow troll) even stopped her security personnel in front of paparazzi so Daniels could sing for her. Most recently, Daniels’ videos caused heated discourse among journalists about the presence of influencers at red-carpet events.

Going viral for causing secondhand embarrassment with his silly singing was never Daniels’ intention, but now, it’s a part of his master plan to turn his following into a real music career. He’s not yet sure how he’ll get there, but he’s adding every celebrity reaction to his growing list of co-signs.

“I got serenaded earlier,” Lipa tells me later. “It was too sweet.”

DANIELS WAS RAISED by stan Twitter. At nine years old, the internet personality, who lives in Long Island with his parents and two older sisters, made an account dedicated to Demi Lovato.

“I would just retweet things like, ‘Every RT is a vote for the Teen Choice Awards’ and tell Demi I loved her,” he says. “It was very innocent.”

He says he had a normal upbringing but often “felt quite isolated” from his peers. “I think I turned to the internet from a very young age, to find some world of escapism,” he says. “I think a lot of people do that, honestly.” Along with his account for Demi, he later devoted his time online to Fifth Harmony, Lana Del Rey, Selena Gomez, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, and Lorde. (“I also stanned Haim at one point, too,” he admits.) Those accounts were “a diary of every waking thought I had,” mixed in with some trolling and “daily adoration of my favorite artists.”

Daniels in front of Balthazar in New York

Yè Fan for Rolling Stone

Daniels has always had this sort of main-character energy. His sister and manager Madeline, 22, remembers how as a toddler, he would put on mini-concerts in the living room for his parents and two sisters to watch and clap for him. “We’d sit there cheering him on,” she laughs. “He really is born for this.”

On Twitter, Daniels hustled by making accounts with usernames that he assumed other stan accounts would pay for — a bet that repeatedly paid off.  “Someone would announce a new album and I’d save that as a username,” he says. “‘You can have it if you’ll pay up.’” He’d use the money to buy concert tickets and merch. He estimates he made about $1,000 from selling these accounts, but “$1,000 is like $1 million when you’re 13,” he says.

He went viral around that time too, thanks to the “You stan Zara Larsson” video. In the clip, Daniels gets into a heated argument with a Selena Gomez stan named Ronnie about their favorite pop stars. “This is you,” Ronnie tells Daniels in the clip, throwing a candy he had in his mouth on the ground and stepping on it. “I am never going to live it down,” he says of the video now. “But I’m embracing it.” (The clip still makes its rounds online every few months.) 

Like many stans, Daniels would take every opportunity to meet his favorite artists whenever they visited New York City. But it wasn’t until last summer that he started his off-tune singing career. (“Career” is how he describes what he does online.)

He was on his way to an album signing for Sabrina Carpenter’s Emails I Can’t Send, when he and his friends joked that it would be so silly if someone went up to Carpenter and sang one of her songs horribly for her and made her watch. “I was like, ‘OK, wait, I’m going to do it,’” he remembers. “And so I did it, and the video did really well.”

The shaky clip, which features Carpenter thanking Daniels as his friends giggle in the background, garnered a million views even though he had virtually no following. So he decided to do it again, this time freestyle rapping for Megan Thee Stallion. Then, he serenaded Willow Smith with an off-the-cuff remix of “Wait a Minute!”

“That one did even better than the two before it. So I was like, ‘Yeah, there’s definitely something here,’” he says. “Over time, it just evolved into its own little thing.”

Since then, Daniels and Madeline — who put aside her master’s degree in public administration to become Daniels’ manager and camerawoman — travel all over New York City (and sometimes fly to L.A.) to make his videos, capturing the awkward, trying-to-hold-in-their-laughter reactions of A-list celebrities. Sarah Paulson watched with a blank, almost-upset stare as he sang Lana Del Rey’s “Gods and Monsters,” Kelly Clarkson paused with her mouth wide open as he belted lyrics inside a Barnes & Noble, Constance Wu hugged Daniels in a Lyle Lyle Crocodile costume on the street, and he even had an off-tune duet with PinkPantheress after the singer recognized him at a fan-signing event.

“We try to make videos that you can remember beyond your scrolling,” says Madeline. “You turn off your TikTok, you turn off your phone, and you still remember that video. There’s a timelessness to it.”

In the comments of most of his TikToks, Daniels often gets asked how he finds the celebs he serenades (even @TikTok posed that question under a video with Jacob Elordi). Each serenade has a different story: a CD signing, a red-carpet event, he waited after a Broadway show. 

Other meetups, Daniels claims, have been serendipitous. He randomly bumped into Ethan Cutkosky from Shameless at a diner once. “We were literally having mozzarella sticks at midnight,” he says. His luck struck again at Dialog Café when he saw Omar Apollo. And he sang “Murder on the Dancefloor” to Elordi in the middle of an empty restaurant. “I was talking to a friend [about it], and she’s like, ‘The stan becomes the star,’” he says.

He doesn’t really get nervous about singing in public either. The only time he felt true anxiety was in January when he rapped a verse of “Bikini Bottom” by Ice Spice for Lea Michele, who simply nodded her head in hesitant approval from behind a plastic screen. “Thank you for everything you do for the community of people who can’t read,” he tells her in the clip, referring to the meme claiming Michele is illiterate. (“I practically had a panic attack, he says. “I was so nervous.”)

More recently though, he’s gone from chance encounters to organized meetups. That’s at least what happened with Lipa earlier this month, and last year with Conan Gray.

Daniels in March

Yè Fan for Rolling Stone

“How the fuck would I have known where Conan was going to be?” he says.

“It was a setup,” admits Madeline.

“I sent an email to Republic Records and was like, ‘Hi, I’m coming to L.A. for three days. And if you guys have anyone you want me to work with, I would love to do something,’” explains Daniels. “And they said, ‘I’ll see if [Conan Gray] is interested.’ And he was.”

Some celebrities aren’t big fans of Daniels’ schtick, though. Just watch his recent encounter with 5SOS’ Luke Hemmings, who immediately ignored Daniels as he started to perform. The moment was so awkward that Daniels walked away. And last month, a video went viral of Billie Eilish telling him, amid laughs, “Not you! I’m not gonna stand here while you sing,” at the People’s Choice Awards. Eilish was also filmed that day seemingly telling Kylie Minogue, “There’s some like … TikTokers here.” (Daniels doesn’t think Eilish was referring to him in the clip, but much of Twitter did.)

“I was upset. Not because she did anything wrong, but I think in my head it was the ultimate co-sign,” Daniels says. “I was taken aback and it popped a bit of my bubble, but I don’t think she owes me anything.” Daniels says he was happy that Eilish ended up giving his video a like. Plus, he doesn’t care if his videos frustrate viewers, as long as they keep watching.

“I’m a student of the greats,” he says. “You think Madonna would’ve ever become Madonna if she didn’t piss people off?” 

PLUS, DANIELS IS in his invite era these days. Over the past several months, he’s made appearances on red carpets at official events where he’s been asked to make his silly videos. His (and other influencers’ presence) has been pissing off some … should we call them red-carpet purists?

“I’m OK with people saying, ‘Oh, is this the state of journalism?’ because it’s not,” he says. “I’m not a fucking journalist. And I’ve never wanted to be a journalist.”

In December, Daniels was asked by marketing and consulting firm FanMade to roam around backstage at the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball in New York City. The goal? Rack up impressions on social media ahead of ABC’s broadcast of the concert.

At the event, he filmed himself singing to Andy Cohen, Ryan Seacrest, and Cher, among others. He even reconnected with Sabrina Carpenter, whose album signing started it all. “Girl, we’ve been here before. No, no, no,” she told him with a laugh. (He even sang Miley Cyrus’ “Prisoner” to Martha Stewart.)

The engagement on his videos completely shattered FanMade co-founders Olivia Rudensky and Claudia Villarreal’s expectations, as he earned nearly 75 million impressions on TikTok alone. “Everything that came afterward was just a catapult for all of the other content,” says Villarreal.

When FanMade was hired to do marketing for the People’s Choice Awards in February, they again invited Daniels. Along with signing to stars (Barbie actress Ariana Greenblatt squealed in excitement when she saw him), Daniels asked guests like America Ferrera and Coi Leray to answer if they’d prefer to have a “gay son or a thot daughter.” Reporters (and the purists) went bonkers at the fact that red-carpet events seemed to be open to content creators like him.

“Not to be a buzzkill, but this stuff just isn’t even funny and shouldn’t be allowed on media lines. She looks so uncomfortable,” read one tweet, referring to his video with Ferrera.

“Yall aren’t funny nor real journalists with any professionalism,” read another viral X post with nearly 12 million views. “Ugh, gross.”

Daniels rolls his eyes at the discourse around the subject. “I honestly don’t understand why everyone got so mad about that. ‘Oh, no, he asked “Gay son, thot daughter?”’ So what?” he says. “My job is to create content that will generate clicks and views.”

And he did. According to data from FanMade, Daniels alone garnered 80 million impressions on TikTok for his videos from the PCAs — by far the most engagement of the 60 influencers invited to the show.

 “Whether people like it or not, influencers are part of pop culture,” says Villarreal. “I don’t think there’s going to be a world without influencers on red carpets anytime moving forward. These people bring in views.”

AFTER OUR INTERVIEW, Daniels sends me eight unfinished demos of songs he wrote and produced himself over the past two years. He tells me that pursuing a music career was always the goal — now, he’s just using his videos to build his following before he launches it.

“Music’s the only reason I even started doing this.… I can’t imagine myself doing anything else,” he says. “Nowadays, with the state of the music industry, no one cares if you’re good or you’re bad. They just really care if you’re entertaining.”

Daniels in front of Carbone in New York

Yè Fan for Rolling Stone

Daniels’ thinking is aligned with what’s already happened with several other creators. Aliyah’s Interlude, known for her coquette fashion, recorded a song called “It Girl” that went viral and got signed to RCA Records. Bella Poarch used her massive following for lip-syncing videos to become a Warner artist. And there’s Addison Rae, who has a song with Charli XCX and cut an old Lady Gaga demo that’s become a cult fave.

The music that Daniels sent me truly surprised me. It’s not all bad. In fact, some of it is quite good. His vocals — his real vocals — hold a similar innate melancholy as Troye Sivan’s, and the production plays with trap beats, R&B, and a touch of hyperpop. He cites early music by the Weeknd, Doja Cat’s Planet Her, Charli XCX, and Travis Scott as inspirations. And you can hear it on some tracks.

“Tell me all your darkest fantasies, I want to make them come true. Don’t care what we’re doing, just as long as it’s with you,” he sings in the sexy ballad “Yours Tonight,” which reminded me of Zayn’s Mind of Mine. On “Anything for You,” the best of the eight tracks he sent, he plays with synths as his vocals shine over a catchy melody inspired by Cashmere Cat and Camila Cabello’s “Love Incredible.” Other songs need some work with vocal production and lyricism (“Baby got me in my feels, hate the way that it feels,” he sings on one). But Daniels knows that.

“I think it’s really important to make people feel seen with my music,” he says. “I want to make things that are very thought-provoking.” If there’s something Daniels knows how to do, it’s start a conversation. That is also part of the plan.

“People wrote Britney Spears off as some sort of fucking gimmick. And God, 25 years later, she’s still going strong. Madonna, too,” he says. “If the music’s really good, then that is going to be what sells it. I don’t need the approval of the peanut gallery.”