A confluence of sad news, hopeful pleas, intersecting social media trends and inter-generational fascination put The Mountain Goats on Twitter’s trending topics list this week. It started, believe it or not, when singer Ed Sheeran contracted COVID-19. Mountain Goats lead singer John Darnielle then publicly offered to cover Sheeran’s slot on SNL, alerting fans in general to the fact that one of his most beloved songs has become a TikTok trend among Gen Z users.
Sheeran tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday night, which did not leave him enough time to meet the isolation requirements to get out of the U.K. and into the U.S., even if he could recover. The New York Post then reported that Saturday Night Live producers were “scrambling” to find a replacement before this weekend, and many musicians who are active on Twitter took the opportunity to throw their hats into the ring – including Darnielle. In the tweet making his case, he pointed out that his band is “well-loved by the TikTok Dancing Massive,” which many Mountain Goats fans were not aware of.
Lorne M please be advised that the Mountain Goats are in NY right now and are well loved by the TikTok Dancing Massive. Get well soon Ed & holler at me Lorne https://t.co/QzJPwukD9H
— The Mountain Goats (@mountain_goats) October 24, 2021
It seems like they soon discovered the truth. After Darnielle’s tweet, several outlets reported on this unlikely trend, and the phrase “No Children” was soon trending on Twitter. “No Children” is one of The Mountain Goats’ most iconic songs. It’s taken from their 2002 album Tallahassee, which is made up entirely of narrative songs about a dysfunctional romance referred to a “the Alpha Couple.” “No Children” includes the emotive refrain “I hope you die / I hope we both die,” which began resonating with TikTok users in recent weeks.
Even by TikTok standards, the “dance” developed for “No Children” is pretty simple – a few gestures and pantomimes with ironic stiffness. According to a report by Vox, the trend likely began with a post by an 18-year-old user who wrote: “this song is way too depressing. It sounds like a middle-aged man crying over a girl he met in high school. Like get over it dude.”
Two truths: the song No Children has, on occasion, ended me, and I am all the way here for seeing it play out as a TikTok dance. pic.twitter.com/ZMX2ae7i4z
— meganzillla (@meganzillla) October 25, 2021
In a strange way, that post is the first domino in a line that led to a very real campaign for The Mountain Goats to appear on SNL this weekend. Darnielle later noted that he won’t be heartbroken if they don’t get the gig,because “if this attempt at humor extends my tour by even a day, my family will kill me.” He engaged with fans on Twitter throughout the day on Tuesday, laughing with them at the random events that got them trending and celebrating endorsements from massive celebrities like Lynda Carter.
So far, SNL has not announced a replacement for Sheeran, but The Mountain Goats seem to have as good a shot as anyone. The band has shows scheduled throughout this week, which are sold out, and one coming up in December for which tickets are now on sale. “No Children” is streaming now on all major music platforms. Saturday Night Live airs at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC.