Ben Rodrigues’ new single “Was It Real” becomes overnight viral smash hit

Durban-born, Cape Town-based singer-songwriter, Ben Rodrigues, is the undisputed breakout indie artist of 2024 so far. With his debut single, “Was It Real”, the musician has wracked up over 1 million Spotify streams as of yesterday, and debuted at #6 on the East Coast Radio Top 40, which is an unprecedented feat for an SA artist.

Unsurprisingly, TikTok has been a major driving force for the 19-year-old muso, logging more than 100 000 views per day and now sitting on over 8 million views, with a lot of those coming from The States. Rodrigues is taking everything well within his stride though. “It’s crazy! I love seeing how many different ways people are using the song,” he exclaims to me over a Whatsapp call. “I’m seeing edits, I’m seeing compilations of summer videos, I’m seeing people dancing and singing and it’s really, really cool to see new videos every day!

When I press him for a favourite he’s thoughtful before answering, “I don’t have a favourite, but there was this one girl, I think her name was Marilé. She sang it very enthusiastically and that’s how it should be sung! You can’t lip sync this song, you have to give it your everything and she really did.”

He’s right on the money, ‘Was It Real’ cannot be half-sung. It’s one of those anthems that you turn up as soon as the intro kicks in, and it seems that the writing and recording process was equally as epic.

“I had a melody and a few lyrics, so I brought it to my producers who I’d just met, it was actually our first studio session. I walked in and they asked if I had any ideas and I told them I did, so I played it to them on guitar,” he stops and proceeds to sing me the basic melody before adding, “And they were so keen to work with it, so they laid down some instruments, we wrote some more lyrics and within two studios sessions we had it.”

‘Was It Real’ is also very clearly about a girl that Rodrigues used to be in a relationship with. Failed relationships are universally relatable, but how does the subject of this song feel about it going viral? “We haven’t spoken in a while, we don’t chat like we used to,” Ben confesses. “But she does know that the song is about her, and she did message me a few days ago saying congratulations and she loves the song. She also said her mom loves the song, which is funny because in the first verse I say, ‘Tell your mom I’m sorry…’.”

As the popularity of this song keeps growing, I’m keen to know what Rodrigues’ hope for the future of it is. “I stopped setting goals and plans after the first week,” he honestly replies. “We tried to set a goal for the pre-saves for the song and we ended up with almost 100 times our goal. So I’ve stopped setting expectations but I’m excited to see where it goes. This is just the debut, I’ve got a lot of other songs in the works with my producers that I think is even better than ‘Was It Real’ and I can’t wait for you to hear it!”

Rodrigues has also teased an announcement coming this week for his first batch of live shows, so keep your eyes on his social for that.