One of 2020’s biggest songs is also among its most surprising success stories. Credit 20-year-old Kazakhstani producer Imanbek who, in 2019, was virtually unknown to most of the world. That changed once he decided to “flip” 2016 R&B song “Roses,” by New York’s Saint Jhn, into a pitch-shifted dance-pop powerhouse. The track first took off in Russia, then made its way across Europe and on to America where it conquered radio, TikTok and Spotify in quick succession. In October, the remix officially logged more than a billion streams. Imanbek, through a translator, is still pinching himself.

Was there a moment when you knew your remix of “Roses” was going to take off big?

When my socials literally started exploding minute after minute. I was getting tagged in loads of things and getting lots of re-posts of the remix. When it suddenly hit the TikTok and Shazam charts, it was like a tsunami effect for real; it was totally out of control.

What is it about your version that really grabbed listeners?

I don’t exactly know. It’s the question I get asked the most but I can’t answer. I think there is just some magic behind the vibe of the track, almost like a unique formula that happened with the tempo and pitch of the vocals.

There are over 3 million TikTok videos that use the “Roses” remix. Are you a TikTok user yourself and how much of a role did the platform play?

I am both a user and a fan but not really that active on it to be honest, as it’s not typically my style. I really value TikTok for all their support as I know the remix was majorly popular on the platform and aided its success. They have been great partners and I know that the label [Hitco] is continuing to work closely with TikTok.

Do you have regular contact with Saint Jhn?

Not really, we speak a little bit on Instagram when commenting on charts and the achievements of the remix.

You’re now Grammy-nominated in the remix category. Are you numb to all these achievements at this point?

It surprises me more and more each day — new numbers, charts, features … It’s all so crazy.

Do you hear your version of “Roses” playing in retail establishments and the like?

I hear it everywhere and anywhere. It makes me feel proud and happy.