Toni Watson, known professionally as Tones and I, is an Australian singer and songwriter. Her breakout single, "Dance Monkey", was released in May 2019 and reached number one in over 30 countries.
In 2019, she broke the Australian record for the most weeks at number one on the ARIA Singles Chart by any artist with 16 weeks. By mid-January 2020, "Dance Monkey" had spent its 24th and final week at number one, beating Bing Crosby's all-time Australian record for his version of "White Christmas", which spent 22 weeks (five months, namely June to October) at the top spot in 1943.
"Dance Monkey" was accredited 13× platinum by ARIA for shipments of over 910,000 units, in October 2020. Tones was the most awarded artist at the ARIA Music Awards of 2019, winning four from eight nominations. Tones and I released her debut extended play, The Kids Are Coming, on 30 August 2019, which peaked at number three in Australia, and top 10 in several countries.
In 2009, as Toni Watson, she created a YouTube page and posted a cappella cover versions of songs. She performed local gigs and festivals, including the Let Go festival. Tones was the vocalist for a duo in 2014, and remembered: "I started out singing in small pubs and bars in Mornington, I was singing along to a guitarist until I ended up branching out on my own." She explained her shift to a solo career: "I actually got made redundant from my retail job and with that money I bought an RC300 (loop station) and just started to try to figure it all out." She busked "up and down the east coast with her synthesisers and loop pedal, she has been building a loyal fanbase and captivating crowds with her genre-diverse style."
In September 2017, the singer-songwriter travelled to Byron Bay in the Australian state of New South Wales to try busking there. At an early performance, she met Jackson Walkden-Brown who became her manager about a month later. Her busking success led to a greater commitment to a music career. The artist spent 2018 living between Walkden-Brown's home in the Gold Coast hinterland and in her van in Byron Bay, writing music and busking full-time. Later that year she won the Battle of the Buskers at Buskers by the Creek.
In February 2019, Tones and I signed to Bad Batch Records/Sony Music Australia alongside a co-management deal with Artists Only (owned by Walkden-Brown, ex-Aerials) and Lemon Tree Music (co-owned by Regan Lethbridge and David Morgan, both ex-Bonjah). In that month she uploaded her debut single, "Johnny Run Away", to an Australian website affiliated with Australian national youth radio station Triple J, called Unearthed, which publishes the music of unsigned artists. The track was recorded with Australian producer, Konstantin Kersting. AllMusic's Fred Thomas observed, "[it] became a viral sensation, racking up streams."
"Johnny Run Away" was added to full rotation on Australian youth radio station Triple J the following week and received high ratings from staff: Richard Kingsmill (four-and-a-half out of five stars), Tommy Faith (five stars) and Declan Byrne (four-and-a-half stars). Natalie O'Driscoll of Blank Gold Coast described the track, "a melodic slice of Nordic-inspired electro-pop that tells a very important story." Two weeks later, Tones and I officially released "Johnny Run Away". It peaked at number 12 on the ARIA Singles Chart and achieved triple platinum status for shipments of over 210,000 units.
On 10 May 2019, Tones and I released her second single, "Dance Monkey". She recalled the track was "Written alone in a dark closet in not much more than 30 minutes." Craig Mathieson of The Age felt, "It's pop writ large – catchy yet familiar, slightly ludicrous yet genuinely affecting." It reached number one on the official music charts of over 30 countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
"Dance Monkey"'s music video was directed by Liam Kelly and Nick Kozakis. In Australia, in November of that year, she broke the record for the most weeks atop the ARIA Singles Chart by any artist, with 16 weeks. This was previously held by Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" (15 weeks in 2017). By mid-January 2020, "Dance Monkey" had spent 24 weeks at number one. It was the first Australian song to reach number one on Spotify's global daily top 200 streaming chart. On 8 February 2020, it equalled Post Malone's "Rockstar" for the most days at number one on the same chart. As of 18 February 2020, "Dance Monkey" returned to the Spotify top spot and had spent 120 days at number one.