Image: Marcela Laskovski, Unsplash

Hyperpop: the infatuated synthesis of self-expression

Assembling elements of trance, nightcore, emo and pop into one digital amalgam of sounds, hyperpop took 2020 by storm. Following the dynamism of such a new phenomenon, the origin remains misty. However, founded in 2013, the London-based collective PC Music is often attributed as the pioneer of the genre. Artists like A.G. Cook, Danny L. Harle, Hannah Diamond and SOPHIE are considered pioneers of the scene. Incorporating bombastic pop motifs and exaggerated, glossy production into their songs, members of the hyperpop community often see themselves as just popstars making music that they enjoy listening to. The immense D.I.Y. spirit and sense of rebellion hyperpop artists share is rendering music fun again, prioritising the emotion and community over commercial sales. 

When discussing hyperpop, it is difficult to exclude 100 gecs. The Missouri-based duo exploded onto the scene in 2019 with their preposterous single, ‘money machine’. The pitch-shifted vocals, crunching bass and hypnotic hooks paved the way for future hyperpop artists who would go on to replicate these distinct features. As the initial wave of excitement grew around this seemingly endless treasure trove of creative freedom, artists became intoxicated with the extreme soundscapes and cute performances, creating their own interpretations of the genre. The word ‘interpretations’ is key here, as hyperpop is seen as a vast, ever-expanding umbrella term for surreal electronic expression. 

Club culture and the inclusion of communities is pivotal in hyperpop’s fanbase. Virtual concerts like HEAV3N, Lavapalooza, Appleville and Subculture Party are events held through platforms like Zoom and Minecraft that celebrate hyperpop through rave culture. A tight sense of togetherness is abundant with Twitch messages flooding the online chats celebrating trans and LGBTQ+ rights. The emphasis on vocal transposition and mind-bending effects has allowed for experimentation with presentation of the voice, often used to counter feelings of gender dysphoria within the trans and non-binary community. As the music itself often explores fluidity of identity and inclusivity, these concerts have become a rare safe haven in the visceral world of the internet. They act as a place of comfort and positivity for the isolated, especially during a worldwide pandemic.

Commercial attraction and attention gained from platforms like TikTok have propelled this internet-based new wave into a widely recognised musical territory

Compared to its electronic microgenre counterparts, hyperpop has grown at breakneck speed. Before 2020, genres like glitchcore and hyperpop barely existed. Yet, at the beginning of 2021, key artists of the genre began to disassociate themselves with the increasingly dilute label of hyperpop. Artists grew further astray from the expected tropes of what was considered hyperpop, incorporating elements of ambient, noise and rock music into their music. A strong example of this is underscores’ new album fishmonger – a wild fusion of alt rock, emo rap, garage and folk. The fluidity of the genre has led to an uncontrollable expansion of what is actually deemed “hyperpop”. Laura Les, one half of hyperpop pioneers 100 gecs, claims to be against the strict confines the genre connotes in the electronic music scene. However, she has also stated a belief that if it is a pathway to guide listeners in a certain direction to discover new artists and songs, then it serves a purpose.

The digital hegemony seen in the hyperpop world has allowed for creatives to blitz through their career at unimaginable speed. Prominent artists within the hyperpop scene including glaive, ericdoa, midwxst and p4rkr are teenagers still in school. After posting short songs or remixes on Soundcloud, they proceeded to gain a rapid following on social media and eventually sign sought-after record deals. This is indicative of the sheer power the internet has in gaining such recognition. Long-gone are the days of performing in bars and clubs in front of an audience of 20-30 people in the hope that a friend of a friend may be in contact with a record label scout interested in signing you.

With the rise of Spotify’s notorious hyperpop playlist and artists like Phoebe Bridgers sharing links to Soundcloud hyperpop artists, it’s safe to say the genre has transcended its original niche. Commercial attraction and attention gained from platforms like TikTok have propelled this internet-based new wave into a widely recognised musical territory. Consequently, there are two ways of observing the hyperpop phenomenon. The genre may have experienced an outrageously fast life cycle, blossoming and fragmenting within the space of two years. Or, alternatively, we are witnessing the expansion of something much, much greater. 

I like to believe the latter.

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