How a Spotify playlist spurred a new genre of groundbreaking music.
Hyperpop’s absurdist blend of deafening and chaotic industrial noise, disorienting genre flips, and sugary sweet pop melodies can be an acquired taste, but the moment it finally clicks, it has the potential to convert you for life. A top comment on 100 Gecs’ biggest single “Money Machine” reads, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever heard, I love it.” And it’s this kind of guilty pleasure effect inspiring more mainstream artists like Charli XCX and Rico Nasty to connect with the genre’s innovators for production work on their latest hits.
What exactly “hyperpop” represents can be difficult to pinpoint, but one of the main reasons its artists find such jubilation in its freeform madness is the genre’s strong ties to the transgender and nonbinary community. The complete lack of genre conventions and regulations give artists a chance for boundless self-expression, including pitch shifting their vocals and stretching pop music’s typically exaggerated performances of gender past their breaking points. The genre’s deeply embedded love of internet culture, the general vibe of your local Hot Topic store, and nostalgia for the cheesy dance-pop of the 2000s has often been described by LGBTQ+ hyperpop artists as a reclamation of their lost teenage years.
You can give this duo from St. Louis, Missouri props for catapulting hyperpop into the public consciousness. Made up of experimentalist producer Dylan Brady and vocalist Laura Les, they’ve already mixed their catchy pop tunes with everything from Eurodance and ska to sludge metal on their first album and its subsequent collection of remixes. Featuring chipmunk-styled vocals and hilarious and nonsensical lyrics, Gecs are hyperpop’s gateway drug.
A mainstay of the PC Music label often credited for kickstarting the surrealist takes on pop music that evolved into what we know as hyperpop today, Scottish producer SOPHIE’s trademark metallic percussion style sounds like bubblegum pop with a sinister, bass-heavy underbelly. Her Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album in 2018 was a huge breakthrough for the genre, and her lyrical ruminations on gender are timely and powerful.
You have to applaud an artist who can get both the Village People and Pussy Riot to guest on a song satirizing ridiculous fears that the world will soon be dominated by “the gay agenda.” Slapping biting political commentary on top of their blend of glitch pop, nu-metal, and hardstyle techno, Electra has absolutely no time for toxic masculinity or conventional song structure.
He might be the son of legendary skater Tony Hawk, but Gupi didn’t grow up playing his dad’s video games. Instead, he names Sonic the Hedgehog as one of his biggest creative inspirations without a hint of irony. The adventures of the blue-haired ball of fury were often soundtracked by bright chiptunes and crunchy guitars. Gupi takes that energy and combines it with a winking nod at the dubstep boom of the early 2010s.
So much of hyperpop is taking established tropes, pulling out their most ridiculous elements, and placing a glaring spotlight on them. With whiplash-inducing tempos, blaring fizzy synths, valley girl vocal fry, and a heavy dose of sexuality so shameless it becomes a joke in and of itself, Slayyyter is what would happen if Britney Spears rose to popularity in some kind of dystopian world. Just don’t throw on her music around your parents.
With a heavy focus on the simple pleasures of early 2000s dance-pop and arena rock, Rina Sawayama is likely one of hyperpop’s most accessible artists at the moment. Examining her struggles with belonging due to a half-British, half-Japanese heritage and dipping sporadically into grinding metal to undermine the harmful stereotype of the quiet Asian woman, her album SAWAYAMAis one of the year’s best – even Elton John said so.