via Zoe Axelrod
Over the years, pop music has become synonymous with popular music. While mainstream pop has gone through many iterations, from the futuristic and glamorous pop of the 2000s to the more electronic pop of the mid and late 2010s, there is no doubt of the genre’s staying power. But, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. As pop established itself as the mainstream genre, counterculture movements created new genres. These genres were a rebuttal of the often exclusive and restrictive nature of mainstream pop – the anti-pop, if you will. Genres such as grunge, punk, metal, and alternative hip-hop have often been presented as the alternative to radio-friendly pop. Pop was for the people who sat at the cool kids’ table at lunch; alternative music was for those who sat by the trash cans, or ditched school altogether. And many of these genres have attained mainstream success, with the figureheads of the genre often distancing themselves from their DIY roots, but there was still a distinction between pop and alternative. A firm line was drawn between the cool kids and the losers, and that line was rarely crossed or blurred. But, of course, it was only a matter of time before it did.
“what is hyperpop?”. That was the question tweeted out by pop sensation Charli XCX in July last year. A surprising question, coming from someone many would consider to be the best mainstream example of the genre. But not an unfair one. What exactly is hyperpop? Hyperpop is too much and nothing at all at the same time. It is the true anti-pop genre; it mocks the consumerism, glamour, and flagrant materialism that is often seen in traditional pop by taking those things to the max. It is a mosh pit of genres and influences – nu-metal, dubstep, shoegaze, hip-hop, and pure bubblegum pop influences can often be found all in the space of a two-minute song, distorted and drenched in white noise no less. Hyperpop is a genreless genre, a label assigned to people who often reject it in favor of staying out of any boxes the world tries to place upon them. A big reason why people gravitate towards making hyperpop is that there are no boxes. Rapper Rico Nasty talks about this, saying, “I love that music [hyperpop] because it’s not– there’s really no rules to it.” The rapper has always been a left-field artist, incorporating genres like nu-metal and emo into her rap music.ut her newest project, Nightmare Vacation (a great album that you should all listen to, please and thanks), sees her dive deeper into the fledgling genre of hyperpop.
Hyperpop isn’t about breaking the rules; there are no rules to follow. It is one of the most inclusive genres out there, and it shows in the diverse sounds of the artists who fall under it. Singer Slayyyter has a relatively traditional pop sound; up-and-coming artist p4rkr’s sound is straight glitches and distortion; Charli XCX makes music that falls somewhere in between. Hyperpop allows artists to do whatever they want, however they want to do it; artists are in their own little glitchy, unabashedly overproduced world – we’re just lucky enough to see them in their element. And many artists thrive in this habitat; A.G. Cook founded the record label PC music in 2013, and it has emerged at the forefront of alt-pop innovation. Duo 100 gecs achieved mainstream success and critical acclaim with their 2019 album, 1000 gecs, and its remix version, 1000 gecs and the tree of clues.
Hyperpop is about more than just music; the people behind the production are just as important. Many hyperpop artists are a part of the LGBTQ+ community; Laura Les of 100 gecs is transgender; singer and songwriter Dorian Electra is genderfluid; the late producer, singer, and songwriter SOPHIE, who revolutionized the genre, was open about SOPHIE’s trans identity and distaste for labels. These artists explore and express their identities in their lyrics, fashion, and visuals – they are unapologetically themselves, regardless of what critics and casual listeners say. Society tells LGBTQ+ people that they shouldn’t exist – that they should keep their heads down and not be proud; hyperpop allows them to be even louder. As a result, many hyperpop artists have built up a dedicated queer following, the artists and fans forming a supportive e-community that many queer people, unfortunately, cannot find in their real lives.
This strong online community, along with hyperpop’s almost industrial sound created the perfect conditions for the genre to make a splash in mainstream pop culture last year. Hyperpop is an undeniably online music genre, and its rise to prominence exemplifies that. Songs by likes of 100 gecs and Charli XCX have blown up thanks to users on the popular app TikTok. Audio clips extracted from hyperpop songs are often used in “Alt TikTok” spaces that are run by kids who identify with counterculture, and often feel rejected by communities of pop music listeners. Spotify’s hyperpop playlist enabled artists like p4rker to gain more mainstream fame. Without the internet, who knows if the world would have been ready for what hyperpop had prepared for it. The campy, left-field production and over-the-top visuals are what many people would call tacky, unrefined, too poppy. In fact, when PC Music first hit the scene, many critics mocked them. But the internet allowed the genre to find its people, critics be damned. Hyperpop gave people the space to be losers without scrutiny, to embrace the things that society mocked them for. And in doing that, it somehow created the coolest genre of the 2010s. And while it took people a while to catch onto the greatness of hyperpop, patience is sure to pay off. Hyperpop isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon – the cool kids better get used to it.