Picture it: you’re on the family desktop computer. You’re in the middle of reading your MySpace feed while downloading the latest Avril Lavigne album on Limewire. Your younger sister is banging on the door, saying that she has to feed her Neopets. But you don’t care. You’re a scene kid, and you don’t care about anything.
Fifteen years later, and you’re sitting in your office cubicle. You have your AirPods in, because you don’t want to talk to your co-workers, and you still don’t care about anything. There’s a specific thing in your life that’s been missing—in what you hear, in that brash and overzealous need to unapologetically stand out—that you find in a playlist on Spotify.
It’s called “hyperpop,” and you don’t know how to feel about it. Nostalgia? Euphoria? Anxiety, possibly? Channel13 invites you to explore the world of hyperpop: a genre-shattering movement that’s dominating the most colorful of music scenes.
What Is Hyperpop?
Hyperpop is a pop subgenre that’s simple to define within the chaos it embodies. It’s common, (expected, even,) for a small team or even a single individual to write and produce the material from a single MacBook and a microphone set from Amazon. A heavy emphasis is often put on making the voice and sound as chip-tuned, distorted, and “digitally fried” as possible. Aggressively confident regardless of mood, hyperpop is a cultural phenomenon only made possible through internet subcultures and the seediest of music forums.
The song titles often utilize unconventional usage of lowercase, numbers, and symbols, calling back to MySpace-era usernames and other Y2K chatspeak. Lyrically, it’s common for hyperpop singles to call back to early 2000’s luxuries like keeping a man on your hip like a Tamagotchi or being the first lady of Juicy Couture. Samplings of heavy snare, bass, and even early tech sounds like keyboard warps, ringtones, and dial-up tones are essential for any piece of hyperpop delicacy.
Because of the general lack of a big-name record label or a team of black-suited bigwigs around a table to write the same lyric repeatedly over the course of three minutes, hyperpop is a genre that encourages, even rewards, the most experimental and deliberately unhinged of artists, producers, rappers, and other big-personality collaborators.
PC Music is a UK-based music label founded by the elusive-to-all-media A.G. Cook in 2013. PC Music initially began as a group of "recording people who don't normally make music and treating them as if they're a major label artist," per Cook’s preference. Many hyperpop artists, such as Hannah Diamond, GFOTY, Easyfun, Namasenda, Danny L Harle, found their footing among collaborations on the label, which were distributed primarily through the independent audio-streaming service, Soundcloud.
It was this creative liberty through the platform, along with the label’s more naturally ambitious nature, that allowed for the label to push the envelope in its bubblegum-pop and early techno-influenced production. The label crossed the pond in 2015 after many of its artists performed as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival in Brooklyn, New York. It was through this exhibition that many festival-goers and house junkies alike first became exposed to this technicolor, polarizing explosion of Y2K sound and production.
Arguably, the most notable act to spring forward from the label was Scottish producer and trans, creative visionary SOPHIE Xeon. During her short, trailblazing career, Grammy-nominated SOPHIE collaborated with artists such as Charli XCX, Nicki Minaj, and even Madonna who had already crossed into the mainstream to infuse their already successful work with a more punchy, bubbly, and unique sound. Many artists and DJ’s have since cited SOPHIE as a heavy influence on their music, sampling her signature loops or even dedicating her by name in their work.
With personalities as modest yet extreme and powerful as A.G. Cook’s and SOPHIE’s, hyperpop has since evolved from experimental and more industrialized beginnings. Over time, many producers began feeding on choppy compositions of independent DJ’s of decades past to create an audio rollercoaster already foundationalized by preexisting genres like techno, house, and the subgenre known eponymously as breakbeat.
The Influences of Hyperpop
As previously mentioned, hyperpop is most defined by its callbacks to the rhythmic, plastic production of early 2000’s-era pop and dance music, a la Spears and Stefani. But what truly characterizes the genre is its off-kilter lyricism, sampling usage, and beats.
Breakbeat is a distant older-brother subgenre to hyperpop, characterized by its heavy drum and bass samplings, along with its incredibly fast BPM and repetitious yet still at-times chaotic melodies. Beginning in Jamaica in the 70’s, the genre has since expanded into the club scene on a worldwide scale. Its influence has since oozed into much of the sampling and fast-paced culture of hyperpop, with many current breakbeat producers sampling from fast anime scenes, video game soundtracks, or Japanese/Korean pop songs to complement their rhythmic techno snares and reverb.
Notable breakbeat producers who have crossed into hyperpop waters include Sewerslvt, Golden Boy, Goreshit, Machine Girl, and Alice Gas, among many others. To listen to our spicy selection of breakbeat bangers, click here!
Many argue that hyperpop can be considered a form of satire digging cynically into the music industry as a whole. Its plasticky production spray-painted in neon and chrome serves as a caricature of the superficial, exaggerated artistic visions of major, current pop labels. Many hyperpop songs, such as this one, this one, and this one, cover just how hard and work-intensive it is to be as rich and sexy and goddamn cool as them. Riddled with cursing and at-times stuffed with sexual imagery that can’t even be defined as innuendo, hyperpop is a genre defined by its image never intended for the radio, all while emphasizing everything production-wise the laziest of DJ’s stream repeatedly on a Tuesday evening commute home.
Hyperpop in Da Club
While hyperpop can still only be defined as a niche subgenre mostly celebrated on the internet, the musical movement has still found its success in the wild. Acts such as COBRAH and six impala have seen much success on rave floors. Other notarized artists like Charli XCX, Rina Sawayama, Rico Nasty, and even Rebecca Black have fallen back on hyperpop production to experiment and develop their sound.
Hyperpop is often heralded by the LGBTQ+ community due to the substantial number of artists and producers in the subgenre who identity themselves as part of the community. Because of the freeing nature of hyperpop and sexual euphoria often expressed in its subject matter, queer hyperpop acts such as SOPHIE and 100 gecs are often featured amongst queer spaces and subcultures. Open and naturally free to its core, hyperpop can serve as a spiritual haven not just for the lost, repressed club-goer discovering who they are, but for the empowered, queer producer putting such work out there.
Polarizing and assertive, listeners of hyperpop feel strongly on either side of the spectrum. You either listen to 1000 Gecs and The Tree of Clues twice a week, or you tried listening to stupid horse once because a YouTube music nut told you to try it in 2019 and now you’ve unsubscribed from his channel and haven’t touched the subgenre since. A subject of heated debate or celebration among online rave rats, hyperpop has proven its endurance and ability to stir any conversation in less than a decade.
Hyperpop is ultimately a means of escapism into a time so gaudy and offbeat yet simple to understand for those who lived it. And with a future as unpredictable as the one we’re all being propelled into, there is no telling what creative glass ceiling hyperpop will break tomorrow.
banner image features an edited still from 100 gecs' "Money Machine" music video
written by Zoe Blandford | edited by Cat Durden