Roar writer Elena Veris Reynolds discusses hyperpop and shares five essential listens of the genre.
What is ‘hyperpop’? The term is incredibly disputed, considering its short and relatively underground history so far. Described as “a genre tag for genre-less music” by Vice, the label has come to mean any alternative, experimental and primarily electronic pop music. Pioneers of experimental pop works like the PC music collective, producer SOPHIE and electronic duo 100 gecs have been major influences and pioneers of this kind of music, but this year the genre has really taken off and developed a large group of diverse artists.
When I started listening to music labelled ‘hyperpop’ at the beginning of 2020 – and considered writing an academic essay on it – there was only a handful of articles and one line about it on the PC Music Wikipedia page. If you google search the term now, hundreds of articles, playlists and social media posts appear. Particularly in the past three months, there has been a huge amount of interest in the genre, which some accredit to the fast-growing ‘hyperpop’ playlist on Spotify. However, there have also been many musical releases this year that have solidified the genre and brought it widespread attention. There’s no doubt that looking back, many will see 2020 as the year ‘hyperpop’ broke into mainstream musical consciousness. So what better way to answer the question “What is ‘hyperpop’?” with five of the best and most essential tracks from this year?
‘Thos Moser’ – Gupi and Fraxiom (Food House)
The hyperpop single of the year. If you want an introduction to the loudest, most chaotic elements of the scene, this is the one song to sum it up. This playful track is full of pop culture references and name drops, but the duo also doesn’t shy away from giving their opinions on certain public feelings known, largely Elon Musk and Notch (the creator of Minecraft), in a cathartic curse. This collaboration between electronic producer Gupi and colourful popstar Fraxiom originally started as an inside joke, but eventually led to a long-term collaboration as they released their excellent, outrageous first album as the group food house in October. The trippy, self-shot video is a must-watch too.
‘anthems’ – Charli XCX
Though Charli XCX has rejected the hyperpop label, there’s no doubt that her mercury-nominated album How I’m Feeling Now, recorded and released in the first coronavirus lockdown, has been one of the most successful and defining releases in the genre this year. The catchy ‘anthems’ is produced by one of the founding members of PC Music, Danny L Harle. It perfectly captures the frustration of living through a pandemic with Charli’s distorted vocals drawling over crunchy metallic beats. Choosing just one song off the album was a struggle, so the poppy love song ‘claws’ and ‘visions’ which is part emotional ballad, part dance-floor filler, both deserve a special mention.
‘IPHONE’ – Rico Nasty
Produced by 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady, Rapper Rico Nasty takes her provocative, punk style and soaks it in saturated, surreal electronic sounds. Nasty’s playful, original flow, autotuned up, creates the impression of being sung by a bratty cyborg princess, in all the best ways. The bright, lurid video plays on this even more as we see a sparkly CGI Nasty attempting to claw her way out of the iPhone. A scandalous pop diva for a post-internet world.
‘Bad idea’ – p4rkr
Fifteen-year-old p4rkr’s breakout single ‘bad idea’, produced by blackwinterwells, is a unique blend of soundcloud rap and experimental electronics. With relatable lyrics about being unable to function and making stupid mistakes, p4rkr’s deadpan delivery has a touch of the alienation and fatigue that has plagued many in the past few months. Coming in at just over a minute, the track is an angsty melodic stream of thought over distorted synths.
‘xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx (Remix)’ – 100 gecs (Feat. Hannah Diamond & Tommy Cash)
From 100 gecs’ much anticipated remix album, 1000 gecs and the Tree of Clues, comes a pulsing europop dance tune straight out of the early 2000s. The vocals of Hannah Diamond, most famous as part of the PC Music collective, marry perfectly with the oddball lyrics and delivery of Estonian rapper Tommy Ca$h. This track includes every pop convention and cliché, taken to 100 miles an hour, to the point where it is difficult to tell if it is homage or parody. However, it is undeniably an electro-dance banger.
One of the reasons why ‘hyperpop’ is such an exciting new genre is because there is a high number of underground, new and emerging artists who are a part of it. If this list has piqued your interest, these songs only scratch the surface of the scene. The aforementioned Spotify playlist, which is often guest-curated by some of the names on this list, is a good place to explore, as well as the multiple highly committed fan groups on Facebook and Discord. One thing is for sure – while we may not know where these artists are headed next or how the sound will develop, ‘hyperpop’ can only go up from here.