Pioneered by A. G. Cook and the PC Music crew, hyperpop has exploded as the bombastic music phenomenon of the post–pandemic era. Born on SoundCloud, the hyperpop case become viral thanks to the release of 100 gecs’ masterpiece, 1000 gecs and has now its official playlist on Spotify. Escaping all sorts of fixed definitions, this internet-born new musical wave translated the lockdown anxiety of an emergent generation into digital freedom. Somewhere between glitch pop, post-emo, EDM, hyperpop is experimental, auto-tuned, maximalist, synthy, surreal; an ode to fluidity and contamination.
Meet some of the music artists behind this revolution of chaos.
“If quarantine hadn’t happened, I truly believe hyperpop wouldn’t have been created or as big as it is now. We all got in our bags and were pushing out great music,” says 17-year-old Edgar Sarratt III, AKA midwxst, of the internet-born music phenomenon that’s somewhere between glitch pop and post-emo. “I made more songs than I ever did – (quarantine) was a blessing and curse.” As a kid, Sarratt hopped between states and countries before his family settled in Indiana, the state that inspired the name of his musical alias. Now hemakes soothing, emo-tinged rap both on his own and as part of a network of collectives. “Everyone in helix tears and NOVAGANG (the two groups midwxst is involved with) has different styles, sounds, aestheticsand lives, but having a group of musically gifted people allows us to make music without boundaries.” And what is hyperpop if not a complete rejection of limits?
From Gigi D’Agostino’s iconic Eurotrance symphony “L’Amour Toujours” to Soulja Boy, Alice Gas’s inspirations are awesomely unpredictable. “It’s pretty crazy to me how big this scene has grown over the past year,”she says of the metastasising hyperpop movement. “I mean, in 2019 I don’t think people really had a name for it – now you see people everywhere talking about hyperpop. It’s super-sick.” Gas grew up in Argyle, a small town just outside Denton, Texas (“I kind of hated it there because everyone at my school was really conservative and I didn’t have many friends”) and, in 2011, started to explore song production using Logic Pro on her dad’s MacBook. “I eventually got sick of relying on a band and making guitar music, so I started doing solo stuff and DJing around Denton, and that eventually became what Alice Gas is.” Which is twitchy, glitched-out, gabbery pop that finds a home in your head forever.
In the static suburbia of North Carolina, 16-year-old glaive AKA Ash Gutierrez is nestled between hives of Discord servers and video-game pause screens. He began making music towards the start of the pandemic and, by the end of 2020, had released his debut EP, Cypress Grove, via Interscope along with a flurry of emotionally charged, digitised pop singles. His dizzying and hook-laden tracks sound like they’ve happened almost by accident, but they have come to define the new musical era of hyperpop. “I didn’t really have an inclination towards the genre, I just liked a bunch of artists in the scene,” he says. “I never had any plans to make hyperpop-type music or to emulate 100 gecs.” Like the first-player games he is often immersed in, glaive’s songs paint a world of open fields and forests, inspired by the expansive landscapes around his hometown of Hendersonville. In “Astrid”, a single that lasts just one minute and 42 seconds, he takes us to the “forest on the east side where all the evil beasts lie / And I cannot deny that my brain buzzin’ like a beehive”. Once you’re there, it’s hard to turn back.
Fifteen-year-old kuru, who lives an hour from Washington DC, is stretching the sonic possibilities of the already-expansive hyperpop scene. “The reason I started making music was because I heard this one demxntia song and got mesmerised by how someone could do that in their room,” he says. “So I went out and tried to pursue it myself.” Citing his closest friends and fellow hyperpop artists blackwinterwells, d0llywood1 and 4am as vocal inspirations, kuru has developed his sound as part of the wider community groups NOVAGANG and bloodhounds. “The outside world only really sees our music, but a lot of times we just sit inside and play video games all day. While the music is an essential piece, a good collective happens to come from being good friends.” Kuru cites “Typo”, an otherworldly fusion of UK drill and Europop sounds, as a personal favourite among his tracks to date. “(It’s) the one I’m most proud of putting out, mainly because I think it’s where my vocal cadence shines the most.”
The legacy Lil Peep left behind is undeniable, but for producer and singer-songwriter blackwinterwells, he was a reason for being. “I was never confident in recording vocals for the longest time, and then when Peep died I was like, ‘OK fuck, I gotta do what I want, because life is too short to do anything else,’” says the musician, who is also a member of the group bloodhounds and director of the helix tears collective. From her home in Hamilton, Ontario, she sends stems, beats, loops and verses to her friends. The yearning, collaborative track “bad idea” came from a back-and-forth with friend and fellow hyperpop pioneer osquinn – at the time of writing, it was nearing 500,000 plays on SoundCloud. “I sent her the beat and, two hours later, it’s on her SoundCloud. A day or two later, this 60-second ear-splitter has 10,000 plays. I couldn’t even sleep. I had never been that excited about a song before.”