Arts and Entertainment

Hyperpop: The Defining Genre of the Digital Age

A brief history and description of the pop genre taking the world by storm: hyperpop.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Anna Ast

If you’re terminally online like most high schoolers these days, it’s likely that some time in the past few months you’ve heard of a group called 100 gecs. They’ve recently erupted in popularity, mostly due to the sheer absurdity of their music; nowhere else can you find a scornful autotuned monologue that segues into a beeping trap beat, topped off by the leading vocalist’s high-pitched caterwauling drenched in sound effects. But a key aspect of leading this subgenre into the mainstream is not only attracting public attention, but also maintaining it. Since going viral on Twitter and TikTok, 100 gecs has amassed a sizable, yet polarized viewership. Detractors find 100 gecs’s music campy, pointless, and insipid. Though most fans were likely surprised by the new style, they were nonetheless drawn to the catchy tunes. Months later, they’re fully down the rabbit hole of colorful maximalism of 100 gecs and everything they represent: hyperpop.

Hyperpop is a matrimony of so many genres that it would be hard to compile them into one list. The foundations of hyperpop require a catchy synthpop or bubblegum bass tune with elements of EDM and typically a focus on either queer culture or Internet futurism, but producers will frequently include metal, hip-hop, and industrial music influences. The themes discussed in hyperpop lyrics and represented in their music videos tend to be extremely exaggerated; it can feel like hyperpop is a parody of pop, hence the genre’s meme potential. It seems nearly impossible that so many ideas could coalesce into a coherent and listenable song—for most listeners, they won’t—but when everything clicks into place, it’s a thing of beauty.

The main pioneer of hyperpop is commonly credited to AG Cook, who founded PC Music in 2013. Along with Hannah Diamond and SOPHIE, Cook released dozens of tracks onto the popular underground streaming service SoundCloud and accumulated a reasonable following. He and his artists built up his label’s reputation with twinkling synths, catchy melodies, and bouncy bass. By 2015, most avid music fans were aware of PC Music’s digital age love songs. The next year, the label would propel themselves to the top of the underground by catching the attention of hitmaker Charli XCX, who remains one of the genre’s biggest faces to this day. She brought the style to relative prominence, and since PC Music produced her EP “Vroom Vroom,” hyperpop has exploded in both popularity and experimentation, cementing hyperpop at the peak of underground. Soon after, 100 gecs released “1000 gecs” (2019), the virality of which further elevated hyperpop beyond the underground and into the premier genre bubbling under chart success, primed for a takeover one day.

Until then, there are a myriad of different artists and styles within hyperpop to select from. The aforementioned Charli XCX is one of the most accessible artists in the genre. Her shiny synths, typical pop themes, and extensive feature lists serve as an excellent introduction to hyperpop. Dorian Electra is a nonbinary artist who satirizes gender roles, capitalist work culture, snobbish taste, and sexuality with a surprising amount of insight. They also utilize an extremely unique warbling pitch and formant shifter on their voice which makes them instantly distinguishable. Electra’s “Flamboyant” (2019) is one of the best projects in the genre’s history, and a must-listen for those interested in the genre. SOPHIE is one of the founders of the sound, and in her own solo work, she expresses all of her less conventional tastes. For some lesser known picks, glaive’s fusions of hyperpop and emo rap are particularly unique, while fraxiom blends hyperpop with happy hardcore rhythms and off-kilter synth tones to create one of the most distinctive experiences in hyperpop.

Though hyperpop has been described by many as the genre of the future, I see it as the genre of the present. As technology has grown to dominate our daily lives, it is only fitting for pop culture to represent this change. Hyperpop is not a genre for everybody, but even those who are not adjusted to the off-the-wall experimentation appreciate it for being a unique reflection of the world we live in.