|Cultural origins||Mid-2010s, Internet|
Hyperpop (sometimes called digicore) is a loosely-defined music movement and microgenre characterized by a maximalist or exaggerated take on popular music. Artists tagged with the label typically integrate pop and avant-garde sensibilities, drawing on tropes from electronic, hip hop, and dance music. The movement is often linked to LGBTQ+ online communities and many key figures identify as transgender, non-binary, or gay. Digicore is a contemporaneous movement that is sometimes conflated with "hyperpop" due to its overlapping artists.
Deriving influence from a varied range of sources, the development of hyperpop solidified into a recognizable style in connection with the mid-2010s output of A. G. Cook and affiliates of his PC Music collective, including Sophie and Charli XCX, along with other artists not affiliated with the collective, such as Hudson Mohawke and Rustie. Music associated with this scene received wider attention in August 2019 when Spotify renamed an existing playlist featuring artists such as Cook and 100 Gecs to "hyperpop". The genre spread within younger audiences through social media platforms such as TikTok.
Hyperpop reflects an exaggerated, eclectic, and self-referential approach to pop music and typically employs elements such as brash synth melodies, Auto-Tuned "earworm" vocals, and excessive compression and distortion, as well as surrealist or nostalgic references to 2000s Internet culture and the Web 2.0 era. Common features include vocals that are heavily processed; metallic, melodic percussion sounds; pitch-shifted synths; catchy choruses; short song lengths; and "shiny, cutesy aesthetics" juxtaposed with angst-ridden lyrics. The Wall Street Journal's Mark Richardson described the genre as intensifying the "artificial" tropes of popular music, resulting in "a cartoonish wall of noise that embraces catchy tunes and memorable hooks. The music zooms between beauty and ugliness, as shimmery melodies collide with mangled instrumentation." Writing for American Songwriter, Joe Vitagliano described it as "an exciting, bombastic and iconoclastic genre — if it can even be called a 'genre'—[...] featuring "saw synths, auto-tuned vocals, glitch-inspired percussion and a distinctive late-capitalism-dystopia vibe." Artists often "straddle the avant-garde and the pop charts simultaneously."
In the belief of Vice journalist Eli Enis, hyperpop is less rooted in musical technicalities than "a shared ethos of transcending genre altogether, while still operating within the context of pop." Artists in the style reflect a "tendency to rehabilitate styles of music that have long since gone out of fashion, constantly poking at what is or isn’t 'cool' or artful." The style may blend elements from a range of styles, including bubblegum pop, trance, Eurohouse, emo rap, nu metal, cloud rap, J-pop and K-pop. The influence of cloud rap, emo and lo-fi trap, trance music, dubstep, and chiptune are evident in hyperpop, as well as more surreal and haphazard qualities that are pulled heavily from hip hop since the mid-2010s. The Atlantic noted the way the genre "swirls together and speeds up Top 40 tricks of present and past: a Janet Jackson drum slam here, a Depeche Mode synth squeal there, the overblown pep of novelty jingles throughout," but also noted "the genre's zest for punk's brattiness, hip-hop's boastfulness, and metal's noise." Some of the style's more surreal and off kilter qualities drew from 2010s hip-hop.
Hyperpop is often linked to the LGBTQ+ community and queer aesthetics. Several of its key practitioners identify as non-binary, gay, or transgender, and the genre's emphasis on vocal modulation has allowed artists to experiment with the gender presentation of their voices.
"Hyperpop" may have been coined within SoundCloud's nightcore music scene. Spotify analyst Glenn McDonald stated that he first saw the term used in reference to the UK-based label PC Music in 2014, but believed that the name did not qualify as a microgenre until 2018. The origins of the style are usually located to the mid-2010s output of PC Music, with hyperpop artists either being affiliated with or directly inspired by the label. The Independent's Will Pritchard stated that "It's possible to see [hyperpop] as an expression not just of the genres it borrows from, but of the scene that evolved around A. G. Cook’s PC Music label (an early home to Sophie and Charli XCX, among others) in the UK in the early 2010s."
There were many other predecessors to the genre, as explained by Pritchard, "to some, the ground covered by hyperpop won’t seem all that new". He cited "outliers" of 2000s nu rave (such as Test Icicles) and PC Music contemporaries Rustie and Hudson Mohawke as pursuing similar approaches; of the latter two artists, he noted that their "fluoro, trance-edged smooshes of dance and hip-hop are reminiscent of a lot of hyperpop today." Heather Phares of AllMusic stated that the work of Sleigh Bells foreshadowed hyperpop and other artists who "brazenly ignored genre boundaries and united the extremes of sweet and heavy;" Ian Cohen of Pitchfork similarly stated that the term described Sleigh Bells before it became a dominant genre. Eilish Gilligan of Junkee credited Kesha for impacting the genre, stating that her "grating, half-spoken vocal featured in ['Blow'] and all of her early work, in fact, feel reminiscent of a lot of the intense vocals in hyperpop today", as well as Britney Spears, whose "2011 dancefloor fillers 'Till The World Ends', 'Hold It Against Me' and 'I Wanna Go' all share the same pounding beats that populate modern hyperpop."
Spotify editor Lizzy Szabo referred to PC Music boss A. G. Cook as the "godfather" of hyperpop. According to Enis, PC Music "laid the groundwork for [the genre's] melodic exuberance and cartoonish production", with some of hyperpop's surrealist qualities also derived from 2010s hip hop. She states that hyperpop built on the influence of PC Music, but also incorporated the sounds of emo rap, cloud rap, trap, trance, dubstep and chiptune. Among Cook's frequent collaborators, Variety and The New York Times described the work of Sophie as pioneering the style, while Charli XCX was described as "queen" of the style by Vice, and her 2017 mixtape Pop 2 set a template for its sound, featuring "outré" production by Cook, Sophie, Umru, and Easyfun as well as "a titular mission to give pop – sonically, spiritually, aesthetically – a facelift for the modern age."
Other artists associated with the term included 100 Gecs, whose debut album 1000 Gecs (2019) amassed millions of listens on streaming services and helped to consolidate the style. In Pritchard's description, 100 Gecs took hyperpop "to its most extreme, and extremely catchy, conclusions: stadium-sized trap beats processed and distorted to near-destruction, overwrought emo vocals and cascades of ravey arpeggios."
In August 2019, Spotify launched the "Hyperpop" playlist which further cemented the genre, and featured guest curation from 100 Gecs and others. Other artists featured on the playlist included Cook, Slayyyter, Gupi, Caroline Polachek, Hannah Diamond, and Kim Petras. Spotify editor Lizzy Szabo and her colleagues landed on the name for their August 2019 playlist after McDonald noted the term in the website's metadata and classified it as a microgenre. In November, Cook added artists such as J Dilla and Kate Bush to the playlist, which added confusion to the genre's scope.
The genre began to see rise in popularity in 2020, with the prominence of the Spotify playlist and its spread within younger audiences on social media, such as on TikTok. Hyperpop albums like Charli XCX's How I'm Feeling Now (2020) and A. G. Cook's Apple (2020) appeared on critic's 2020 end-of-year lists. Internationally, hyperpop gained notoriety in Hispanic countries, such as Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Spain, with Spanish-speaking artists and producers delving into the microgenre. Nylon's Ben Jolley cited Putochinomaricón as one of the "biggest names in the scene."
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