Written by: Brian Paulsen
Unnaturally pitched vocals, a heavy dose of synth and lyrics that blend self-aware jokes with more somber, angst-ridden refrains. This is how one could begin to describe hyperpop, a music style that has recently begun making waves in the music industry. However, it’s difficult to fully summarize the genre in a handful of sentences. Hyperpop is as much a child of the digital age as it is of the pop genre, and understanding it requires an exploration of the cultures that created it.
The phrase “hyperpop” was first coined on SoundCloud in the early 2010’s and was used in reference to the platform’s nightcore community. The development of hyperpop was far from centralized, but the style bears a strong influence from PC Music: a British art collective known for its brash and exaggerated take on pop music. Hyperpop became known to the wider music world during the latter half of the 2010’s, primarily through the works of artists such as Charlie XCX, Sophie and Dorian Electra. However, its true mainstream debut was arguably 1000 Gecs (2019), the debut album of American experimental pop duo 100 Gecs. 1000 Gecs represented hyperpop at its most bombastic, a project characterized by harsh soundscapes and surreal lyricism. The album was extremely successful critically and commercially and benefitted from a surge in popularity on the video sharing app Tik Tok. Later that same year, Spotify released an official hyperpop playlist, which served to further distinguish hyperpop as a legitimate musical style and pushed the genre onto a wider audience. Hyperpop has recently begun to impact the wider music industry, with many artists associated with the genre beginning to collaborate with or produce music for more mainstream artists.
When discussing hyperpop, it is important to acknowledge the genre’s unique relationship with the LGBT+ community. The genre has accumulated a wide following within the community, particularly among transgender and gender non-conforming people, and many of the style’s most prominent influencers identify as LGBT+. This can be owed in part to the conventions and tropes of hyperpop, such as its standardization of pitch-shifted vocals. Many hyperpop artists deliberately alter their vocals to experiment with gender presentation or to alleviate their own gender dysphoria. Hyperpop exists as a uniquely queer space within the music industry, one that affords LGBT+ artists a level of visibility and creative freedom that cannot be found anywhere else in the music world.
Hyperpop is still very much in its infancy, and its potential for development has yet to be seen. It could very well fade back into the underground within the next few years, or it could remain as a cultural influence for the foreseeable future. Either way, it has already left an indelible mark on music history.
If this article motivated you to try the genre out for yourself, feel free to check out the PRISM hyperpop playlist on Spotify!