Sound Field


How Did Pop Music Evolve into HYPERPOP?

After coining the term in 2019, Spotify left many of us wondering, "What is hyperpop?"
What started as a way to categorize "genre-less" music quickly evolved into a music phenomenon that has allowed artists to freely express themselves through sound.

Our hosts Linda Diaz and Arthur Buckner talk to artists, Midwxst and Zhone to learn more about the genre’s influences and history.

AIRED: January 10, 2022 | 0:10:49

- Last year, Charli XCX tweeted, "What is hyperpop?"

Comments ranged from full-blown deconstructions of genre,

to, "It's just pop" to many simply answering "You."

- [Arthur] Though the microgenre-turned-online scene

has experienced many changes over its short lifespan,

there's no one way to define hyperpop.

Ask anyone from the scene

and they'll give you a different answer.

Pop music is constantly evolving,

and hyperpop seems like the next logical step.

- In this video, we're going to dig into the question,

"What is hyperpop?" by exploring its musical origin,

and at the end,

we're gonna make our own hyperpop inspired track.

So make sure to stick around.

(upbeat pop music)

- Like most things on the Internet,

hyperpop has evolved rapidly over the years.

Recently, its popularity has grown

from playlists on Spotify and Apple Music,

and many hyperpop tracks have caught fire on TikTok.

♪ Feel so clean like a money machine ♪

♪ Feel so clean like a money machine ♪

- [Linda] Going viral, I feel like is something

that also is linked to hyperpop in a way.

- Yeah. Oh yeah, definitely.

I feel like viral things

are typically things that just like,

people don't understand at first.

That quest to understand these things,

I think is like the funnest part about it.

It's like understand this music and be like,

"All right, why did someone ever make something

that sounds like this? I hate it." And then

all of a sudden you're like... - [Linda] Yeah.

- ... Wait this actually slaps really hard.

- Yeah. I'm thinking about this.

I'm listening to this in the shower.

Why is this so catchy?

That's what happened to me then I got TikTok recently

and I was like, whoa,

this is like the sound of a generation.

- So where did hyperpop come from?

Hyperpop's origins can be traced back to the mid 2000s

with the rise of the Nightcore scene on YouTube.

Nightcore is a genre that revolves around

increasing the pitch and tempo of pre-existing songs

and is often paired with anime visuals or cover art.

♪ Cause every time we touch ♪

♪ I feel this static ♪

♪ And every time we kiss ♪

♪ I reach for the sky ♪

- [Linda] According to Spotify analyst, Glenn McDonald,

the term hyperpop started being used

in reference to the UK based, PC Music collective in 2014,

which was founded by producer A.G Cook.

Just like many other new genres,

many critics did not respond well to the fresh sound.

In the 2010s, PC Music and it's artists

such as Hannah Diamond,

Danny L. Harle,

Girlfriend Of The Year and Kane West

created innovative pop music

defined by its blend of perky melodies

and frenetic digital production.

(upbeat music)

♪ Beautiful ♪

♪ Baby when you look at me ♪

♪ You know that I'll be here forever ♪

- I think having really heavy hitting drum samples

is really important and really like,

focusing on the sound design,

you know, having this sort of like crystalline,

like it's sort of this balance between these hyper like

shiny sounds and these super distorted, messed up sounds.

- Do you feel like that distortion is what differentiates

hyperpop from regular pop?

- I think that's definitely

one of the clearest things, I think.

From a technical standpoint from, you know,

mixing and mastering, like when I'm mastering

a hyperpop song,

I'm taking the limiter and I'm smashing it

because that's the sound.

(upbeat music)

- Many of the newer figures of hyperpop

have taken the exaggerated eclectic elements,

laid down by PC music, and combined them with hip hop,

like the sounds of cloud rap.

- SoundCloud has played a monumental role

in the birth and growth of hyperpop.

And it's given smaller hyperpop artists,

a place to share their music with the world.

Artists Osquinn, previously known as P4RKR,


and Saturn,

are influenced by mid 2010's SoundCloud emo rap,

like Yung Lean

and more mainstream artists like Playboi Carti.

Artists like DOLLYWOOD1,


are more focused on heavily distorted 808s,

playful melodies and unnatural auto-tune,

creating a blend of rap, pop and EDM.

(mellow hyperpop music)

♪ I sit back and they all look at me and laugh ♪

♪ That's not how I began ♪

- [Linda] Probably the most influential figure

in the hyperpop scene is Scottish producer, Sophie.

- She's in everything, all of these songs that exist now,

there's like some piece of her that is within it,

in this kind of like almost like spiritual way for me.

And I think, yeah, Arca, you know,

it was always like queer and trans artists

who were at the forefront.

- Sophie was obsessed

with the way a bubble has an ascending pitch when popped.

You can hear Sophie play around with this sound

on tracks like "Lemonade".

♪ Candy boys c-c-candy boys ♪

♪ Lemonade l-l-lemonade ♪

- [Arthur] Sophie's debut album,

the "Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides"

received high acclaim for his continued evolution of sound.

The album was even nominated

for the best dance/electronic album at the 2019 Grammy's.

Sophie tragically passed away January, 2021

at the age of 34 after an accidental fall.

After the news of the accident

reached the hyperpop community,

many artists came together on social media to mourn the loss

of one of their greatest influences.

- [Linda] While hyperpop was brewing,

Charli XCX was already a rising pop figure,

looking to evolve her sound.

Charli rose to prominence at the UK warehouse rave scene

and admired artists such as Justice and Uffie.

Now she wanted to create music that reflected her roots.

After penning an email to producer Sophie in 2015,

they began collaborating on her 2016 EP, "Vroom Vroom".

♪ Let me ride let me ride ♪

♪ All my life I've been waitin' for a good time ♪

- When Charli first released "Vroom Vroom",

it was met with a lot of confusion

and critics were quick to write it off.

In 2016, A.G. Cook became Charli's creative director.

He would go on to produce her next four projects.

Number One Angel,

Pop 2,

Charli and How I'm Feeling Now.

Pop 2 is considered by many to be the blueprint of hyperpop

and everything that PC music has been leading up to.

♪ Can you unlock it ♪

♪ Caught in the liplock when we pitstop ♪

- Hyperpop hit mainstream awareness

with the creation of the hyperpop Spotify playlist

in August, 2019.

- [Linda] Lizzy Szabo, the playlist main curator,

created the playlist in response to the unexpected success

of a 100 Gecs' debut album, 1,000 Gecs.

- They had tested some of the group's songs

on different playlists, but felt their unique sound

needed its own place

and so came the birth of the hyperpop playlist.

- If it wasn't for Spotify playlist

and the articles that were coming out at the time,

the community of friends

and the people I was making music with,

slowly bit by bit, started getting recognition

by one artist, by another, by another, by another.

They generally started to build a following for themselves,

but a lot of people used hyperpop, not even used,

but a lot of people were...

That label really was thrown on us.

We really was just making music like SoundCloud kids

making music from our bedrooms.

And then afterwards it grew

and bloomed into something even bigger than

I think any of us ever expected it to be.

- [Linda] The playlist was a hit

and now has over 240,000 subscribers,

making it one of the most popular on the entire platform.

A few months later, controversy struck

when A. G. Cook did his own takeover of the playlist

and added different artists,

including Iggy Azalea,

Madonna, Vince Staples, Nicki Minaj and Kate Bush,

all of whom don't exactly fit under the hyperpop umbrella.

Not only did his choices bump many smaller artists of color

off the playlist,

but it caused lots of confusion

around what exactly constitutes hyperpop.

Cook later defended his choices in a Twitter statement,

and claimed he didn't know these artists

would be taken off of the playlist.

He then issued a revised version of the playlist

that included more underground acts.

To many, hyperpop is more than just a genre

but an online centered community and movement.

- Yeah, I think hyperpop is sort of like

an umbrella for a ton of smaller communities.

Like I feel like I'm part of like several

very like niche, small communities that all kind of exist

under the world of hyperpop.

- [Arthur] In 2021, the term Digicore came about

after emerging from SoundCloud.

Unlike its ancestors of PC music, which is mainly white,

Digicore is made up of mostly queer people of color.

- Hyperpop kind of got thrown on us when

a lot of the more major artists and bigger companies

started to see

just everything like

start to shoot up. - This whole world...

... of Soundcloud musicians,

right. - [Midwxst] Yeah,

it was starting to be discovered.

But Digicore is the one that a lot of people went with

because it was like, a lot of songs that people make

in the hyperpop scene aren't pop at all.

It's hyper-electronic. - [Arthur] Yeah.

- It's hyper-ambient, it's hyper drum and bass.

- [Arthur] Yeah. - It's never really pop.

(upbeat music)

- [Arthur] When I think of hyperpop,

I'm thinking of a lot of stuff going on at the same time,

I'm thinking of simple melodies occurring at the same time.

(upbeat hyperpop music)

- Just listening to hyperpop,

I could see all of the sub genres

that go under that huge umbrella of hyperpop.

- I don't know if this is gonna be right,

but I feel like it's not wrong, you know?

- I think that's like the whole hyperpop attitude

is just like,

we're not really aiming for what's right,

we're just aiming for what feels good.

There ain't no wrong answers. - Yeah.

- That's what really I'm discovering is like,

there are no wrong answers.

(electronic beat)

- There, go.

(electronic beat)

- There, go.

(upbeat music)

- What you did with the vocals...

(upbeat music)

- The sentiment behind the lyrics too like...

(Arthur singing)

- Yeah.

- It's like it has some spice to it.

♪ Got me thinking I don't like your attitude ♪

♪ Got me thinking I don't like your attitude ♪

- I was admiring the way that these hyperpop artists are

using like production as a way to express their emotions

when they're songwriting.

Like I just thought it was really cool.

♪ Got me thinking I don't like your attitude ♪

(upbeat music)

♪ Got me thinking I don't like your attitude ♪

- That's crazy.

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