Honi Soit writing competiton. Entries close July 29

Post-Internet music and the rise of Hyperpop

Memes, maximalism and music. When internet culture weaves itself into popular music, hyperpop is the result.

Art by Thomas Sargeant.

In 2019, the Hyperpop duo 100 gecs dropped their debut studio album 1000 gecs. The songs are short and abrasive, with vocals reminiscent of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Yet somehow, the album works. For weeks I found myself walking around screaming the catchy hooks. The Hyperpop genre is a masterclass in maximalism, where elements of mainstream pop are exaggerated to be near-unlistenable.

After the release of 1000 gecs the genre of Hyperpop launched into the mainstream. In 2020, Spotify released their Hyperpop playlist and unearthed a plethora of hidden artists. In some cases, artists with established careers like Rico Nasty are shifting and blending genres to expand upon the Hyperpop sound.

The emergence of 100 gecs should not be conflated with the invention of Hyperpop though. ‘Hyperpop’ was first used to describe the sound developed by music collective PC Music’s founder A. G. Cook. PC Music was founded in 2013 and its members include many big names in the space: A. G. Cook, SOPHIE, and Hannah Diamond. The collective also frequently collaborates with Charli XCX, who, after the release of A. G. Cook-produced Vroom Vroom EP and Pop 2, asserted herself as an integral player in the Hyperpop game. 

Despite PC Music enjoying success since the early 2010s, it took until 2020 for the genre to experience a meteoric rise in popularity. I believe this is because music is enriched by its cultural context. While some critics claim music should be solely about the sound, Hyperpop is an argument to the contrary. The genre is characterised by its inspirations drawn from and connection to internet culture.

In the mid-2000s, punk artist Marisa Olson used the term ‘post-internet’ to describe her work. The term refers to art that is heavily inspired by the aesthetics of the internet. Later, in 2010, Grimes began also describing her music as post-internet. The term has since been invoked in art and music circles to the point of becoming a clichéd buzzword. Nonetheless, it remains an apt description of the Hyperpop subculture.

The genre of Hyperpop is about the performers and their identities, including how their relationship with the internet has shaped them. Artists have been co-produced and guided by the internet, with lyrics often throwing back to early 2000s videos and memes. For instance, the 2020 project ‘Food House’ by Fraxiom and Gupi samples nyan cat, references ASDF movie, the iPod shuffle, and the chad walk. The lyrics are hilarious and representative of the ways internet culture informed their childhoods. 

One of the first examples of internet culture producing a musical artist was the virality of ‘Ginseng Strip 2002’ by Swedish rapper Yung Lean in 2013. Yung Lean recorded the song when he was 15 and filled the lyrics with absurd content while attaching a vaporwave aesthetic. From there, the music video gained millions of views. It was relatable as it didn’t take itself too seriously and was delivered in online vernacular familiar to teenagers at the time. Interestingly, ‘Ginseng Strip 2002’ has now gripped a younger audience on TikTok nearly ten years after first going viral on YouTube.

In 2022 it would be hard to talk about Hyperpop without mentioning the influence of TikTok. In many ways the genre is a perfect fit for the app; short bursts of energy aimed at progressive zoomers drinking monster energy drinks. TikTok and other social media sites are personality-driven. Artists are able to showcase their identity in a curated but more authentic manner – something scarcely possible for artists in the past. Fans can watch their favourite artists talking about their sound in loungewear rather than dressed up on national television. Now one can feel they know Charli XCX, not just be a fan of her music. 

The trajectory of music is likely to follow Hyperpop’s model. I am not claiming that in the future all music will sound like 100 gecs. Rather, music will be produced in tandem with internet subcultures and the platforms their artists communicate through. Musicians are now able to connect with fans without a massive PR team. Accordingly, communities will grow, defining subcultures and aesthetics along the way.