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Screenshot of Arca’s music video, Maquetrefe.

Understanding Hyperpop: the First Generation Raised by the Internet

Deconstructing gender performance, making sense of an over-technologic world, and scrutinizing conservative thinking: what is hyperpop, and how is its rise related to the current generation of technology users and those eager to speak out?

“Hey Siri, is Ronald Reagan Dead?” is the opening line for Food House’s Metal, a song part of the self-titled album by the rising independent hyperpop duo. “Ronald Reagon was born Feb. 6, 1911 and died June 5, 2004,” answers Siri, to which Food House replies with a resonant “thank f****** God.”
Food House’s irreverence represents the subversive nature of hyperpop, an internet driven microgenre marked by surrealist lyrics, overblown bass and high pitch vocals. The genre has its roots in mid 2000s electronic music, with artists like Grimes, Sleigh Bells and, one might even say, Kesha.
Hyperpop is strongly associated with P.C. Music, a label introduced by A.G. Cooks in 2013, marking the beginning of the rise of experimental pop music. It did not take long until the genre was further popularized by artists such as Charli XCX, SOPHIE and 100gecs. Since then, Spotify’s playlist “hyperpop” is currently an outlet for incoming artists exploring the genre.
And how does hyperpop sound? Well… strange. Often described as straight up unlistenable noise, hyperpop uses the conventional form of a pop song progression but pushes everything else to its extremes. Glitches, metallic sound synths and distorted vocals are some of the common features of a hyperpop song. The key feature, however, is that it refuses to conform.
Hyperpop is not a self contained genre: the new wave of artists breaking through this genre experiment with rock, metal, trap and hip hop. It is only fair that a genre that constantly subverts form and content refuses to be categorized as a monolith. “I think hyperpop has evolved to be a flexible enough term that I’m not as hesitant anymore to represent it at an arm’s length,” said Laura Les, part of the duo 100gecs. “It seems like it’s become more encompassing of many things.”
But why are outlets such as the New York Times, Vice and Pitchfork paying so much attention to the genre, with some even asking whether hyperpop is the future of pop?
The answer is, perhaps, because hyperpop reflects the subjectivities of a generation raised in a technological, neoliberal, individualistic and capitalistic Western society. Hyperpop is known for being intrinsic to the growth of internet, including identities of the queer community, expressing the angst caused by social media and refusing to conform to preestablished social categories.
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Photo Courtesy of Christaan Felber.
Hyperpop’s major framework, therefore, is the internet. This genre has allowed independent artists to experiment with music programming and producing. From February to November, osquinn’s Bad Idea, a song inspired by an argument the artist had on Twitter, reached one million listeners on Spotify, a mark difficult to achieve for an independent artist.
The possibility of making music with one’s own gear at home and distributing it through the internet makes hyperpop music democratic, and explains the plurality of styles that come with the genre. The fact that it can be produced straight from one’s home reflects why hyperpop can be produced rapidly, with some popular albums quickly coming out during the quarantine period in spring 2020.
This feeling of being “extremely online™®©,” as music commentator Nick Canovas from Mic the Snare described, reveals the difficulty in making sense of an overly technological world that provides users with multiple yet limiting representations of themselves through social media. This is extended to a critique of capitalism and consumerism, such as in Rina Sawayama’s XS, where the Japanese-born English artist criticized traditional benchmarks of wealth. Grimes went as far as to release Miss Anthropocene, an album that tries to make sense of the colossal threat of climate change.
Constantly pushing boundaries, it is not a surprise that many of the prominent figures of hyperpop are part of the [transgender community] ( It is through the disruption of conventional sound and visual culture that trans-identifying artists also disrupt conceptions of gender performance, expression and identity. Arca’s Nonbinary, Dorian Electra’s Emasculate, SOPHIE’s Faceshopping and Kim Petras’ TRANSylvania are all hyperpop songs from trans-identifying artists that explore the current understanding of gender.
With it’s postmodern, surreal lyrics, hyperpop mirrors the lived experiences of the first generation raised by the internet. The fields of cultural studies, music, media and communication should pay attention to hyperpop’s development, and the academic study of hyperpop is increasingly pressing.
Fields like Cultural Studies and Media Studies grapple with questions around representation, for which hyperpop offers an interesting case, since it dissolves form and touches on conflicting representation of oneself on the internet. At NYUAD, students should have opportunities to explore the technicalities of Hyperpop and questions of representation in contemporary pop music.
The emergence of hyperpop gave voice to a generation marked by an overwhelming presence of internet and social media, bearing the weight of imposed categories of gender and sexuality. Its alignment with queerness, anti-capitalist and environmentalist beliefs raises questions on our current notions of technology and issues of representation. And above all, it offers a democratized option in the music industry.
Slowly breaking through the mainstream scene, hyperpop’s heterogeneous aesthetics is leading the next generation of pop artists to an exciting, original and revolutionary path. And it might just clue us in to the future of music.
Lucas De Lellis is a staff writer. Email them at
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