HyperPop @ Fopp
Hyperpop is the emerging sound of Generation Z. A genre birthed by the internet, it embraces breakneck tempos, heavily processed synthesizers and pitch-shifted vocals. Associated with online LGBTQ+ communites and largely centred around the London based record label PC Music, the label’s shiny, cutesy aesthetic has become somewhat of a manifesto for the movement. The mantra is that embracing Pop is subversive and the genre is poised to become the countercultural movement of the 2020’s. Our Earworms promotion will be exploring the forefront of Hyperpop, bringing you the emerging sound of tomorrow.
A boundary-breaking musician, producer, visual artist, and more, Alejandra Ghersi’s work as Arca defines the cutting edge of those fields. Her fluency in different media echoes how effortlessly her music borrowed from various genres while defying easy classification: the rumbling, rattling percussion that became a hallmark of her style had roots in hip-hop, noise, IDM, and Venezuelan party music. Ghersi’s approach was distinctive enough to be immediately recognizable even when she produced music by artists as prominent as Kanye West, Björk, and Frank Ocean. Arca’s own music was even more adventurous, whether she subverted the sounds of hip-hop in unapologetically queer ways on her early EPs or skillfully balanced her experimental and emotional sides on her first full-length, 2014’s Xen. Ghersi reinvented herself with each album, emphasizing the density and volatility of her music on 2015’s Mutant and breaking it wide open with the outpourings of 2017’s Arca, her first work to feature her voice. With the five-album Kick project that spanned 2020 and 2021, she reassembled pop into new, complex yet intuitive forms.
Essential Listening: CD £9 LP £30
Straddling the most experimental and mainstream sides of pop with ease, Charli XCX is just as comfortable working with cutting-edge producers like A.G. Cook as she is touring with Taylor Swift. As a songwriter and collaborator, she helped create some of the biggest pop singles of the 2010s, including Icona Pop’s 2012 smash “I Love It” and Iggy Azalea’s 2014 chart-topping hit “Fancy.” As an artist in her own right, her work spanned the edgy sounds of her 2013 debut album, True Romance, to the more straightforward territory of 2014’s follow-up Sucker, which featured the U.S. Top Ten single “Boom Clap.” As the decade unfolded, she only became more prolific and eclectic. Along with founding her own label, Vroom Vroom, she issued EPs and mixtapes, including 2017’s Pop 2, that allowed her to combine the different sides of her music in a fittingly freewheeling way — a direction she continued on 2020’s acclaimed how i’m feeling now and 2022’s Crash, which revisited ’90s and 2000s pop foundations of her style.
Essential Listening: How I’m Feeling Now CD £13 Charli CD £10 Crash CD £11 LP £23
As comfortable taking inspiration from Autechre as collaborating with Madonna, SOPHIE bridged the mainstream and the avant-garde like few other artists. The producer first made a huge, fizzy splash on the 2010s underground dance-pop scene with a series of singles (later collected as 2015’s Product) that contorted elements of giddy Euro-dance, Japanese and Korean pop, and experimental sound design into blindingly neon-colored pop-art gems into a sound that helped invent the hyperpop style. Like the PC Music label, SOPHIE’s early productions featured high-pitched vocals, sugary synthesizer textures, and beats drawing from underground dance music styles such as U.K. garage as well as mainstream pop and hip-hop. Instead of using samples, SOPHIE constructed inventive sounds from waveforms, creating bizarre noises that resembled bubbling water, inflating balloons, and elastic bands that added to the music’s surrealist, blatantly artificial quality. The producer’s immediately recognizable approach made SOPHIE an in-demand collaborator for artists seeking an edge to their work, with clients including Nicki Minaj, Charli XCX, and Vince Staples. SOPHIE’s growing prominence in the late 2010s only encouraged the producer to break more boundaries, and 2018’s Grammy nominated debut album, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, questioned authenticity, identity, and image with even more experimental sounds. By the time of the producer’s death in 2021, SOPHIE was known as a fearless trailblazer in electronic music and in the representation of trans artists.
Essential Listening: Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides LP £30 Product CD £13
Producer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and PC Music founder A.G. Cook shatters the boundaries between mainstream pop and experimental electronic music. In the process, he has shaped the look and sound of the 2010s and 2020s. With the PC Music label and collective, he embraced the growing role of technology in music-making, as well as the personalities of the people using that technology. The results were a slick but decidedly quirky aesthetic equally inspired by ’90s Europop, K-pop, and J-pop, superstar producers such as Max Martin, and corporate branding. Working with Hannah Diamond, GFOTY, Easyfun, and other PC Music artists, Cook took pop music to sugary and abrasive extremes in the early 2010s. Later in the decade, that style edged closer to the mainstream with his work as Charli XCX’s creative director, as well as in the music of hyper-pop artists such as 100 gecs and Dorian Electra, and Gen Z singer/songwriters like Clairo and Billie Eilish. Though Cook’s collaborations were among his most prominent releases, he also worked as a solo artist. During PC Music’s early years, he issued singles and EPs that were just as fractured and mischievous as the output of the rest of the label’s roster. In 2020, he released a pair of albums — the sprawling 7G and the more concise Apple — that offered a more personal take on the dizzying sound he pioneered.
Essential Listening: Apple LP £23
Like many of the other artists affiliated with the collective and label PC Music, British singer/songwriter/photographer Hannah Diamond’s calculated yet guileless songs exemplify what makes pop music tick. The high-concept style of her music — which she introduced with 2013’s “Pink and Blue” — is its substance: Even though her vocals are highly processed, there’s an almost childlike simplicity to her delivery and lyrics, and while the synths and beats that back her evoke everything from early-2000s Euro-dance to happy hardcore to grime to J-pop and K-pop, they don’t sound exactly like anything that came before. Though the PC Music aesthetic was often described as polarizing, Diamond scored a Billboard-charting hit with 2014’s fluorescent single “Every Night” and added more melancholy depth to her sound on 2019’s full-length Reflections.
Essenitial Listening: Reflections CD £18 LP £20
The music projects of songwriter, producer, and singer Caroline Polachek have ranged from the dramatic synth pop of Chairlift to her more brooding alter ego Ramona Lisa, experimental ambient music as CEP, and off-kilter electro-pop under her own name. She cracked the Billboard 200 as a member of Chairlift with their second album, 2012’s Something. Her Ramona Lisa debut, Arcadia, arrived in 2014 and Drawing the Target Around the Arrow, her first album as CEP, saw release in 2017. In 2019, she issued her first effort as Caroline Polachek, Pang, which found her further exploring atmospheric electro-pop, a style she continued to showcase on 2021’s Standing at the Gate: The Remix Collection and the single “Bunny Is a Rider.” In the meantime, her songwriting credits for other artists included tracks by Beyoncé, Solange, Travis Scott, and Charli XCX, among others.
Essential Listening: Pang CD £9 LP £20
100 Gecs masterminds Dylan Brady and Laura Les mash together conflicting genres, grating samples, autotuned vocals, and multi-color distortion into an overwhelming frenzy that shouldn’t result in catchy pop but somehow does. First-time listeners might be bowled over by the anxiety-fueled tempos and abrasive synth tones. The duo are jittery, ridiculous, and perpetually short-circuiting but also paradoxically a fine-tuned and controlled pop product.
Essential Listening: 1000 gecs LP £28