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Why hyperpop owes its existence to heavy metal

Hyperpop is on the rise – and it’s thanks, in large part, to metal subgenres like nu-metal, crunkcore and metalcore…

Over the past 12 months, a new genre has been making waves online. Often with pitched-up vocals, it’s chaotic and abrasive, relies heavily on electronics and mashes so many different styles together that it no longer fits into one category. We’re talking, of course, about hyperpop, and it’s an exaggerated – sometimes to the point of being ridiculous – form of music. 

Artists like Charli XCX, A.G. Cook and 100 gecs are known for pioneering this new scene, but other notable acts include SOPHIE, glaive, gupi and osquinn. Hyperpop has its own community of artists, most of whom are in their teens or early 20s, with many identifying as queer or trans. SoundCloud rap, along with the pop collective PC Music, are big influences on the burgeoning genre… and so too is rock.

Hyperpop wouldn’t be possible without the genre-blending that came before. Thanks to songs being so freely available through streaming now artists can pull from an incredibly vast canvas, and it’s no surprise that hyperpop is also all over the map – one that also includes heavy music. But there are three scenes in particular that have set the stage for hyperpop: nu-metal, crunkcore and metalcore

Nu-metal

Nu-metal’s hybrid of hip-hop, metal, funk, industrial and beyond lends itself perfectly to the hyperpop ideology. Linkin Park, Papa Roach and other artists from the time have hits that are now considered to be modern classics that still crop up on movie soundtracks and party playlists – in fact, hyperpop superstars 100 gecs recently remixed Linkin Park’s megahit One Step Closer for Hybrid Theorys 20th anniversary. Rico Nasty, meanwhile, who blends punk and rap – and is known for the hyperpop hit IPHONE – takes a lot of cues from nu-metal in her work.

But one of the main artists known for bringing nu-metal back is Rina Sawayama. On her 2020 debut album SAWAYAMA, she chose to emulate the music that was popular during her childhood in the 2000s. Sure, this meant a lot of pop, but rock acts were also topping the charts at the time. The result? Rina was able to pull from plenty of rock-leaning artists like Avril Lavigne, N.E.R.D. and No Doubt, but also nu-metal luminaries like Limp Bizkit and Evanescence.

Evanescence was definitely a huge influence for me,” Rina told Cosmopolitan. Me and my mom used to listen to their records in the car all the time.”

Dynasty could actually be an Evanescence track, while STFU is a nu-metal song through-and-through. The same style also rears its head again in the short bursts of guitar on XS.

Key Artists: Rina Sawayama, Rico Nasty, himera

Crunkcore

Crunkcore – an irreverent and turbo-charged mix of hip-hop, rock, pop and dance – was very much the hyperpop of its day, especially in the way it didn’t take itself too seriously and was so closely tied to the internet (remember MySpace?). Bands like Metro Station and Cobra Starship created exaggerated pop songs that mixed in rock, hip-hop and dance influences, while Breathe Carolina used heavy electronics to create catchy pop tunes. But it was 3OH!3s ability to parody pop and take it to bewildering extremes that created the main blueprint for hyperpop. Their blown-out synths and modulated vocals allowed them to flip pop parts on their head, with chaotic sounds and tongue-in-cheek lyrics on the likes of IMNOTYOURBOYFRIENDBABY and PHOTOFINNISH echoing the hyperpop ideology.

And they’ve had a massive influence on hyperpop’s biggest artists, with 100 gecs, Gupi and Fraxiom in particular all praising the pair. I used to be such a big 3OH!3 fan and then I think for two years maybe I was like, Man, 3OH!3’s not cool, that’s just whatever,’” 100 gecs’ Laura Les told The Outline. “[I] just went to go see them a few months ago when they came back around. I was like, This is the shit, why the fuck would I ever say that 3OH!3 was not the sickest?’”

3OH!3 had 100 gecs guest on their comeback single LONELY MACHINES last year, which features on Spotify’s hyperpop playlist, and 3OH!3 also appeared on the hyperpop remix of Rebecca Black’s Friday. The internet is wild.

Key Artists: 100 gecs, underscores, food house

Metalcore

Cranking up the hyperpop, it’s hard not to hear the similarities in modern metalcore; not only are there some heavy riffs, but also a fair share of screaming. food house’s songs are backed by serious shredding and hard-hitting choruses, while N0THANKY0U just appears to be hyperpop, but heavy. What’s more, 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady used to go to Warped Tour and was a fan of Attack Attack! and I Set My Friends On Fire, and 100 gecs have also mentioned Chiodos and The Devil Wears Prada as influences.

I was into a bunch of things between Warped Tour and now,” Dylan told Alternative Press. I’d say the Attack Attack! record was pretty big.”

Metalcore was originally the melding of metal and hardcore, but over time it’s come to incorporate a bunch of other styles, mirroring how hyperpop jumps from genre to genre. The metalcore of the past decade borrowed from pop, hip-hop and emo, but it was the genre’s embracing of electronic elements that paved the way for even more surprising experimentation. Bands like Asking Alexandria, The Amity Affliction and Palisades also used synths to embellish their darker edges, rather than piling on layers of saccharine sweetness.

And it’s metalcore’s most electronic-leaning artists that have had a lasting impact on hyperpop artists. The way synths are pushed to their limits, and how songs can shift from light to heavy in a split-second, seems to match up with this new eccentric brand of pop. Bands like I See Stars – whose heavy music also took electronica to new heights – sound a lot like these newer artists.

This practice of melding metal and pop or electronica can be heard across 2020 album My Agenda by Dorian Electra – an artist who collaborated with black metal band Gaylord on the track Monk Mode. The LP’s title-track also features heavyweight guitars, while Ram It Down has a distinct metal flair, a full-on breakdown, and even the synths sound like they’re taken from I See Stars. It’s all coming full-circle…

Key Artists: Dorian Electra, Lil Mariko, N0THANKY0U

There’s no doubt that rock has influenced various kinds of music, and its constant evolution appeals to artists across generations – from early waves of hip-hop to 2021 hyperpop. Rock’s versatility and ability to be so seamlessly merged with different genres not only keeps our world fresh, but even nudges the dial in the mainstream’.

Many genres owe a debt to rock, and artists and fans alike keep coming back to music with heavy guitars, thundering drums and screamed vocals – even when mixed into something as eclectic as hyperpop. You can digitise and program your entire career in GarageBand, but it doesn’t have the same real, human connection that rock offers: friends, in a room, creating art together. Scenes come and go, but in the immortal words of Twisted Sisters Dee Snider: You can’t stop rock’n’roll.’

Posted on April 14th 2021, 3:00p.m.
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