There’s an old adage which goes: if you want to wind up a music fan, ask them about “hyperpop”. Over the past few years, the tag has been used to describe everything from general “forward-thinking” pop music with no discernable genre to anything with pitched-up or lo-fi vocals and maximalist production on Soundcloud. “What is hyperpop?” tweeted Charli XCX back in 2020. “rip hyperpop? discuss”, she tweeted exactly a year later. Just like the nebulous concept of memes and vibes, the term hyperpop means more when you don’t explain it or mention it and definitely don’t make a Spotify playlist about it.
People often trace the first wave of hyperpop – if you want to call it that – back to PC Music. The rise of SOPHIE, A.G. Cook and Danny L Harle, especially, kickstarted a wave of experimentation, weirdness and cross-pollination in pop. Now, a decade later, we have younger artists like ericdoa, glaive, cookii, midwxst continuing this spirit of pop futurism, while also being lumped in with the hyperpop sound (which some embrace and others reject). These are all online artists existing in a very similar ecosystem, but their music doesn’t sound the same. Does this mean hyperpop is dead, or do we just need a less vague term to describe something tangible?
If anyone knows the answer, it’s probably PC Music fans, who all gathered at KOKO in London on the 15th of June for a wild takeover of the venue. The night saw artists such as Hannah Diamond, A.G. Cook, Umru, Tommy Cash and more send the crowd into a delirious frenzy. Before then though, we sent VICE photographer Aiyush Pachnando to take pics and ask the fans: Is hyperpop dead?
TY KLLEY, 24 AND SOPHIE TYNCH, 21
From left to right: TY Klley, 24 and Sophia Tynch, 21 outside KOKO in London.
VICE: What got you into the world of PC Music?
Sophia: I used to be really into dubstep and just needed a break. I fell into PC Music from a friend and the rest is history.
Word on the street is that hyperpop is long dead. Is that true?
Sophia: Hyperpop itself is very general. There’s so much in those playlists. It's just used to capture a whole sound in one easy to digest playlist. But hyperpop will never die and will live on forever.
TY: There has been hyperpop since the 90s. It's been alive for a long time and won't be moving anytime soon. The term hyperpop just brings everything together into a fruit salad of music.
ALEX BRIIGS, 23
Alex Briiggs, 23, throwing up a peace sign.
VICE: Hey Alex. Is hyperpop dead?
Alex: I hope not. I’ve been in the queue for three hours now. But there are a lot of opinions on that in the PC community about the term itself. People say it was created by Spotify to push sales. I think it's good to group lots of artists together related to the music. But is it dead? Hell no.
Who are you happiest to see tonight?
You’ve put me on the spot here… But it has to be Hannah Diamond.
RILEY GREY, 22
Riley Grey, 22, outside KOKO in London.
VICE: Hey, Riley.
Riley: I came all the way from Melbourne Australia for this gig!
Cool! How come?
I’ve been following PC Music since I was 14. it was a very important moment during my high school years and knew they would never come to Melbourne to do a show. This is my one time to see them all live and it just seemed right I came here.
Would you say hyperpop is dead?
I don’t like the term hyperpop – I think it’s a very loose term to describe a lot of queer artists like SOPHIE and how she formed her music, to what it is now. Now it’s been taken over by Drain Gang and other more mainstream groups. But… it better not be dead. I took a 12-hour flight to be here right now.
Who are you most excited to see?
A.G. Cook for sure. Melbourne had a very hard lockdown and I just went for walks and listened to an A.G. Cook playlist and felt amazing.
LEVI AXERNE, 19
Levi Axene, 19, wearing sunglasses outside KOKO in London.
VICE: Hey Levi!
Levi: Hey, I have come from Sweden for this! I can't wait.
How long have you been a fan of PC music?
Around four years now. I first got into them by hearing them in the gym. Then I found more playlists, and more artists.
What do you think of hyperpop? Is it dead? What does the word mean to you?
I hope not… it just needs a fresh rebrand. PC Music isn't dead. It’s amazing and will stay for years.
What would your rebrand name be?
Hmm I don’t know, maybe… MAYBE-LICIOUS.
JONA HALTER AND MORITZ LUEERS
From left to right: Jona Halter and Moritz Luneers in tie-dye outside KOKO in London.
VICE: Is this your first PC event? Are you excited?
Jona: There are such nice people here! I am so excited for the amazing vibe!
Who are you most excited to see?
Moritz: Such a hard question. I am just happy to be here.
Jona: I have mad respect for A.G. Cook so it’s going to have to be A.G.
Do you believe that hyperpop is dead?
Moritz: The bubblegum-based hyper happy music is always going to be there. But hyperpop is a wide term that other artists fall into when they can't be in one genre of music.
Jona: More people are listening to it and it's growing. If you really like the music, that’s the most important thing.
BERTIE CLARKE, JUNIPER MCBURIE, KAYCIA AINSWORTH AND ALIK
From left to right: Bertie Clarke, Juniper McBurie, Kaycia Ainsworth and Alik outside KOKO in London.
VICE: What are your thoughts on the term hyperpop? Is it dead and if so, who killed it?
Juniper: I think it’s a huge umbrella term, but hyperpop and PC Music links to a lot of queer theory. Because queer, to me, is a label that negates labels, like a paradox that doesn’t need to labelled or boxed in into anything. Hyperpop does the same thing it links to me because it can’t be just one thing it can't be boxed in.
Kayci: SOPHIE said that essential genres are invented for marking purposes. But anything can be anything. Spotify made the term hyperpop to sell it and make it more palatable for people. So it doesn't exist to be dead in the first place.
Juniper: It's just a word to describe a sound, like how people use words like “bouncy” to describe a song.
KC FAULKNER, CAM WILLIAMSON AND FREDDIE DIXON
From left to right: KC Faulkner, Cam Williamson and Freddie Dixon in crop tops outside KOKO in London.
VICE: Is hyperpop dead?
Freddie: Oh never.. well a little, bit but not really
Cam: Not really. It's just a different breed.
Freddie: Because it's on Spotify not Soundcloud, there's a budget. There's people that want new music and people want to hear it.
KC: It’s less accessible now.
Why would you say that?
KC: The straights got hold of it.
Cam: I feel like you need a history book to listen to it.
WILLIAM GANE, EVE SIGEOT, ROOSA HIMMA, ROHAN STEVENSON
From left to right: William Gane, Eve Sigeot, Roosa Himma and Rohan Stevnson outside KOKO in London.
VICE: So what got you into PC Music?
William: It’s a new way to listen and appreciate music, it's destroying boundaries and nothing again will sound like this in years to come. It's not just the music; it's a lifestyle.
Roosa: It’s very emotional music in a straightforward way.
Who killed hyperpop? Is it even real?
William: There's so much more to hyperpop. There are so many sub-genres. Hyperpop is a term you say to your dad, it’s easy to [understand].
Eve: I think PC Music made hyperpop famous but hyperpop would not be what it is today without PC Music. Hyperpop is not dead. The term itself is dead, but it's still fresh and so many more genres are yet to come
Roosa: It can’t die.
JENNY AND ELIZABETH TRACEY
From left to right: Jenny and Elizabeth Tracey in pink and platforms outside KOKO in London.
VICE: What do you think of hyperpop, as a thing?
Elizabeth: I really appreciate hyperpop and what it does, as a lot of young trans and nonbinary people are producing some really amazing music and doing a lot for pop music in general.
Jenny: Hyperpop is the next generation of music meant for people for the future made by people from the future.
Don’t you think hyperpop is dead?
Elizabeth: I hope not. A lot of what’s going on in the States is really amazing and kicking and really giving me hope on what's yet to come.
NILLS LUV AND NICO CONTEH
From left to right: Nills Luv and Nico Conteh outside KOKO in London.
VICE: Straight into the hard-hitting questions: Who killed hyperpop?
Nico: I dont think it exists to die.
Nills: Spotify just made it for the they/thems to just tune in and make them money.
Nico: It’s an umbrella term – a very random one – but it’s used to combine loads of sub-genres together.
Would you say Spotify killed it or just made it more commercial?
Nills: [They] almost cis-washed it to make it easy to listen to for a mainstream audience. A lot of artists come into the scene and, you know what, you are not SOPHIE, can you chill?
Nico: Even Charlie XCX, our queen, said hyperpop isnt real.
SAPPHIRE OUTRE AND MILLIE POYNTER
From left to right: Sapphire Outre and Millie Poynter in sunglasses outside KOKO in London.
VICE: Is hyperpop dead?
Millie: It’s the most alive it's ever been.
Why is that? What’s keeping it alive?
Millie: It’s a powerful queer-intwined scene.
Sapphire: It’s electric, its post-dystopian, it’s fun, it’s love, it’s everything. You can be anyone, dress how you want, do what you want and be accepted. It’s special and because of that it will never die. It will grow and evolve
Millie: The word hyperpop is an umbrella term.
Sapphire: There are so many different nuances and things that go into one thing. You have elements of trance, dubstep and even drum ‘n’ bass mashed up with pitched-up vocals. It’s bouncy music and it’s happy.