Punk rock is dead. I accepted it and moved on, adapting to a new, equally radical and anarchist music scene: hyperpop.
This musical genre has created quite a stir over the past five years, mainly due to its inherent weirdness and experimental sound. However, this is not the only parallel with punk rock as the two genres share more than meets the eye.
First, punk rock and hyperpop exploded exactly 40 years apart: 1977 and 2017.
1977 marked the first Sex Pistols outing from mastermind Malcolm McLaren. Their single ‘God Save the Queen’ rose to number two on the UK charts, before being censored for having vulgar lyrics. Despite being a fashion group, they created space for controversial music, allowing a generation of artists to vent their anger through music.
2017 was a prolific year for the most important person in the hyperpop scene, the late producer and pop star SOPHIE, who released three singles from her album “OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES”. She also produced songs for Charli XCX, Vince Staples and Banoffee this year, solidifying her name as a pop producer.
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Both scenes exploded in the UK, with the Sex Pistols in England and SOPHIE in Scotland. They have both been criticized for being controversial, punk rock for using visual shock tactics, and hyperpop for being aural shock. Finally, these scenes suffered tragic losses early in their conception, with the overdose of Sex Pistol bassist Sid Vicious and the accidental death of SOPHIE.
So what exactly is hyperpop? I consider it an anti-pop movement that advocates authenticity and experimentation. Besides SOPHIE, prominent artists include Charli XCX, 100 gecs, Slayyyter, Kim Petras, Arca and food house. Most of these artists fall under the transgender umbrella, which makes the scene frankly queer and almost exclusively for queer people. On this list of artists that I have provided, six of them are openly transgender/non-binary or include openly trans members.
This scene cannot be separated from the transness and queerness that created it. For example, Laura Less of 100 gecs strongly tunes her vocals to help correct her vocal dysphoria, a practice that has quickly become standard in the genre. Other genre standards include intentional glitches, nonsensical synth and screams accompanied by heavy electronic guitar, a motif that cannot be escaped.
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So, how is this punk? There are too many strange parallels to mention, but there are a few that stand out.
Both genres are anti-pop. Punk rock was primarily a counterculture movement, as evidenced by The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” and Black Flag’s “Police Story.” Punk rock was against the establishment, against tradition, and against popular culture. Hyperpop is exactly the same. Songs like food house’s “mos thoser” and SOPHIE’s “Faceshopping” demonstrate her anti-traditional roots.
Punk rock and hyperpop also share deep ties to homosexuality. Due to its counterculture roots, queer people flocked to the punk rock scene, creating bands like Pansy Division, the Germs, and Bikini Kill. These bands created progress for the LGBTQ community, showing successful and vengeful rockers crying out for equality. I’ve talked about this before, but hyperpop is inherently queer, started by a trans woman (SOPHIE) and continued by other trans women like Laura Les, Kim Petras, among others.
Finally, these two musical movements define themselves as anarchists. Well, more progressive. Punk rock was inherently anarchist, as it was the only political ideology at the time that sufficiently encompassed the anti-establishment values at the heart of punk rock. Due to its inherently queer nature, hyperpop is inherently progressive. On Laura Les’s Twitter we can see major groups are anti-fascist within the hyperpop community.
The world of hyperpop has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing artists holed up with a computer to try anything they find interesting and share it with an extremely welcoming community. Just like Black Flag said, “try to stop us / it’s no use!”
Charlotte Jones (they/she) is a second year student studying English and Journalism.