Not only has the name hyperpop been renounced, but we’re on the brink of a musical mass exodus where the ‘faces’ of the genre are turning their backs on blown-out, maximalist tropes in search of new pastures. Tweet from Charli XCX: ‘hyperpop is dead. discuss’, marks a new disco-driven era for the pop star. The same can be said of glaive, whose latest EP, all dogs go to heaven, has sidestepped the battery-licking sonic chaos of its original digital-debt-laden sound for sharper, cleaner pop. In the pre-internet era, sounds and styles had years — if not decades — to breed. Hyperpop, however, is already burned out from its unfathomable acceleration.
But the ‘death’ of hyperpop just might give the digicore community the oxygen they’ve been waiting for. Bugara says: “A lot of these artists are still young, they are still encouraged to make their own thing and they are still fighting that term. If hyperpop were to “die” that would be a good thing, because they were never hyperpop artists in the first place. They’re still young enough to take advantage of this stuff, and because they’re unsigned, they’re under no contractual obligation – they’ve got free rein, all the time in the world, and all the youthful energy to carry on on their own terms. ”
“Pop music has been run for a while by people who aren’t people of color, but that’s okay because we’re slowly getting a representation as the founders of something else.” – ericdoa
Hyperpop, with all its blessings and curses, suffers the same growing pains as its siblings. Looking at its lineage, its sprawling family tree, it begs the question: Are all internet music scenes doomed to repeat themselves, blaze and burn out before they really had a chance to settle?
Let’s start with the oldest child: vaporwave, accepted as the prototype for internet-born music. The original vaporwave scene grew out of an online circle of artists that emerged a decade ago on turntable.fm, and as it grew in popularity, the sound was incubated on Tiny Chat, last.fm, Bandcamp and mediafire, many of which are are now defunct or rarely used. The intent was to be some sort of anarcho-capitalist pop, usurping ’80s retro songs – the kind that collect dust in a garbage can – corporate music and distorted software startup sound samples to create something nostalgic yet completely hollow. . It was the sound of an abandoned shopping center, a wreck of a capitalist fantasy, the sound of unrealized utopias of past decades, consumerism and globalization. But for many passive Internet users, the enduring memory of vaporwave when the scene was in its last breath was nothing more than double-spaced “AESTHETI C,” a snobbish, high-brow kind of “real music” for hipsters. A meme.
Vaporwave enjoyed two hectic years when the subculture was untouched by tastemakers who criticized it on the one hand “too pretentious” and on the other “too stupid”. With its rise came the trash of witch-house, mall soft, and chillwave alongside a dozen others that all seemed to be another term for just slightly different sounds and aesthetics (this was a meme in its own right, of course). Joe Price, a music journalist who documented vaporwave for Pigeons & Planes, says, “A lot of people were hesitant to pay much attention to something that seemed like a fad.”
In the end, it wasn’t a blog or music critic who declared vaporwave ‘dead’, but the fans themselves. In many ways, it was buried alive before the very same thing it was protesting would inevitably contain and benefit from. It was the first scene to lose control of its meaning. “At best it was a serious joke, but at worst it was a joke and nothing more,” says Price. “As the aesthetic started to become more commonplace, you started to see people who weren’t very interested in music talking about it. It all had an inherent meme-like quality and it made for a fantastic template. Ultimately, I’d say it was first for the music crazies, and later for the dirty memers.”
It wasn’t until a point where vaporwave was culturally inescapable that people like Anthony Fantano and Pitchfork paid serious attention to it. But it’s important to remember that while Fantano played an important role in making vaporwave more visible, he famously reviewed it and had a similar reaction to the music of Yung Lean, the successor to vaporwave. Price says: “I think once the coverage started to heat up, fans could feel it slowly drifting out of their grasp. Many of the key artists in the early days had moved from 2014 to 2015. The moment I had a definite felt a shift was when it went from something I thought was interesting online to one of my friends who knows all about music and asks me what vaporwave was When it became a meme beyond the music it was for many really end.”
However, the skepticism with which critics and music journalists treated music online has grown since vaporwave’s brief reign. “If something really bad an internet product came on the scene ten years ago, it would be hesitant. While these days,” says Price, “I don’t think you see that reaction to people like 100 gecs or someone making hyperpop. Maybe there’s more openness to that sort of thing now, or maybe people have learned their lesson by rejecting something so early.”