Andrew Guarino / Gavel Media

Hyperpop's Alarming Lack of Diversity

Now, more than ever before, the music industry is within anyone's grasp. Anyone can make an EP and release it on a well-established platform. This heightened accessibility has allowed for creative bounds to be made. You no longer have to go through the process of winning over a board of commercialized, conference-room suits to make it big. All you need is a computer, some creativity, and the internet. The success of a piece of music is determined by the appeal to an individual listener rather than by a strict set of parameters aimed at mass appeal. 

The leniency in what (and whose) music is allowed to be published has led to the creation of multiple new genres of music. Most notably, the creation of hyperpop, a chaotic, eclectic, electronic genre originally inspired by the Soundcloud nightcore scene. Albums such as glaive’s angsty all dogs go to heaven and osquinn’s haunting a night in virginia have taken over Spotify’s up-and-coming playlists. However, their distinctive and abrasive sound quality isn’t the only reason that this genre has superseded the popularity of other, similarly novel genres. 

It's not just the sound of music that's being revolutionized, it's the message. Hyperpop by no means shies away from topics that were previously considered taboo in songs, especially in a pop-adjacent genre. Lyrics elucidating the woes of gender identity, sexuality, and non-normativity offer a whimsical counterpart to the berating, pounding beats that characterize modern industrial music. The honesty of the lyrics, along with the atypical composition and open accessibility, has constructed hyperpop as not only a budding genre in mainstream music but also an inclusive space for queer people who have consistently struggled to assimilate into a CisHet society. 

However, the inclusivity of hyperpop as a genre is largely misleading. Much like commercialized notions of queerness, the only queerness typically accepted in hyperpop is white. Artists of color, specifically Black artists, are appallingly underrepresented in this genre. PC Music, the biggest hyperpop-specific record label, has only two artists of color on their current roster, Astra King and Namasenda

Today, queer artists such as Laura Les of 100 gecs and Charli XCX dominate the genre. Not only are these individuals at the forefront of the industrial music scene, but they are also pushing hyperpop and the culture it represents closer and further into mainstream media. 

The push to mainstream media certainly opens a lot of doors, but for whom? With a genre as reliant on open receptiveness as hyperpop, an introduction into a non-queer and less open-minded space ostracizes artists that gravitated toward it for its detachment from traditional societal norms. An audience less attuned to this culture also tends to denounce the novelty and innovation of this music as too “weird” or not palatable enough for the general public. 

The other question lies in what way this music is being popularized. There has yet to be much buzz about hyperpop on the radio, yet it seems to have caught the attention of multiple monolithic corporations. The name itself was actually coined by Spotify as it struggled to fit this conglomeration of brash music into a neat facet of its algorithm. They ended up creating a playlist entitled “hyperpop,” and thus the genre was born. McDonald’s also capitalized on the growing discourse around this music by using a song by hyperpop icon and legend, SOPHIE, in a recent advertisement. 

Many artists have dissented from the term hyperpop solely because of the term's origin as one coined by such a giant corporation. The inclusion of these songs as a basis for advertisement works only as a way to target a specific audience and is about as close to inclusivity as these brands will get. 

Others take issue with the notion of a title. Citing the same ideology as many queer theorists, the notion of labels works only to box individuals into categories for the comfort of others. They tend to strip people of any fluidity in their expression and enforce a stagnant approach to the world. These artists argue that this notion, at its very core, is the foundation of hyperpop and its culture. They worry that by bringing such a dynamic culture and idea into such an austere realm as popular culture will work only to degrade or dilute the core values of this genre before they've even fully formed. 

This is not all to say that hyperpop is by any means a “bad” genre of music. In fact, it's one of my favorites. These faults do, however, require examination and discussion--especially when the genre is so young and has much more growing to do. While I commend the creation and celebration of such a queer space, a specific focus needs to be made on revering and promoting the inclusion of artists of color. People of color are too often excluded from the same protection that is afforded to queer white individuals, especially in the commercialization of LGBT culture and spaces. In a genre that is gaining as much traction and expanding as rapidly as hyperpop is now, this disparity in representation demands to be addressed.

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