The Hype Behind Hyperpop Artists

Hyperpop music and artists like Charli XCX, ElyOtto, and Odetari have been on an astronomical rise in the 2020s, and these glitchy high-energy sounds are being heard worldwide.

The Hype Behind Hyperpop Artists
Wyatt Marshall
Wyatt Marshall
February 23, 202410 min read
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Written by Wyatt Marshall, a Third Bridge Creative contributor.

In the story of hyperpop, the meteoric rise of ElyOtto is arguably unrivaled. 

Before the rise of the prismatic genre in the pandemic era, the Canadian teenager began sporadically posting self-produced tracks borrowed from electronic, folk, and hip-hop to SoundCloud in 2017. It’s an eclectic mix from the young artist, barely a teenager, who is finding a voice and experimenting with sounds and styles while pulling influences from various corners and scenes on the internet. ElyOtto tagged his songs things like ‘#Folk Punk,” “#OMFG style,” “#Happy Hardcore,” and “#webcore,” creating a tangible name for sounds that were difficult to pin down or describe. 

As he would later tell SPIN and Words and Music, when COVID-19 hit, ElyOtto found himself devoting more time to his sound. He became a fan of 100 gecs, the St. Louis band that became an entry point to hyperpop for legions of young, hopeful listeners. 100 gecs’ music is glitchy, chaotic, and maximalist, an amalgamation of styles that can careen from bubbly alt-pop and hip-hop to walls of distorted electronic noise on a dime. Inspired by the duo, he embraced their sonic palette and energy in his music, and he uploaded the song “SugarCrash!” to SoundCloud in August 2020. Almost immediately, the track found success on TikTok, which was on an exponential rise of its own.

But, the real takeoff would come nearly nine months later when the popular TikTok personality Nick Luciano featured “SugarCrash!” in a mega-viral video in February 2021; with over 50 million likes, it is still the fourth most-liked video in TikTok’s history. TikTok success brought wildfire growth that spilled to other platforms, leading to a massive jump in Spotify monthly listeners, from under 100k to more than 6.5 million in the first three months of 2021, an 8076% increase. On March 16, 2021, his Chartmetric artist score, a weighted metric comprising streaming and social data, made him the 47th most popular artist in the world, a peak for a hyperpop artist (and a record that still holds). A month earlier, his score placed him outside the top 150k artists. ElyOtto’s launch was pushed into orbit by TikTok rocket fuel, and he was suddenly smack dab in the middle of an increasingly hyped cultural interest in a burgeoning mishmash of sounds that, thanks to the title of a Spotify playlist, had come to be known as hyperpop. As SPIN declared, he had become the new face of the genre. 

Hyperpop, a fragmented set of sounds and scenes home to and significantly shaped by LGBTQ+ artists, had been growing in various forms for the better part of the decade. But to the uninitiated, it looked like it was bursting suddenly, gaining coverage in legacy newspapers trying to shape a genre this imprecise while often acknowledging the impossibility of doing so. The attention earned hyperpop’s burgeoning stars — many just teenagers — major label record deals (ElyOtto signed to RCA Records). Shying away from the limelight, some influential artists, like d0llywood1 and midwxst, rejected the hyperpop label that felt imposed upon a diverse group of artists, with d0llywood telling i-D, “It’s a title that really does not apply to us… none of us make straight up ‘pop’ music at all.” 

But the commodification of hyperpop had already begun, leaving its restless residue across everything from Beyoncé to the box office. By analyzing streaming data, it is possible to track the rise of artists that helped put hyperpop on the map, and to see that their vision of pop continues to resonate with listeners, with no end in sight.

The Hyperpop Landscape and PC Music

At a high level, hyperpop has continued to grow since its 2019 breakthrough. Using the combined audiences of a selection of 24 artists that have been a part of the genre’s rise and evolution as a representative group, the monthly reach of hyperpop as measured by Spotify monthly listeners across these artists more than tripled from January 2019 to today. Note that a single listener may be counted multiple times across artists, and it is helpful to think of this growing overall audience number as fan contacts. Also, data was not available for all artists over the entire time period.

When it comes to Spotify monthly listeners, Charli XCX is hyperpop’s mainstream ambassador. Her audience alone is just under half (44%) the size of the other 23 artists examined combined, and her Chartmetric artist score consistently places her among the top 400 artists globally.

Charli XCX came up under the London-based PC Music, the label founded in 2013 by the producer A. G. Cook that is credited as the origin point for hyperpop. As Cook would later tell Dazed, the label was born from a university research project that focused on how to make music on a computer “that had personality, or felt very intimate or uncanny.” Years before hyperpop’s pinnacle (and prior to Chartmetric’s data availability), the label’s artists, including influential acts like Danny Harle and the late luminary SOPHIE, were developing a glitchy, playful, often-chaotic high-sheen alternative pop with a vivid visual aesthetic that was reflective of the label, a scene, and subculture that had roots as an upstart in London’s electronic music scene and later spread across the Internet via SoundCloud and other avenues. At the helm of this evolving movement was Cook, who was producing for many of the label’s acts while also serving as A&R and management. PC Music’s work would later form the basis for the hyperpop sound that would be felt in the music of 100 gecs and many more. Music journalist Philip Sherburne was describing the sound created by PC Music artists as “hyper-pop” in Pitchfork as early as 2014.

Looking at the most popular hyperpop artists in a selection of top markets for hyperpop listening gives a feel for PC Music’s impact. Though Danny Harle, A. G. Cook, and SOPHIE were surpassed in monthly Spotify listening as new talents making hyperpop entered the fold in the 2020s, they are regularly top artists the world over, with greater reach in US cities than many American artists.

Across popular music, tastemakers and stars have tapped PC Music for collaboration, including Caroline Polachek, Carly Rae Jepsen, Rita Ora, Sigur Ros’s Jónsi, and the producer Oneohtrix Point Never. In perhaps the ultimate proof hyperpop had impacted the mainstream, Cook co-produced “ALL UP IN YOUR MIND” on Beyoncé's 2022 album RENAISSANCE (a Billboard 200 chart topper in its debut week), and you’ll find production ties from PC Music to Madonna and Dua Lipa. 

And Charli XCX, hyperpop’s true A-lister, has gone multimedia. Over the summer, her song “Speed Drive” was the fourth most popular track on the chart-topping Barbie soundtrack (2023’s biggest box office hit). As the album’s third single, “Speed Drive” was behind only songs from Dua Lipa ("Dance The Night"), Billie Eilish ("What Was I Made For?"), and Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice ("Barbie World" with Aqua) in terms of popularity, at 196 million Spotify streams. So far, it’s proven more popular than Lizzo’s “Pink” and Ryan Gosling and Slash’s meme-ready “I’m Just Ken.” Hollywood is so interested in bringing hyperpop’s over-the-top energy to the big screen that Charli XCX also co-wrote the soundtrack for the critically acclaimed comedy Bottoms, putting her signature spirited sound across the film’s score.

The Spotify Playlist and the Origin of the Term "Hyperpop"

A pivotal moment in hyperpop’s history can be pinned to the launch of a Spotify playlist in August 2019. Spotify’s hyperpop playlist was created in response to the viral takeoff of the St. Louis band 100 gecs, whose June 2019 album 1000 gecs pushed the band’s monthly Spotify listeners from roughly 600 to 150k in six weeks. While the playlist highlighted the sounds of an emerging wave of artists, it also pinned the hyperpop label to artists like SOPHIE, Slayyyter, Quinn, underscores, Charli XCX, and others from the broader world of PC Music that had been around, in some cases, for years. 

Today, the Spotify playlist has 432k followers, placing it among the top 2,000 most followed playlists on Spotify. That’s just ahead of wanderlust (431k followers, featuring alternative, singer/songwriter, and pop) and a couple thousand behind House Party (443k followers, R&B/soul, hip-hop/rap, and pop). Its relatively small size in the grand scheme of popular playlists helps illustrate some of the tension at the heart of the hyperpop story: how niche communities brought together by a playlist became the talk of popular culture and ultimately influenced broader popular music production.

Hyperpop's Pandemic Era Breakthrough

The Spotify playlist and an official name for the music it contained was followed by a confluence of additional forces that put hyperpop on a growth path. COVID-19 lockdowns in early 2020 gave time for pent-up budding bedroom artists to experiment and publish their works, just as TikTok, with its ability to pour gasoline on trends, was becoming ubiquitous. TikTok’s shortform, rapid-fire, rabbithole-like discovery feed stylistically seemed to parallel the colorful, frenetic, and genre-hopping restlessness of hyperpop, making the two a natural pair. Along with ElyOtto’s “SugarCrash!” tracks like the hard-hitting, rap-leaning duo WHOKILLEDXIX’s “Kismet” and the Dallas-based producer SyKo’s sugary “#BrooklynBloodPop!” also caught TikTok waves. From July 2019 to July 2020, artists including glaive and ElyOtto became hyperpop movers and shakers, while 100 gecs (+405%), Slayyyter (+172%), UPSAHL (+585%), and others saw their Spotify monthly listeners explode in growth. 

For a digital-first generation communicating and socializing on the internet, during a time when international travel was heavily limited or banned, the second wave that followed PC Music emerged in digital communities — forums, Discord servers, SoundCloud — without a geographical center. Across the top 20 markets for hyperpop, the audiences for hyperpop artists as measured by combined monthly listeners have grown over time, showing an appetite for the sound as more artists have entered the picture. 

These top markets are a worldly group, with large listenerships found in key cities and countries that played a role in hyperpop’s evolution, like London (PC Music) and Australia (SOPHIE’s home country). Major US markets, as well as South American megacities like São Paulo and Santiago, are home to large hyperpop audiences, and Warsaw stands out as a top market ahead amongst larger European cities like Paris and Milan. And that growth shows no sign of abating, with total audiences in top markets for hyperpop continuing to find new highs in recent periods and lifts in average monthly listeners per artist as well.

Despite its growing success, impact, and acclaim in recent years, PC Music announced it would cease releasing new music in 2023. Talk of hyperpop’s demise has been rife since shortly after the genre tag broke into the mainstream in 2020. Charli XCX mused, “rip hyperpop?” as early as 2021, and Vice was thinking about issuing PC Music a death certificate back in 2022 in their article “We Asked PC Music Fans: Is Hyperpop Dead?” You’ll also come across news stories and myriad forum discussions that have debated what hyperpop is — and isn’t —since the term came into the world; prior to wondering if it had died, Charli XCX was also wondering, “what is hyperpop?” in 2020. i_D summed it up with the headline, “PC Music can retire now because its influence is everywhere.”

A New Wave of Artists in Hyperpop's Wake

Within the creative legacy of hyperpop, artists and adjacent scenes that borrow from the hyperpop sound and take stylistic cues from it have thrived. Recent growth can be attributed to the viral breakthrough of Odetari, who refers to his glitchy, poppy dance music as “Odecore.” Earlier this year, he went viral multiple times, landing several tracks on the Billboard dance chart and earning a multi-album record deal with Artist Partner Group as his Spotify monthly listeners shot to nearly 5 million in a matter of months. Odetari ranked among the top two hyperpop artists for all the cities analyzed in both 2023 and 2024 (so far), with his only competition being Charli XCX. 

As on Spotify, YouTube audiences for hyperpop artists continue to increase collectively and at the individual artist level for every artist in the artist sample for whom data is available. But, Odetari has found particularly notable success on the video platform. Measured by total YouTube video views, Odetari has achieved the highest growth in a single month out of any artist in the 24-artist subset since 2019. His song “LOOK DON’T TOUCH (feat. cade clair)” stands at over 30.8 million views in nine months. 

Rising in similar spaces around the same time, Odetari recently teamed up with 6arelyhuman, another artist in hyperpop’s lineage who exploded in popularity in 2023. With their Spotify monthly listeners going from under 40k to 6 million over the course of the year, 6arelyhuman is now the 3rd most popular artist of the 24 examined in many top hyperpop cities. The YouTube official audio for Odetari and 6arelyhuman’s collaboration, “GMFU,” received around 4 million views in its first month. 

The Look Ahead

In July, ElyOtto released Miscarrage of a Wildhorse, his second album since “SugarCrash!” rocketed him into the spotlight, and he followed up shortly with an EP, Happy Together at the Convenience Stores. He currently has 1.6 million Spotify monthly listeners, and “SugarCrash!” stands at 350 million streams on the platform. Returning to his roots, he continues to release eclectic singles on SoundCloud that pull from a kaleidoscopic range of influences. Calling back to his “#Folk Punk” tags, as he told Genius, outside of hyperpop he enjoys making folk music and plans to do so in the future.

The energetic, glitchy, maximal sounds and production brought to the fore by hyperpop have had an audible impact on new music. Like Odetari and 6arelyhuman, new generations of artists forming underground communities and mainstream producers are naturally borrowing from a hyperpop palette. PC Music may have shut down at the end of 2023, and the buzz around hyperpop may have quieted since peak pandemic curiosity, but the reach continues to grow. It would seem hyperpop’s story is far from over, and its legacy continues to build. 

Graphics by Nicki Camberg (with initial contributions from Wyatt Marshall) and cover image by Crasianne Tirado; data as of Feb. 23, 2024.