Justin T. Gellerson/The New York Times

March 15, 2021

KUDVA DRISKELL | Between Hyperpop and Folk Punk

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Those who know me in real life can attest to a few things: First, that my astrological chart is 110% accurate, and second, that my music taste has become notably less listenable. In the days of yore, I was a wannabe music connoisseur, mashing together 90s alt rock with The Coup and the occasional Minnie Riperton song to create vibey playlists so that my three Spotify followers would know that I am, in fact, very cool. And so that cute people at Green Dragon would see a glimpse of my playlist and nod approvingly — but that is besides the point

Fast forward to one week into the pandemic, when I came across 100 gecs, and at last found an outlet for the chaotic energy that had been bubbling up inside like an overflowing pot of soup (is there a better metaphor here? Probably, but I do feel like soup a lot of the time). At the time, I assumed that my love for hyperpop, which very quickly expanded into an obsession with osquinn and Dorian Electra, was simply because I was cooped up inside. But as time passed, I found that my hyperpop phase was more than a phase. There was something about the chipmunked vocals, brash synth melodies, and unabashed love for early 2000s internet culture that kept me coming back for more. 

Bizarrely, I noticed a similar phenomenon once. At the behest of my older brother, I started listening to Ramshackle Glory, a band headed by Pat the Bunny. Hearing a folk punk singer screaming in desperation over a medley of lilting acoustic instruments struck a similar chord within me, despite seeming completely separate from hyperpop. There’s something about both folk punk and hyperpop’s open disregard for supposed musical “rules” in favor of destructive, frenzied self-expression that feels not only fitting, but also necessary in the current moment.

While hyperpop blends everything from nu-metal to bubblegum pop into catchy, maximalist songs celebrating deep-fried internet culture, folk punk responds to the world with an entirely opposite approach, combining counter-culture genres into a mash-up that is rooted in anarchic discontent. 

Consider, for example, the lyrics to “bad idea” by osquinn, which centers around her reacting to a hateful tweet and ends with the artist musing “Never happy, everybody’s staring at me…Throw dirt on me like I was some fuckin’ zombie/While I’m screamin’, no one hears my cries of fear.” 

Then there’s the end of Ramshackle Glory’s “We Are All Compost in Training,” which begins with “I want freedom/Not a boss that comes in a forty ounce bottle of/Anything or taped scotch paper” and ends with “the world needs more spinach/Not more motherfuckers like me.”

Of course, the outlooks of both artists are very different. Whereas osquinn’s engagement with social media results in an internal panopticism that leaves her in a constant state of zombie-like screaming, Pat the Bunny’s disengagement with popular culture favors a bitterly somber, anarchic alternative. Despite these differences, both artists respond to their situations with similarly self-destructive and candidly twisted lyricism that details their struggles with drug addiction and alcoholism in the face of an increasingly meaningless world.

In “More About Alcoholism” and “fake emotions”, osquinn and Pat the Bunny provide articulations of self-loathing and internalized rage. Their raw, emotional lyrics allow the listener to experience what it means  to bond with a friend over a mutual desire for destruction. Yes, it’s dark and potentially caustic, but in the moment it feels like the only candid way to express your emotions. 

Beyond their shared confrontations with the darker recesses of their beings, both hyperpop and folk punk artists also engage with radical queerness through their lyrics and aestheticism. Earlier this year (or technically last year, time is an illusion), I wrote an article about how hyperpop’s aesethetics are rooted in trans and gender-nonconforming artists pushing the boundaries of gender expression in favor of alternate ways of being. 

Similarly, as articulated in this blog post by Paige Oamek, folk punk communities “articulate anarchist and DIY (Do-It-Yourself) ideals as an alternative to capitalist art, music and ways of living…subcultural groups, like folk punk, are deviant against the traditional heteronormative masculine punk scene but also traditional LGBTQ scenes that establish that queer is meant to be seen and shown in a specific way.” 

Folk punk’s embrace of DIY culture, through spray-painted merch, self-recorded albums and a general choice to avoid the profit-based music industry altogether is at the opposite end of the overproduced, Y2K and intentionally meme-y direction of hyperpop. Both genres’ intentional stance towards pop culture push the needle forward in one way or another.  Hyperpop and folk punk are therefore rooted in some sense of emancipatory politics, even though these politics mean completely different things for both groups as hyperpop embraces the internet as next frontier and folk punk shuns technology almost entirely. But I think that’s the beauty of it. 

Though seeming to be at opposite ends of a musical dichotomy, the maximalist, internet driven hyperpop aesthetic and the anarchic, minimalist folk-punk style converge on a common goal to express queer politics through raw emotion and non-traditional sound.  Though their methods of liberation and aesthetic choices are drastically different, their mutual desire for a future beyond the world as we know it places the two in solidarity with one another.

In conclusion, hyperpop aficionados and folk-punk enthusiasts of the world unite! We have nothing to lose but the respect of some members of the indie community — but then again, why worry about them?

Mira Kudva Driskell is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. Portrait of a Gen Z on Fire runs alternate Mondays this semester. She can be reached at [email protected]