A Hyperpop & Digicore prodigy
I think we’re all a bit sick of hearing what hobbies our peers did during lockdown in early 2020. In the beginning baking and watching tiger king were novel activities, as none of us could know how long the pandemic would actually last. These hobbies can’t help but feel inconsequential compared to the project undertaken by 17-year-old hyperpop star Ash Gutierrez, who has used his COVID lockdown boredom to carve out a music career that makes quickly made him one of the most recognized artists of his genre.
First, a refresher on what constitutes hyperpop: the extremely online origins of the microgenre date back to the 2014 birth of chipmunk-voiced British pop machine PC Music, which sparked a slew of artists who looked like more to online avatars than real artists: label frontman AG Cook, the late SOPHIE, Hannah Diamond, QT, etc., as well as less mainstream material from Charli XCX. PC Music’s characters borrowed from earlier pop ancestors like Britney Spears and Kesha, but arranged the puzzle pieces differently so the end product looked like something distorted, surreal, and vaguely dystopian. You can also trace hyperpop back to SoundCloud’s “NightCore” style, which alters the pitch of vocals and illustrates cover art via anime characters.
Like Eli Enis wrote for Vice in 2020, “The style also draws heavily from cloud rap, emo variety and lo-fi trap, as well as flamboyant electronic genres like trance, dubstep and chiptune. Sonic fusionists like 100 gecs , glitchy rappers like David Shawty and animated electronic producers like Gupi have all been described as hyperpop.Each of these artists already do unclassifiable combinations of genres, so outside of a collective allegiance to garish auto-tune, l he identity of hyperpop is less rooted in musical genetics than it is a shared philosophy of completely transcending genre, while still operating within the context of pop.”
Despite this summary, in another smart room last year Enis drew the line between hyperpop and digicore, which “drags the cadences and pathos of emo-rap into the same project file with hyperpop’s playful auto-tune and open-hearted embrace. source of a myriad of EDM beats, as well as other SoundCloud micro-scenes like Plugg and furious rap.This article has argued that Glaive is more digicore than hyperpop, although the casual listener may not know or The point: Hyperpop and its adjacent subgenres have been bubbling for a few years now, and it’s easy to see how teenagers in today’s music would feel right at home in this realm, especially s they were forced to stay inside for months and plug deeper into the Matrix.
Back to swordsmanship: The North Carolina native was born in 2005 and started making music in his bedroom as the pandemic took hold, uploading tracks that were equal parts inspired by Midwestern emo, rap SoundCloud and the 100 gecs maximalist poppers. “Glaive”, so you know, is the name of a video game weapon Dark Souls III, or so I read. This is where I confess that I literally know nothing about video games! Cool name, though! Soon, Glaive collaborated with other genre artists, connecting with them through the Discord instant messaging platform. To add another feather to his cap, glaive started popping up on Spotify’s official hyperpop playlist, which is currently home to a crooning midtempo ballad called “icarus.” (Other artists currently in the mix are Alice Glass, Ericdoa, midwxst, Laura Les and aldn.)
By the end of 2020, glaive had released a handful of singles, like the elegantly layered “life is pain”, the buzzing “astrid”, and the booping “sick”. Also that year, he was signed to Interscope on a short-term deal, who have since produced four EPs: 2020’s cypress grove2021 All dogs go to heaven and then i will be happy (with Ericdoa), and last month Old dog, new trickswhich is technically a deluxe reissue of All dogs go to heaven plus five new tracks, including the aforementioned “icarus”. Obviously, writer’s block wasn’t an issue.
Today Glaive is in the middle of her first headlining tour and is soaking up loads of praise from places like Molten and the New York Timeswhere Jon Caramanica writes, “Tougher than arm wrestling and more fun than loop-the-loop, [‘i wanna slam my head against the wall’] is an evolutionary leap for the glaive young hyperpop star, who finds the happy medium between the chaos of the stage and the sweetness of pop.
It’s pretty easy to see where the hype is coming from (excuse the pun). Glaive has the do-it-yourself/bedroom pop appeal of early Billie Eilish, who began writing and producing songs in the comfort of her tiny LA dorms. Unlike Eilish, however, Glaive has a rags-to-riches story for him (much like a fellow musician and current Euphoria star Dominic Fike), making other prospects feel like if he can be pulled from obscurity with his talent, so could they.
Glaive’s urgent voice also has the genre-fluid quality that Post Malone arguably made popular in the 10s, and which extends to song structures, which sound like the musical equivalent of a Picasso. A Picasso very, very in line.
The tracks on Old dogs, new tricks are all under three minutes, which makes sense, given what I’ve heard about how the internet is eroding our collective attention spans. Whatever genre label you want to give it, Glaive is definitely adept at layering multiple genres like trap, hip-hop, pop-punk, and rock with relative ease. Each song has an edgy quality, as if the sword had put in sugar and caffeine before recording. (He’s already talked about suffering from anxiety, saying LineOfBestFit“I’m a nervous person.”)
Glaive is what happens when you pair that edginess with the technological industriousness of Gen Z. Not only is he part of a generation that draws musical influences from a mess of decades and genres, but his songs sound like the sound equivalent of a particularly well-made TikTok video. I had just had a conversation with another friend in his thirties, and we were losing our minds about how platforms like TikTok have turned kids into professional-grade video editors. DIY in music is nothing new, but Glaive and others like him are essentially pushing the very idea of DIY into a whole new place at lightning speed. It has to be all the big labels can do to keep up.