Alt Kids and Algorithms: How Hyperpop Has Ascended on TikTok

Mainly because every creator on the app has the ability to pair their videos with songs, the rise of TikTok has led to the growth of multiple music artists. TikTok is known for its trends with similar formats, dances, and joke setups with those who use the same audio. Every trend is accompanied by a song, and we have seen a range of different artists from a range of genres rise through TikTok trends. Hyperpop artists, however, have an edge. They have beats, chaotic and lively energy, distinct aesthetics and visually striking elements.

Tik tok styled graphic of 100 gecs cmten and xix

Graphic by Zoe Axelrod

Hyperpop songs such as “NEVER MET!” By Cmten and Glitch Gum, “stupid horse” by 100 gecs, and “Kismet” by XIX have blown up on the platform, with each having their own affiliated trends. For example, in a popular audio, the line “Molly rocks in my green tea” from “Kismet” was paired with the energetic (and iconic) Lil Darkie lyric “P-P-Pussy boy g-get out my way!” The videos recorded to this audio usually include the creators in one outfit and then sitting in a chair or flipping a shoe on the beat drop, which then reveals a shot of them in a different outfit with an entirely different aesthetic. There are 1.5 million videos made with that sound, showing how the song transcended its genre and target audience and was able to reach a range of new listeners through the trend.

The first advantage hyperpop songs have is the fact that TikTok favors songs that have heavy beats to make transitions or easy dances to, leading them to be pushed forward through the algorithm, eventually reaching creators who have a huge audience. In the case of “NEVER MET!,” we saw the likes of Noah Schnapp, Lil Huddy, and Loren Gray, who each have upwards of 800k followers, making videos with the song. Each creator made entirely different themed TikToks to the audio, however, this led to a hyperpop classic being pushed through the algorithm, reaching people ranging from artists, dancers, comedians and more.

In line with the algorithm pushing forward songs and similar styles and formats stemming along with them, we also see that the artists see value in their songs by trying the trends out or creating trends themselves. It gives the artists a way of promoting their own music that doesn’t come off as cliché, and, in the case of hyperpop, this is vital — everything about the genre is unconventional. Artists outside of hyperpop do the same; we see them creating trends to their own songs. The most prominent example is Tessa Violet, who created the transition trend that was paired with her own song “Wishful Drinking.”

A huge edge hyperpop has is its tight-knit community and how that community has spread to a range of platforms. On TikTok, there are a range of communities, coined as the “sides of TikTok.” The predominant side that hyperpop is found on is “alt TikTok,” where members of the community include the punk community, those who dress in alternative fashion, and people who, most of the time, “deep fry” their videos by color picking and oversaturating to make their videos look psychedelic. The artists are all colorful and dramatic, making their aesthetics easy to pair with the colorful and dramatic aesthetic that is affiliated with alt TikTok.

The hyperpop community is composed of young visionaries who are able to understand their audience and build their image through social media. Most of these artists have colorful and striking images that are a constant theme in their marketing. They have distinct iconographies, which makes them individual. Individuality is so prevalent in TikTok, which relies heavily on imagery. This dramatic and psychedelic imagery is all in line with “alt TikTok,” which employs those same features.

Since most artists in the genre are also younger, there is a sense of relatability between themselves and the audience. This relatability links to the fact this generation has grown up with internet personalities or artists at their fingertips, making them feel closer than they actually are (a behavior that tends to be defined as a parasocial relationship). Platforms like TikTok rely heavily on the idea of parasocial relationships because creators on the app are given a direct means of communicating and connecting with their audience, which only helps them gain traction on the app.

TikTok is only aiding the growth of the hyperpop community and it’s easy to see a future where TikTok will be a main avenue for the discovery of hyperpop artists.

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