Fraxiom’s “scawy monstews and nice spwites :3” Album Cover Haunts My Nightmares

Album cover of Fraxiom's scawy monstews and nice spwites :3 with a distorted emoji face in pain on top

As a designer (read: pretentious art kid), I value album covers almost as much as the music they represent. My first entrance into hyperpop was with Dorian Electra’s “Man to Man.” Before ever listening to the track, I knew that I was going to spend the entire next year simping for a Dorian Electra follow (sorry, I had to). That cover blew my mind in a way no album cover had before. It was entirely unique and creative, and now I know that it’s hardly an outlier in that regard. In my entirely biased opinion, hyperpop is one of the most beautiful, visually stunning genres of music to ever exist.

At least if you don’t count Fraxiom’s “scawy monstews and nice spwites :3” as hyperpop. Absolutely nothing has plagued my mind and haunted my nightmares quite like that cover has been since the single was released five months ago. Visually, it goes against everything I know about design. It doesn’t just ignore virtually all basic principles of design, but it actively rejects them. Within the composition, the focal point is unclear and everything has the same level of importance, leaving the viewer with information overload and a sense of unease. But no matter how visually excruciating as this album cover is, the referential humor underlying these design choices perfectly reflects both the content and the genre.

Album cover of Fraxiom's single, scawy monstews and nice spwites :3

Album cover of Fraxiom's single “scawy monstews and nice spwites :3”

Back in ye olde early 2010s, during the height of photo filters, memes were shared, reshared, and then shared again across social media. This endless cycle of unbridled filtering and posting lead to the now iconic grainy texture and oversaturated hue. When that style inevitably became cringe a few years later, people began to make fun of it, creating ironic, “deep-fried” memes that take that style and push it to the extreme. However, there’s been somewhat of a meme revival in the past few years where people have started to make fun of those deep-fried memes with a genuine love and appreciation for their precursors.

Examples of 2010s memes and deep fried memes

Left: Classic over-filtered memes circa 2011 AD
Right: Painfully deep-fried memes circa 2016 AD

A parallel can be made to hyperpop as a whole in this regard. In the early stages of the genre, artists like QT and GFOTY took pop music and distorted it, parodying it to the fullest extent. But as hyperpop gains popularity and grows as a genre, the lines between parody and tribute are becoming more and more blurred. Many artists are reclaiming cringe culture and unashamedly like whatever they want without caring what other people think. Fraxiom’s Instagram bio even says, “i’m cringe :3 but that’s ok xD.”

This can even be extended to EDM/dubstep musician Skrillex, who created the original song “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” that Fraxiom covers with this single. Skrillex has gone through a similar cycle of being considered uncool in the past few years with a recent resurgence of recognition and popularity. Hyperpop artists like 100 Gecs, A. G. Cook, and (of course) Fraxiom have all cited Skrillex as an inspiration (or, in Cook's case, a collaborator) in their music. Fraxiom even went as far as to say they “used to fantasize about being or kissing Skrillex” in food house's “8 now”. I can't blame them.

The content on the album cover even ties back to Fraxiom’s signature style of referential humor, evident throughout the lyrics of “scawy monstews and nice spwites :3.” The cover features a paragraph about CJ from Animal Crossing, an image of buff Luigi that says “That’s how it is on this bitch of an earth,” and “ACAB,” just to name a few. Because of this borderline excessive referentiality, I can’t imagine this cover will age well, but cringe culture is dead, so who cares? If nothing else, this album cover will join the ranks of thousands of minion memes and Instagram filters all across the internet, and that’s not such a bad place to be.

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