glaive Surfs The Hyperpop Multiverse
I think we all got a little tired of hearing what hobbies our peers took up during lockdown in early 2020. At first, baking sourdough and watching Tiger King were novel activities, since none of us could possibly know how long the pandemic would actually last. Those pastimes can’t help but feel inconsequential compared to the project undertaken by 17-year-old Ash Gutierrez, aka hyperpop breakout star glaive, who used his COVID lockdown boredom to forge a music career that is quickly making him one of the most recognized artists in his genre.
First, a refresher on what constitutes hyperpop: The microgenre’s extremely online origins date back to the 2014 birth of UK chipmunk-voiced pop machine PC Music, which unleashed a slew of performers that appeared more like online avatars than real artists: label leader A.G. Cook, the late SOPHIE, Hannah Diamond, QT, etc., as well as Charli XCX’s less mainstream material. The PC Music characters borrowed from earlier pop progenitors like Britney Spears and Kesha but arranged the puzzle pieces differently so that the end product would resemble something warped, surreal, and vaguely dystopian. You can also trace hyperpop back to SoundCloud’s “NightCore” style, which pitch-shifts vocals and illustrates cover artwork via anime characters.
As Eli Enis wrote for Vice in 2020, “The style also pulls heavily from rap of the cloud, emo and lo-fi trap variety, 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 those artists are already making unclassifiable combinations of genres, so outside of a collective allegiance to gaudy auto-tune, hyperpop’s identity is less rooted in musical genetics than it is a shared ethos of transcending genre altogether, while still operating within the context of pop.”
Despite that summary, in another smart piece last year Enis drew the line between hyperpop and digicore, which “drags emo-rap’s cadences and pathos into the same project file with hyperpop’s playful auto-tune and its open-source embrace of myriad EDM beats, as well as other SoundCloud micro-scenes like Plugg and rage rap.” That article made the case that glaive is more digicore than hyperpop, though the casual listener might not know or care about such distinctions. The point: Hyperpop and its adjacent subgenres have been bubbling for a few years now, and it’s easy to see how today’s music teens would feel right at home in this realm, especially if they were forced to stay indoors for months on end and plug themselves deeper into the Matrix.
Back to glaive: The North Carolina native was born in 2005 and started making music in his bedroom as the pandemic set in, uploading tracks that were equal parts inspired by Midwestern emo, SoundCloud rap, and maximalist poppers 100 gecs. “Glaive,” so you know, is the name of a weapon from the video game Dark Souls III, or so I read. This is where I admit that I know literally nothing about video games! Cool name, though! Soon, glaive got collaborating with other genre performers, connecting with them through instant messaging platform Discord. To add another feather in his cap, glaive started popping up on Spotify’s official hyperpop playlist, which currently houses a crooning, midtempo ballad called “icarus.” (Other artists currently in the mix are Alice Glass, Ericdoa, midwxst, Laura Les, and aldn.)
By late 2020, glaive had released a handful of singles, like the elegantly layered “life is pain,” the thudding “astrid,” and the booping, looping “sick.” Also that year, he got signed by Interscope for a short-term deal, which has since produced four EPs: 2020’s Cypress Grove, 2021’s All Dogs Go To Heaven and Then I’ll Be Happy (with Ericdoa), and last month’s Old Dog, New Tricks, which is technically a deluxe reissue of All Dogs Go To Heaven plus five new tracks, including the aforementioned “icarus.” Clearly writer’s block hasn’t been an issue.
Today, glaive is in the midst of his first headlining tour and absorbing oodles of praise from places like Fader and the New York Times, where Jon Caramanica writes, “More tense than a tug of war and more fun than a loop-the-loop, [‘i wanna slam my head against the wall’] is an evolutionary leap for the young hyperpop star glaive, who is finding the middle ground between the scene’s mayhem and the sweetness of pop.”
It’s pretty easy to see where the hype (excuse the pun) is coming from. Glaive has the DIY/bedroom pop appeal of early Billie Eilish, who started out by writing and producing songs from the comfort of her tiny sleeping quarters in Los Angeles. Unlike Eilish, though, glaive has a rags-to-riches story going for him (kind of like fellow musician and current Euphoria star Dominic Fike), giving other hopefuls the impression that if he can be plucked from obscurity on sheer talent, so could they.
Glaive’s urgent-sounding vocals also have the genre-fluid quality that Post Malone arguably made popular in the ’10s, and that extends to the song structures, which sound like the musical equivalent to a Picasso. A very, very online Picasso.
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. Whichever genre tag you want to give him, glaive is definitely adept at layering on multiple genres like trap, hip-hop, pop-punk, and rock with relative ease. Each song has a jittery quality, as if glaive mainlined sugar and caffeine prior to recording. (He’s spoken before about suffering from anxiety, telling LineOfBestFit, “I’m a nervous person.”)
Glaive is what happens when you match that twitchiness with Gen Z’s tech-savvy industriousness. Not only is he part of a generation that is pulling musical influences from a mess of decades and genres, his songs sound like the sonic equivalent to an especially well-made TikTok video. I was just having a conversation with another 30-something friend, and we were losing it over how platforms like TikTok have turned kids into full-on, professional-grade video editors. DIY in music is nothing new, but glaive and others like him are basically pushing the very idea of DIY to a totally fresh place at warp speed. It must be all major labels can do to keep up.
Chris DeVille here with your weekly chart update. The Encanto soundtrack continues its reign over the Billboard 200 this week, but there’s some other interesting action in the top 10. As Billboard reports, Encanto earned 110,000 equivalent album units, including 17,000 in sales, to secure a fifth straight week at #1 — the most for a soundtrack since Frozen spent 13 weeks on top in 2014. After Gunna at #2 comes a #3 debut for Yo Gotti’s CM10: Free Game via 46,000 units including 15,000 in sales, making it the highest-charting album of Gotti’s career.
After Morgan Wallen at #4 comes Mitski with a #5 debut for Laurel Hell. It’s her first album to crack the top 40, and it did so via 36,000 units, including 24,000 in sales — enough to make Laurel Hell the top-selling album of the week. That’s wild to think about for those of us who were vibing to Mitski in the rain at SXSW seven years ago. But also, no artist sold more than 24,000 albums last week? That’s bleak. Vinyl accounts for 17,000 of Mitski’s sales; that’s the largest vinyl sales week for any album released in 2022 so far.
The rest of the top 10: The Weeknd at #6, Drake at #7, the Weeknd again at #8 (with his greatest hits album), Adele at #9, and Doja Cat at #10. The Weeknd has had two albums in the top 10 for five straight weeks; he’s the first artist to do that since Pentatonix during the 2016-2017 holiday season.
Encanto is still enjoying an historic run on the Hot 100 too. The movie’s biggest breakout hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” — credited to Carolina Gaitán, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Rhenzy Feliz, Diane Guerrero, Stephanie Beatriz, and the Encanto cast — remains at #1 for a third straight week. According to Billboard, that three-week run matches Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Sting’s 1994 Three Musketeers smash “All For Love” (coming soon to our Number Ones column) for the longest run at #1 by a song from a Disney movie, animated or non-animated. (“Bruno” already surpassed the tenure of “A Whole New World,” the only other #1 hit from a Disney cartoon.) It’s the first time a soundtrack and one of its songs have simultaneously topped the album and singles charts for three weeks since Dangerous Minds and Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” (also coming soon to The Number Ones) in 1995.
It’s been a few months since we’ve seen a big-splash debut on the chart, but Nicki Minaj and Lil Baby have one with “Do We Have A Problem?” The track enters at #2, becoming Minaj’s 20th top-10 hit and Baby’s ninth. It also ties his Drake collabs “Wants And Needs” and “Girls Want Girls” as his highest-charting single. The song’s arrival bumps all the usual suspects down a notch: Adele’s “Easy On Me” to #3, Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves” to #4, the Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber’s “Stay” to #5, Kodak Black’s “Super Gremlin” to #6, GAYLE’s “abcdefu” to #7, and Ed Sheeran’s “Shivers” to #8.
Bieber’s “Ghost” climbs to a new peak of #9 this week, becoming his 26th top-10 hit. Finally, Jessica Darrow’s Encanto banger “Surface Pressure” falls to #10. With that, I’ll turn you back over to Rachel.
Ed Sheeran – “The Joker And The Queen” (Feat. Taylor Swift)
Let me state for the record that Ed Sheeran’s music reminds me of that time when I was a kid and I ate too much milk chocolate on Valentine’s Day and thus never wanted to eat milk chocolate again. But I can get over myself enough to admit that he is momentarily redeemed on the sweetly nostalgic (updated) “The Joker And The Queen” because: Taylor Swift. What can I say, they duet very well.
mxmtoon – “mona lisa”
On this plucky, strings-laden tune, 21-year-old Maia, aka mxmtoon, expresses a wish to be someone’s muse. I’m normally not a huge fan of ukulele, because it reminds me of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and how it got co-opted by the advertising industry to sell everything from laundry detergent to cars. But I think it works here!
Maren Morris – “Background Music”
The latest offering from Morris’ forthcoming Humble Quest is a heartfelt, not-too-sappy love ballad that I could see being the, uh, background music for whatever wedding you’re headed to next.
Internet Money & 24kGoldn – “Options”
Against a thudding beat and crisp handclaps, Internet Money and 24kGoldn ask a two-timing love interest, “If you had options/ Then why’d you even stick around/ Long enough for me to find out?” The hook here is so catchy, I kind of wish “Options” went longer than two minutes!
Saweetie – “Closer” (Feat. H.E.R)
I know H.E.R. has collaborated with all types of pop stars and rappers at this point, but somewhere on her quest for an EGOT Hollywood decided she would be the de-facto songwriter for feminist-lite biopics, while others are still convinced she’s an industry plant. All of that said, it’s a nice change to hear H.E.R. cut loose a little on this sparkling, disco-adjacent bop with Saweetie.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Avril Lavigne postponed her UK and EU tour to 2023. [Instagram]
- “[Elton John] was brutally honest with me,” Charlie Puth told Kelly Clarkson. “He told me my 2019 music sucked, and I agree with him. It was not good.” [YouTube]
- WILLOW announced her debut novel Black Shield Maiden. [Instagram]
- WILLOW dropped out of Billie Eilish’s tour “due to production limitations.” [Twitter]
- Machine Gun Kelly and — you guessed it — WILLOW released a video for “emo girl.” [YouTube]
- Machine Gun Kelly brought out Halsey, Travis Barker, Trippie Redd, and, yeah, WILLOW at the Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest. “I used to work at Chipotle,” he said. “If you work at Chipotle right now, just know that you can do it like I did.” [Billboard]
- Nelly apologized for a video of him receiving oral sex that was posted on his social media. [TMZ]
- Lizzo’s new song “If You Love Me” soundtracked Google Pixel’s Super Bowl commercial. [YouTube]
- Justin Bieber was photographed in the studio with Tory Lanez. [Instagram]
- President Biden invited Billie Eilish and Finneas to the White House. [Twitter]
- Chris Young leads the ACM Awards nominations with seven. Blake Lively got two nods for Taylor Swift’s “I Bet You Think About Me (Taylor’s Version)” video. [ET]
- Tove Lo released a video for “How Long.” [YouTube]
- Kelly Clarkson covered “breadwinner” by Kacey Musgraves. [YouTube]
- Shawn Mendes will voice the titular crocodile in Sony’s adaptation of the children’s book Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. [Deadline]
- Disney+’s Beauty And The Beast prequel was cancelled three days after announcing it cast Rita Ora. [Vulture]
- BLACKPINK’s Rosé shared covers of Oasis and Coldplay. [NME]
- Adele made a surprise appearance judging G-A-Y’s Porn Idol event in London. [Daily Mail]
- Miley Cyrus performed “Never Be Me” live for the first time at Super Bowl Music Fest. [YouTube]
- Drake led a crowd singalong to “I Will Always Love You” at his Super Bowl Homecoming Weekend concert. [Twitter]
- NBC’s Eurovision-inspired American Song Contest will premiere 3/21, hosted by Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson. [TV Line]
- Lil Dicky starred in the Gopuff Quartertime Show during the Super Bowl. [YouTube]