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The Gec Apologetics

100 Gecs is undoubtedly one of the musical groups of all time. Founded in 2015, the duo became one of the more polarizing musical acts in recent memory with their 2019 album 1000 Gecs. Either they are described as a distillation of modern internet culture and the constant evolution and boundary-pushing that defines music and art, or they are described as sounding “as [dumb] as they look”. This split response is nothing new. Time and time again, the avant-garde of music has been equally praised and vilified, and it’s ultimately fruitless to criticize art that pushes aside convention, because it too, will in time become conventional.

The group belongs to the broader hyperpop movement that started in the UK in the mid-2010s. Hyperpop is a genre that could only emerge from the digital age, as the list of genres it draws from is extensive. In hyperpop, songs are unabashedly chaotic, with banging instrumentals that draw from a wide variety of inspirations to create catchy rhythms on top of which artists lay heavily autotuned lyrics that verge on nightcore and can possess a certain catchiness and charm to them if you can get past the way they deliver their lyrics. Bubblegum pop, trance, eurohouse, nu metal, J- and K-pop, emo rap, lo-fi trap, dubstep, and chiptune are just a few of the musical styles taken from a vast list of genres that are supposed to have influenced the creation of hyperpop. Essentially, it’s whatever is popular, taken to a maximalist extreme. Hyperpop is yet another genre that appeals to the strong emotions and feelings of isolation and misunderstanding that are hallmarks of the youth. They don’t need to be woken up inside, but the music of 100 Gecs still maintains that “you’ll really never know anything about me”. As music that appeals to subcultures within the modern youth, hyperpop has been inextricably linked with online LGBT communities. The heavily processed vocals of hyperpop provide transgender artists a way to feel more comfortable with their singing and overcome the dysphoria caused by their voices. The existence of hyperpop is to be expected. Give a bunch of teenagers who are uncomfortable in themselves unlimited access to pretty much all the information that’s ever been recorded in human history, and you’re going to get something bizarre.

Abrasive sound and a wacky and uncharacteristic aesthetic are the primary reasons for apprehension towards the duo and hyperpop as a whole, but sounds that challenge the norm are, in a sense, the norm of musical development. Music that pushes convention and sparks controversy has long appealed to teenagers and young adults in America. The hardcore punk scene of the 1980s featured some less-than-professional production and embraced the noise as they took up arms against yuppies and the interventionist policies that often guided foreign policy. In the twenty-first century, we’ve seen musicians whose art because expressing their emotions and personal struggles and became cringe when teenage angst met the world of social media and brought about kids who lamented how misunderstood they were on Myspace and Insta pages with profile pictures of XXXTentacion edited to be a member of the Akatsuki. Twisting the ideas of what we expect from popular music is something that should be expected and valued. Igor Stravinsky supposedly caused a riot when he debuted The Rite of Spring in 1913. Electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre’s Oxygène was rejected by many record labels and was only released after a publisher’s wife convinced him to publish the album, which would become a seminal work in the development of electronic music. Yeezus was called "musical and commercial suicide", but is now rightfully seen as one of Ye’s best albums. Whole Lotta Red is thought of quite differently around a year and a half after its release. Even music made to appeal to broad audiences draws a response of disdain when it experiences a sudden boost in popularity. K-pop, which has some of the least offensive music you’ll ever hear, was the subject of some surprising vitriol because of nebulous ideas of being formulaic or unoriginal, all while industry plants run wild in America’s music world. What is new and controversial seldom stays that way as the world of music keeps moving forward. Eventually, 100 Gecs and hyperpop will become yet another band and musical genre that the public becomes used to as the shock of their discovery wears off and fades away into the status quo.

The chaos of 100 Gecs and their rejection of previously held notions of music and sound is simply the latest iteration of our continuing rebellion against conformity through art, our seeming refusal to stick to the status quo of culture and art. Disturb the comfortable and all that. Ultimately, it is all too likely that the absurdity of hyperpop will become tame compared to whatever the music of the future will bring us.