An illustration of Dylan Brady and Laura Les from the group, 100 gecs
You won't be able to stop listening to their music. (Illustration by Shelly Freund, Elon University)

100 Gecs Tests the Limits of Electronic Music and Pop Culture

In a bold statement about the absurdity of the current music industry, this musical duo takes their sound to satirical extremes.

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An illustration of Dylan Brady and Laura Les from the group, 100 gecs

In a bold statement about the absurdity of the current music industry, this musical duo takes their sound to satirical extremes.

100 gecs is an electronic music duo that has exploded in popularity in the last year, especially with their chart-topping hit “ringtone,” featuring pop idol Charli XCX, and their studio album, “1000 gecs.” The group’s two members, Dylan Brady and Laura Les, both hail from St. Louis, Missouri, but are now based in Los Angeles and Chicago respectively. Their musical style, which they label “experimental,” might also be described as electronic pop on steroids.

The lyrics of 100 gecs’ music takes words straight from the mouth of pop culture itself and lights them on fire. They cover every pop culture trope in the book, centering especially around moneymaking and spending, fame, the fast life and hookup culture.

Their hit single “stupid horse” centers its lyrical content around the wordplay between “horse” and “whores.” The song features aggressive beat drops, excessive use of synthesizers, tempos over 120 beats per minute and annoyingly catchy melody lines. As listeners, we have to wonder, are these people serious? In short, the answer is no. As a duo, 100 gecs is a satire of the entire music industry.

Experimental music is usually defined as any musical output that begins with a question and explores it by pushing ideas to extremes or refuting musical norms. In the case of 100 gecs, their music most certainly pushes electro-pop to its limits and invents new extremes. The overproduced synthesizers and extremely auto-tuned voices refute the idea that there is such a thing as “overproduced” music, spiting critics who favor natural acoustics.

100 gecs also pushes the boundaries of the digital age. Though the duo might be classified as a band, they actually produce music collaboratively from separate locations, Les from Chicago and Brady from LA. Each artist builds upon and edits the music that the other has produced on the digital music-making software Logic Pro, which is popular among at-home creators and DJs.

Perhaps their songwriting approach of building on previous song files is responsible for the enormous escalation of electronics that characterizes 100 gecs. A creator can change a file by making it faster, making the beat drops more intense, making the lyrics more absurd or making the voices more distorted. The question 100 gecs is perpetually exploring is, how far can we take it?

However, this question is all in good fun. Though 100 gecs is clearly satirizing the tropes that sonically and lyrically characterize current popular electronic music, they are not necessarily hating on it. Their songs seem to say that if their listeners like blowing money, then the pair will make a song about just that and nothing else. And if the audience likes beat drops, then they will make songs that have extra intense beat drops.

Rather than place themselves on a pedestal with a biting critique of the pop genre, 100 gecs simply embraces the absurdity of it all. 100 gecs is part of the crazy music industry; they are aware of its insanity and determined to be the most outrageous musicians out there. In the same way that their collaborative style escalates from existing music files, the concept behind their music as a whole is an escalation of pop music gimmicks in general.

100 gecs also satirizes the repetitive and perhaps shallow lyrics that saturate America’s Top 40 hits. Singers and rappers often assert dominance or take digs at each other in their lyrics, right? For example, the hit single “I’m the One” by pop icons DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Quavo, Lil Wayne and Chance the Rapper features lyrics that brag about wealth, strength and sexual desirability: “You’re lookin’ at the truth/ The money never lie, no/ I’m the one, yeah, I’m the one.”

The 100 gecs song “money machine” takes the idea of asserting dominance lyrically to the absurd: “Hey, you little piss baby/ You think you’re so f—ing cool? Huh?/ You think you’re so f—ing tough?/ You talk a lotta big game for someone with such a small truck.”

The pretend aggression of the lyrics amplifies the sentiments of pop songs like “I’m the One” — I am richer and cooler than the rest of you! While other pop songs might weave these claims into clever rhymes and metaphors, 100 gecs screams it in your face. Hey, if that’s the message, they may as well say it explicitly, right?

Brady and Les are 26 and 25 years old respectively. Beyond their experimentation with the tones of current pop music, the duo embodies the cultural atmosphere of millennials and Generation Z. The majority of their songs last less than two and a half minutes, catering to the short attention spans of the overstimulated internet generations.

Speaking to the same overstimulation, 100 gecs is a sonic ambush that cannot be ignored, even by the distractible multitaskers of the digital age. The music is so dense with gimmicks that listeners can’t help but pay attention.

Their performance aesthetic is equally in-your-face, featuring strobe-lit stage floors, neon clothing and occasionally some life-size horse cutouts. The duo makes their presence impossible to ignore.

The artists’ social media presence certainly aligns with their spirit of playfulness but drops the overproduced quality held by their music. Their Instagram account features only 50 posts, including an unfiltered photo of the pair in front of a Christmas tree and a graphics rendering of the same scene. All of this makes it evident that the group doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

The music of Generation Z is overwhelmingly electronic. The internet is ludicrously packed with clickbait. The iPhone gives us instant gratification. 100 gecs sees this, laughs about it and then goes with it. To the extreme. One thing is for sure: Wherever this generation takes popular culture, musicians like 100 gecs will be there leading the charge. So yeah, 100 gecs is messing with us, but they’re also with us.

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