There are many styles of music. Pop, hip-hop, R&B, electronic and rock, to name a few. Within these genres are multiple sub-genres like indie rock, trap, dance and electro-pop. While genres provide a genuine attempt at categorizing music into distinctive sounds, sometimes musical styles do not easily fall into clean-cut categories. Electro-pop can be described as, “electronic pop music characterized by a distinctive low frequency synthesizer sound.”
Some notable electro-pop artists include Kraftwerk, Lady Gaga, Owl City, Grimes and Lights. While these artists all have distinctive sounds and styles, they’ve been categorized under the umbrella term of “electro-pop,” among other genres. With this in mind, some artists are creating experimental sounds which can be categorized as “electro-pop” and other overlapping genres, yet are still distinctive in their own respect. Here are a few of those artists.
Singaporean, London-based artist, yeule (Nat Ćmiel) has been producing mesmerizing and immersive tracks since her self-titled EP, “Yeule,” released in 2014. She’s also released EP, “Coma” and full-length album “Serotonin II,” among others.
On tracks like, “I Miss You This Much” her voice is but a soft whisper, as if it was only another instrument among the many electronic sounds and words layered into her music. In “Pixel Affection,” the deliberate addition of gritty glitch sounds blends with soft synthesizers to give yeule a sound that captures the essence of cyber electro-pop and simultaneously crafts soothing melodies.
Broadly categorized under “electronic,” yeule’s music often draws upon internet culture as she has expressed her interest in “cyberspace and how it affects youth [especially] as a form of escapism.” Additionally, yeule explored how the internet shapes identities and fueled her creation of multiple personas by centering the music video for “Pixel Affection” around the death of online avatars.
“Pocky Boy” is one of yeule’s most notable releases. It’s an ethereal electronic piece where voices echo through reverbs of seemingly endless synths and murmurs, mimicking “voices in her head,” as the lyrics suggest.
Yeule expanded on her ideas behind “Pocky Boy” by explaining that “[she] was diving into ideas of delusions, illusions, and the inability to grasp being different selves in the memory of others. In the video, [she] was projecting an ego death almost — [she] wanted to kill the self that [she] had created in [her] own head.”
Yeule began to perform in Singapore at age 15 and has an upcoming show in London on March 25.
Clairo (Claire E. Cottrill) has been working with music since 2012 and distinguished herself with her single, “Pretty Girl,” which contrasts low, relaxed vocals with upbeat keyboards and drums. It was her first pop song and since then, her music has been described as “lo-fi” and “electro-pop.” Clairo’s recent debut-album “Immunity” is a wonderful blend of soft indie rock and electro-pop.
She gracefully merges classic instruments with electronica in songs like, “I Wouldn’t Ask You.” It starts slow, soft and somber. The mellow piano keeps the song almost completely acoustic, until mid-way through, when the piano turns to synthesizer and more electronic beats are introduced. The piece builds up as Clairo’s layered voice sings smoothly until the piece ends back at the piano.
On “Closer To You,” Clairo experiments with the sound of her voice, auto-tuning layers of echoes on top of minimal rising electronics. She explained her use of auto-tune via Twitter: “[the song] is about not being able to communicate or get through to someone emotionally because they’re choosing to not let you in [and] in order for me to communicate that through the instrumental, [I] thought auto-tune would be the ‘wall’ that [I] was talking to this person through.”
Clairo’s next performance will be at the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival and is touring through North America until August.
Yaeji (Kathy Yaeji Lee) has released two EPs since 2016: “Yaeji” and “EP2,” along with singles, “Therapy” and “One More.” Her style has been described as a blend of “house, pop and hip-hop.” She’s a DJ and artist who learned to produce through trial and error.
Yaeji’s sound invites intimacy, comfort and excitement in songs like, “Raingurl,” which she described as “the definition of introspection at the club.” Her fluidity is demonstrated on tracks such as, “Therapy,” where Yaeji manipulates the tone of her voice. It falls low, deep and distorted leading up to the high-pitched beat drop, which shifts the song from being eerily slow to fast and upbeat.
On other songs, like “Drink I’m Sippin On,” her voice coos through rave-style beats as she sings of blurry fast-paced lives, confidence and accepting misunderstandings.
Yaeji jumps between Korean and English on her tracks so effortlessly, it’s barely noticed. When asked why she switches between languages, Yaeji responded: “[Korean] is a very angular, textured sound [and that she] was very much focused on the phonetics of it, tied in with cadence and flow.”
In an interview with The Fader, Yaeji expressed that as a Korean-American, she felt happy to be a positive force in her community, though “sometimes [she feels] like people are too hyper-aware of it” because there’s an emphasis on “something that’s just a part of [her].”
Yaeji will be performing at Coachella 2020 on April 10 and 17.
4. Sea Oleena
Sea Oleena (Charlotte Oleena) is a Canadian alternative-indie, “dream-pop” artist. Her music is hauntingly dreamy, atmospheric and melancholic. She has released albums, “Sea Oleena,” “Sleeplessness” and “Shallow” since 2010.
“Southbound” is an ambient track that mixes slow piano and melodic reverbing vocals to create a song like fog; hazy and easy to get lost in. Her whispering voice provides vulnerable and metaphoric lyrics as she sings, “if I’m a corner that the dark backs into, you’re the darkness that this corner clings to” among the string instruments in “If I’m.”
While Sea Oleena currently has no plans for touring, her albums are available for purchase on Bandcamp.
Music is difficult to categorize, however, what these artists have in common is their ability to craft worlds in their whimsical electro-pop pieces, creating soothing songs which can be escaped into. While falling under the broad term, “electro-pop” their sounds are fresh and distinguished, feeling new with each listen.
Michelle is an emerging writer and avid storyteller. Michelle is passionate about pop culture, typefaces and learning about how the media shapes our perception of the world.