Illustration of That Kid by Daisy Daniel's

That Kid Exemplifies the Queer Aesthetics of Hyperpop

While the lyrics and sonic presence of his latest remix album, 'Crush: The Remixes,' speak to the LGBT+ experience, you don’t have to be queer to enjoy the music.
October 7, 2020
7 mins read

If you don’t know much about hyperpop, diving headfirst into the genre can be a bit overwhelming. The vast majority of songs are sonically abrasive and are sometimes too experimental to be enjoyed by fans of mainstream pop. However, the aspect of hyperpop that is often most polarizing to those outside the scene is its blatant and purposeful queerness. That Kid’s new remix album, “Crush: The Remixes,” is a flawless case study in the queer aesthetics and culture that characterize hyperpop.

As a genre, hyperpop is sonically identifiable by its heavy use of electronic synths and vocal modulation. It is also known for pink-and-purple, chrome-and-bubblegum aesthetics that are exaggeratedly feminine and queer. Most hyperpop artists are queer, and the same goes for most hyperpop fans.

That Kid is no exception; he is a young Black self-identified twink and a proud member of the LGBT+ community. In his music, he leans heavily into the artistically trashier side of glamor and glitz, and his lyrics are often very sexual in nature. While some people find the sexuality that seeps into hyperpop lyrics to be shocking, it is important to consider the fact that queer identities are contingent upon sex and sexuality. Hyperpop is a space where LGBT+ people can tell their stories, whether in fun or serious ways, and find community.

While hyperpop might be primarily by and for queer people, there is no reason why those outside of the community cannot participate in and enjoy the music. “Crush: The Remixes” is exhilarating and can be appreciated by anyone who likes the grittier side of pop. Although there are only four songs on the album, its length does not in any way diminish the project’s artistic value.

The album’s opener, “Go Fast – Fraxiom Remix,” is my personal favorite. It starts with orchestral strings, and sinks into a discordant, eerie haze of layered voices. Suddenly, at the one-minute mark, the dissonance resolves out of nowhere, and is instantly backed by heavy bass and a guttural beat. The effect of this unexpected transition is chilling and feels like the music that would play as an evil, hot villain succeeds in burning down everything the protagonist loves. Although the original song is highly sexual, and despite the fact that Fraxiom is another openly queer creator, “Go Fast – Fraxiom Remix” is probably the least explicitly queer track on the album. Regardless, it is still distinctly hyperpop.

Track number two is “7 Minutes in Heaven – Sleepycatt Remix,” a disco-esque reworking of one of That Kid’s most electric songs to date. The remixed version features a catchy drumline accentuated by modulated vocals and is more laid-back than the original. It sounds like being faded at a club, squinting through the vapor of a smoke machine and wishing you could take your heels off to dance freely.

The lyrics, such as “This guy walked in and you know that he’s lookin’ like a model… He touched me here, I touched him there,” are very sexually charged and characteristic of hyperpop. That Kid’s feminine male voice makes the scenario he describes unmistakably queer, taking the song from club jam to gay club jam.

Another queer story comes in the form of “Taco Bell – Count Baldor Remix,” the third song on the album. The subject of the track is hooking up with a boy in a Taco Bell, which is emphasized by a literal bell clang as well as the sound of chewing a taco shell at the 37-second mark. It is steeped in exaggeration, both lyrically and sonically, to the point where it seems almost comedic; hyperpop is known for toeing the line between art and parody, also known in the larger queer community as “camp.” When viewed through this lens, the song is nothing short of genius, from the unapologetically lewd lyrics to the corny sound effects.

It is difficult to both start and finish strong, but That Kid and his collaborators pull it off on “Crush: The Remixes.” The closer to the album is titled “Captain – Krypt Remix,” and it is in my opinion the second strongest song of the project. That Kid’s voice is pitched up and warped throughout the whole song, and is backed by an unrelenting, dreamy synth and gentle bass.

The sweet, earnest lyrics repeating “And I wanna be with you, wanna be with you” work beautifully with the ethereal synth sounds to create a sultry-yet-sweet bedroom vibe. That Kid asks in the bridge, “Baby boy, do you think you feel it too?” yet again tying the song inextricably to queerness. There’s not a ton of variation in the song, but instead of creating monotony, it produces a trancelike effect. It is a gorgeous, serene ending to an exciting album.

In the ever-evolving hyperpop scene, new artists are constantly popping up and fading away. It is difficult for newer artists to become and remain relevant. Similarly, the fact that the genre is so niche makes original, unique content uncommon among smaller artists. That Kid manages to create music that adheres to the fun, plastick-y hyperpop tradition while also remaining distinctive in his own right. As a Black, queer artist, his creativity shines brightly in a genre built for the marginalized. In the hyperpop world, underdogs are king, and “Crush: The Remixes” showcases exactly what puts That Kid on the track to becoming hyperpop royalty.

McKenna Uzelac, Columbia University

Writer Profile

McKenna Uzelac

Columbia University
Psychology and Women & Gender Studies

McKenna Uzelac is a 21-year-old Columbia student who is passionate about social justice, pop music, and fantasy novels. In her free time, she can be found watching "New Girl" and hanging out with her dog, Jack.

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