There’s a kind of natural deconstruction of form that happens when an artist from the midwest sets out to write pop songs, and even more so when they embark on the journey of turning those pop songs into a pop career.
That Kid sits in the middle of that musical purgatory, straddled between the industry grindset of Los Angeles and the hipster creativity of New York where the rest of his collaborators live, explaining to PAPER, "I do have music friends of course, but specifically in this scene, I only know one person who's here, so I do feel very far removed from a lot of it, but also I think that's probably for the best because I like to keep my peace."
That sense of isolation fed into his latest mixtape, Superstar, out everywhere today — a cacophonous assortment of collaborations synthesized into one coherent project with an energy so undeniable that it’ll turn anyone skeptical of its hyperpop framework into a full on stan in a lightning fast 35 minutes and 54 seconds.
That hyperpop framework, as present as it is on his latest project, is one that’s been dubbed onto him and his contemporaries in an act of critical hindsight — a product of commercial interests that demand even the most forward-thinking and paradigm-shattering of artists be placed in some sort of box, however flimsy the four sides may be.
"I'm a really serious person, but I'm also humorous at the same time. I think both can exist."
That Kid sees himself more among the stars than he does down here on the hyperpop planet, explaining, "I feel like I'm in more of the weird in-between because I do feel like I do lean way more into the pop than the hyper side. Even when I started in 2018 with ‘Dial Tone,’ I was just making pop music. That was before people were calling it hyperpop and everything. To me, I was making a pop song, but I don't mind being called hyperpop at all. I embrace that. If people find out that the easiest way to digest my music is by calling it hyperpop, then so be it."
The hyperpop realm comes with its own set of recently set standards and assumptions, established more so by the critics and populous consuming it than by the artists pushing the boundaries themselves.
The early foundations set up by A.G. Cook and the rest of PC Music in 2013 both satirized and embraced pop culture. That Kid evolved out of that paradigm, and while it’s a duality he still embraces, it’s not one that negates how meaningful his craft actually is.
"I feel like a lot of people — especially with the space I navigate — they're expecting my music to be on more of the technical end of things where it’s like I'm not taking any of it seriously. No, I'm very serious about everything. I'm a really serious person, but I'm also humorous at the same time. I think both can exist."
Speaking to this duality, he says, “I feel like with this project, I just wanted it to be really funny and wild. I feel like a lot of the lines are kind of humorous to me in a way. Like who starts a song with the line, 'That Kid with the body like a grown woman?’ Like that's a stupid line."
That comedy even seeps its way into the production, with That Kid opting for the most nonsensical and radical textures possible, redefining what pop music can be in the process.
"With this project, I wanted to take everything to the extreme. If I'm going to have a bunch of features, it's going to be more than half the project. If I'm going to have autotune, it's going to be way harder than usual on some of the songs. It's like that kind of stuff. I want it to feel really extreme. I definitely feel like I am in some ways — even in just everyday life — a bit of a maximalist."
On September 27, they’re going to be taking their maximalist lifestyle and music all the way to the most maximalist of places: New York City. They’ll be performing their first headlining show alongside Miss Madeline at Elsewhere, the Bushwick venue that has been one of the first to fully embrace the oncoming hyperpop wave, having already booked many of the key figures surrounding That Kid.
"With this project, I wanted to take everything to the extreme."
That history of Elsewhere in the hyperpop space has deeply cemented itself into That Kid’s mind, giving him a clear first impression.
"The venue just has this really cool energy to it," he says. "I've watched so many clips of different artists performing live at Elsewhere and it's always really cool artists that I'm into, so I get to feel like I'm part of a little crew that performs there even though it's not really a crew and it's not really a huge deal, but it is kind of a huge deal because it is my first ever headlining show."
He’s anxiously awaiting the day of the show, adding, "I'm scared out of my mind. I'm terrified, I'm also excited. I feel like it's been a long time coming and I'll be happy if 10 people show up. It's my first time ever trying to headline. I've always been another artist on a lineup or I'm the opening act, so it's a pretty big deal for me to get out of my comfort zone like this and just go, 'Okay, who wants to come see me live.'"
If past hyperpop shows at Elsewhere are any indication, there’s certain to be more than 10 people, with digicore artist quinn having packed Elsewhere’s Zone One back in August. Hyperpop is bleeding from the digital world into the real world, and That Kid is just the latest iteration.
Stream Superstar by That Kid, below, and click here to purchase tickets to Elsewhere.
Photos courtesy of That Kid