Last spring, Elliott Platt was cleaning fish tanks at his local pet store when he received the luckiest news of his young life.
He’d been laid off. COVID cutbacks: a tale as old as 2020 itself.
With extra time on his hands, the Canadian teen holed up in his bedroom after school, poring over his piles of half-finished hyperpop projects. A glitchy beat here, a speedfreak keyboard melody there, clips of cartoonish vocal samples he’d recorded when no one was home (too embarrassed to sing in front of his parents).
The 17-year-old huddled over his laptop, propped up on an old piano bench wedged between his pet geckos and spiders, self-producing every bit of his saccharine, mind-splitting songs and releasing them to a handful of listeners on SoundCloud, under the name ElyOtto.
One of those tracks was called “SugarCrash!,” an 80-second fever dream released last August, which hinged on Platt’s parasitic vocal hook — “I’m on a sugar crash / I ain’t got no fuckin’ cash / Maybe I should take a bath / Cut my fuckin’ brain in half” — and was laid over swirling synth and skittering 808s.
Avid TikTok users already know what happened next.
“SugarCrash!” has been inescapable on the app since Platt posted a clip promoting the song’s hook on his own account Aug. 27.
“It’s very overwhelming,” Platt tells SPIN over the phone from his Calgary home. “The best case scenario was the fanbase I had already built on TikTok, because I just made funny videos, would see it and a few of them would check it out. I might get like a hundred listens at most.”
Talk about an undersell: To date, more than 5 million videos have been created using song, plus 85 million Spotify listens and a No. 1 spot on the streaming juggernaut’s U.S. Viral 50 playlist in February.
The song’s titanic success earned Platt a deal with RCA Records, after interest from seven labels, he says, requiring him to quickly hire a manager and lawyer to help launch his music career in earnest.
“I had none of my stuff monetized because I probably had like a hundred listeners that weren’t even really solid fans,” he says.
But the “SugarCrash!” explosion happened almost immediately.
“The algorithm just carried me to the top somehow,” he says. “It was insane.”
Platt posted on TikTok, and a few hours later was standing on a train platform en route to visit his girlfriend, refreshing his feed over and over. Each time, he saw new videos set to his song.
“I was just pacing, like, ‘no, this has to be a glitch, this is crazy, there’s no way I’m deserving of this much attention.”
Now, Platt, who still lives at home and attends high school, has quickly become one of the most visible faces of hyperpop. The teen’s timing is perfect as the experimental genre has only just begun to reach mass public consciousness, through its prevalence on TikTok, Spotify’s “Hyperpop” playlist launched in summer 2019 and the critical acclaim of leading artists (and some of Platt’s biggest influences) 100 Gecs, A.G. Cook, Dorian Elektra and the late artist Sophie, who was considered a harbinger of the chameleonic style.
“I love how bold it is,” Platt says of hyperpop. “It’s interesting to listen to, not always necessarily nice, but I think it’s use of pop tropes and just making it super distorted and perverted and weird-sounding…. It’s going against the norm and it’s fresh.”
While the new artist was raised on roots and folk music, courtesy of his local musician parents, “SugarCrash!” is classic pop subversion, with a neon, sing-song melody clashing with some not-so-sweet lyrics: “Feeling shitty in my bed / Didn’t take my fuckin’ meds … Don’t wanna be someone else / Just don’t wanna hate myself.”
“That all comes from dysphoric transgender teenage angst,” says Platt, who is transgendered.
While Platt’s ElyOtto moniker has only released one other song since “SugarCrash!,” another quick-hit, neon-tinted banger called “TEETH!,” his debut label EP is coming in a few months, he says.
“I want to be somebody that has a super unique aesthetic that people can look back upon in the future and be like, ‘Whoa, that was really different.’”