Teen's viral lockdown song leads to record deal
Canadian teen Elyotto's lockdown song became one of the biggest viral hits of the year
When Elliott Platt first discovered that his song Sugarcrash! was becoming a runaway hit on Tiktok, he didn't feel comfortable sharing that with everybody in his life. At least not at first.
Specifically, he put off playing it for his father, Mike, who is also a musician and songwriter. Musically, there was nothing wrong with it, of course. Elliott was happy with how it turned out.
Cobbled together in his bedroom during the COVID-19 lockdown last spring and released under the name Elyotto, Sugarcrash! is energetic and hooky and endearing. It's funny but also raw and witheringly honest. It's the sort of thing that any musician father would be proud of. Except for one thing: It contains more F-bombs in its 80-second running time than your average episode of Trailer Park Boys.
“I showed my mom right away, because she is generally OK with me swearing a lot,” Platt says in an interview with Postmedia from his Calgary home. “But we haven't set that boundary at my dad's house. So I had been keeping it away from them. I think I told them I had a popular song but then told them that I didn't have the file on me right now. Then my sister played it for my dad without permission and I was mortified.”
“I mean, obviously he liked it and it turned out OK,” he adds sheepishly.
It's a reminder that while Platt may have achieved international attention on Tiktok, a major record deal, earned more than 100 million listens on Spotify and recently has been proclaimed “the new face of hyperpop” by Spin Magazine, he is still a 17-year-old kid in high school.
And, like most 17-year-old kids, he was understandably wary about sharing his catchy but angst-y torrent of swears with the adults in his life.
Still, it's a good thing that both mom and dad are enthusiastically on side. Because not long after the song caught fire, Platt entered a world where parental oversight probably came in handy. When it became clear that Sugarcrash! was a viral hit, Platt received so much interest from record labels that the family eventually hired a lawyer. Seven majors came calling and Platt signed with RCA Records. A debut EP is expected to be released in a few months.
“I believe it was seven big record labels, but there were many small ones coming at me on Instagram saying `Hey, we'd like to buy your song for like $500. We're a Russian record company, do you agree?'” Platt says with a laugh. “I was like `What? Who are you?'”
Having grown up surrounded by music — his mother, Natasha Sayer, is also a musician and music teacher — Platt had already experimented with folk and other genres. But for the past few years, he has also been messing around on his computer; patching together beats and synth sounds and immersing himself in the nascent sub-genre of hyperpop.
After he lost his part-time job during the early days of the pandemic, he found himself with more free time than usual.
“Sugarcrash! is a product of first-quarantine boredom,” he says. “I was stuck at home all day so I really had nothing else to do but write songs and pretend to go to online class. I had put a beat together a few months before everything was shut down. I came back to it. It was just a file collecting dust on my computer. I was like `Jeez, this is a really good melody. I should probably record some lines for this.' So I did and it turned out fantastic. I was really proud of it. So I uploaded it, expecting it to get, like, 100 views at most, hopefully. That was an optimistic look. I put it on my Tiktok and the algorithms must have caught it because it blew up immediately.”
The numbers have been staggering and quickly turned Elyotto into, as Spin reported earlier this month, “one of the most popular musicians on the planet.”
Much of it was driven by the response from users of Tiktok, an app that allows people to make short videos. More than five million videos have been made around the world using Sugarcrash! as the soundtrack. On Spotify, the song now has more than 102 million listens.
“The day I uploaded it, Aug. 27, I was just pacing around on the train platform going to see my girlfriend and I kept refreshing my Tiktok and the likes just kept coming in and these comments like `You're wonderful. Your music is so good. When are you dropping something new?'” Platt says. “It just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger over the days. I was just astounded by the numbers.”
So what exactly is hyperpop? While a true consensus has yet to be reached, it seems to be an experimental, freewheeling sound that can involve manipulated vocals, propulsive beats, synth sounds, sly allusions, impossibly catchy hooks and general distortion. It's all bundled together and presented in a blurry rush of energy, defiance and anger. A recent article in The Atlantic called it “noisy, ugly and addictive,” and “confrontational and bizarre” but also predicted it could become the “countercultural sound of the 2020s.” Given that a number of the early purveyors are transgender or genderfluid, it has also been heralded as offering a new vehicle for queer sensibilities. Platt, who is transgender, says he discovered hyperpop pioneers 100 Gecs in late 2019 and was immediately addicted.
“I discovered there was an entire genre that went along with it and it sounded a lot like what I was into: Early internet nightcore, parody videos and whatnot,” he says. “So I just jumped right into it.”
Still, Platt says he is not strictly a hyperpop artist and fans can expect the unexpected when it comes to Elyotto's debut EP. Since his viral success, he has moved operations to slightly bigger digs. Instead of holing up in his bedroom, he has now set up shop in the family basement to work on new songs.
“I've got a chair and a desk set up, some new equipment and I'm going to work on my new EP down there for the next few months,” he says.
On the other hand, he still has to go to school, which has led to a double life these past few months that he admits can be exhausting and hard to balance. In fact, his first scheduled round of interviews with Canadian media had to be postponed recently when a high school midterm ran long.
“I've had a lot of my friends tease me,” he says. “It's a nice thing but it gets really annoying hearing `Is that the Sugarcrash! guy?' every 10 minutes. I think my closer friends and my girlfriend just ignore it because it's not really any of their business and they like me for Elliott Platt and not Elyotto. So that's nice.”
I had put a beat together a few months before everything was shut down. I came back to it. ... I was like `Jeez, this is a really good melody. I should probably record some lines for this.'