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ElyOtto Makes Short Songs For Short Attention Spans

“Calling out bigots is my favourite hobby after making music.” 

by Ben Boddez

It’s a Wednesday afternoon in Calgary, Alberta, and 17-year-old TikTok sensation ElyOtto has just finished shopping with Fred, his pet gecko, to take his mind off a tough day at school. Even a musician with 130 million streams on their debut single can’t escape the everyday grind.

Elliott Platt has been one of the many beneficiaries of the meteoric rise to fame that social media platform TikTok can provide overnight. The first artist from the nascent but quickly rising genre of hyperpop to have a song hit the mainstream charts, Platt has been dubbed by many as “the face of hyperpop” after his breakout single “SugarCrash!” was used as the soundtrack to millions of videos – including the third most-liked in the app’s history, a video of social media star Nick Luciano lip-syncing to its bubbly melodies.

For a transgender teen with a hit song still walking through his high school halls every day, you have to imagine life is a little disorienting. Platt shrugs off transphobic taunts as teenage insecurity that will evaporate with time, but what throws him off is the pedestal of fame some place him on.

“I come out from taking a piss and everyone is staring at me like ‘dude, did you make SugarCrash?” Platt says, eyes widened to mimic their awestruck reactions. Platt has even been able to make some lasting friendships with fans who happened to attend the same school as their new favourite pop star, unbeknownst to them.

“On the first couple days of 11th grade, I saw a group of kids with dyed hair. That means safety for someone like me, so I went and sat down with them,” he says. “They were like ‘Oh my God, are you ElyOtto?’ I was like ‘Yeah, do you mind if I sit here and eat lunch?’ We’re still friends.”

Still, the added weight of perceptibility for someone who has already spent most of his life trying to make sense of exactly who he is has Platt longing for the weekends and the days he will finally be able to escape and focus on music full time. In one key lyric from his single “Let Go :(,” he repeatedly laments “I only exist two days a week.” Scrolling through social media is a welcome distraction for him, though he admits he has a conflicted relationship with TikTok as a musician.

“It’s purely a robotic algorithm selecting a video that just blows it up to the stars,” he says. “It’s very strange. I don’t know what it’s going to do to the music industry, and it’s both really scary and a breath of fresh air to see that we get a lot more say in what we want to hear from mainstream music through liking and sharing.”

Much like Platt’s discovery of new friends at school, his positive attitude has allowed him to find the good to be extracted from his massive platform on his generation’s new go-to destination for absentminded scrolling. Platt has turned his page into a supportive community for fellow LGBTQ youth, even sprinkling a couple videos in between where he offers humorous takedowns of prejudiced TikTok users.

“Calling out bigots is my favourite hobby after making music,” he laughs. “I try my best to stay informative, because if I’m just throwing out insults at them, they’re not going to change their mind on trans people. I poke fun at them a little and then say something educational that might be enough to change their perspective.”

Many boundary-pushing artists are drawn to the rumbling bass, saccharine melodies, and complete disregard for traditional song structure — the key tenets of hyperpop — but Platt has another connection to making music that sounds a little confusing in the best way. Platt has been open about his diagnosis with ADHD, and says that he made “SugarCrash” to sonically appeal to other neurodivergent people.

“That’s a big part of hyperpop,” he says. “We’re making this for ourselves, and for each other. Lots of sounds, lots of high pitches, lots of speed. I make my songs really short for people with short attention spans, to make it accessible.” “SugarCrash” itself stands at a slight but jam-packed 80 seconds in length. It helps, as well, that TikTok limits its videos to a single minute, playing into the seemingly lower attention span of their targeted Gen Z consumers.

Many hyperpop stars are fellow transgender people who also appreciate the genre’s trend of voice-pitching to get closer to how they envision themselves sounding in their preferred gender identity. Instead, Platt plays with pitching his voice both up and down simply because the idea of pushing the macho man or femme fatale personae of pop’s biggest stars to the extremes is funny to him. In a way, Platt is setting out to prove the boxes we place ourselves in are all a little trivial. “It’s all about making fun of those exaggerated gender performances by exaggerating that even further, just because we can,” he says. “hyper-masculine, hyper-feminine, both, neither, whatever.”

Dorian Electra, a non-binary artist who is one of Platt’s favourites, is often seen with a pencil moustache and fedora in an attempt to lampoon “nice guys” who believe they are the pinnacle of masculinity. Platt’s planned answer to this is a little closer to home. “I’m trying to go for the whole stereotypical Albertan boy that wears all camouflage and grew up on a farm,” he says with a smirk.  

Most of all, however, Platt joins many other LGBTQ hyperpop stars who are using their creative outlet to harness some nostalgic energy, many dating their sound back to reflect musical tropes of a time when they were struggling with discovering their identity and were unable to present parts of themselves to the public. For Platt, that means the Internet of yesteryear when Pokemon, Invader Zim, nightcore remixes, and Hatsune Miku were all the rage on Tumblr.

“I’m not sad at how my childhood turned out, it was quite nice. I just wish that I was a little boy the whole time and not presenting as a little girl,” he says. “My behaviours were just trampled on, like, ‘Ladies don’t act like that, why are you talking like that? You can’t eat like that,’ and I feel like a lot of it would be excused as ‘oh, he’s just a boy being a boy.’ My interests were things that weirded out all the other little girls in my class, they didn’t want to be near me at all.”

Platt says his upcoming EP, due later this year, is aiming to capture and stay true to the many different facets of what it means to be him, translated into pop music. “It’s a lot heavier, a lot weirder, and a lot more me-sounding,” he says. “I have 12 different ideas and they cannot fit together so I’m trying to put things together like a puzzle.”

The true joy of hyperpop, after all, is fully taking in whatever unexpected but undeniably human combination of sounds that will ultimately emerge from Platt’s mind.