the inside track

Admit It, ‘SugarCrash!’ Was Already Great

Photo: YouTube

If there’s a right way to first encounter “SugarCrash!” — one of the latest broken-brained anthems of TikTok — I think it was the way I found it. I’m not on TikTok, but about two months ago, I became obsessed with the “demon chef” videos made by @_soggy_nugget_. In one, the demon chef dances to “SugarCrash!” It’s as joyously bizarre as it sounds, a completely indelible image of the song’s frenzied, nonstop energy. I watched it on a loop. It stayed in my head for weeks. It was musical candy, and I couldn’t get enough.

The song itself was an accident in every way. Elliott Platt, a 17-year-old Canadian who releases music as ElyOtto, started it while playing around on a synthesizer, only working on the music in the first place after being laid off from his pet-store job due to the pandemic. More than a week after uploading the finished song to his SoundCloud, ElyOtto posted a clip on TikTok, where it promptly blew up. That part’s not an accident — the song is perfect for the platform, from its 80-second run time to the fact that nearly every second of that is a hook. It’s no surprise, either, that TikTok has largely grabbed onto the most nihilistic lines of the song: “I just don’t wanna hate myself, instead I wanna feel good.”

As a song, “SugarCrash!” tries to solve the very problem it’s about. It’s nothing new in hyperpop, the frenetic, internet-born pop subgenre, which often uses buoyant productions to address darker themes. (And unlike other other musicians who shy away from the hyperpop label, ElyOtto wears his influence on his sleeve, even mentioning the genre by name in the song.) But on another, equally self-aware level, “SugarCrash!” works so well because it’s also about exactly what it sounds like. It’s a hyperactive song about being full of pent-up energy; a brain-splitting song that, at one point, contemplates splitting one’s own brain. It’s not explicitly about the pandemic, but it’s hard not to relate it to that similar crazed feeling of being stuck at home, trying to find any sort of outlet. But in some circular way, it’s not just cathartic — it’s an 80-second escape that arrives as a barrage of synths, bass, and autotune.

I almost worry about overanalyzing a song that’s so simply fun. But “SugarCrash!” has also become a lightning rod for criticism of hyperpop: that it’s blatantly made for TikTok, that it’s derivative of proto-hyperpop like 100 gecs and Charli XCX, that it’s just plain annoying. ElyOtto and the record label he recently signed to, RCA, just released a remix of the song that seems aimed at legitimizing it a bit, with new features from pop up-and-comers Kim Petras and Curtis Waters. The remix sounds like a fuller and more traditional song — nothing that could crack Top 40 radio, but still something made with the intent of being a pop song. But as the remix drags on (at 152 seconds, it’s nearly double as long), the song starts to feel less like weirdly, wonderfully addictive musical candy and just like another song. That’s because “SugarCrash!” was already enough of a good thing.

Admit It, ‘SugarCrash!’ Was Already Great