Two years ago, 17-year-old ElyOtto (aka Elliott Platt) never could have anticipated entering an unprecedented pandemic as a regular teen, posting random songs on SoundCloud, then emerging from lockdown as a TikTok star. But that’s exactly what happened, after releasing his immense viral hit.
“SugarCrash!” is currently the fourth most-liked TikTok of all time. It boasts 100 million streams on Spotify, a Kim Petras and Curtis Waters re-mix, and has reached number 11 on the Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative songs chart. This spring SPIN magazine named ElyOtto “The Face of Hyperpop.” And he’s since released the singles “Let Go,” “Teeth,” and the edgier “Profane.”
ElyOtto (whose music is published by Otto Dynamite Ltd.) began writing music in 2016, releasing tracks on SoundCloud a year later. His sound was inspired by experimental pop artists and SoundCloud rap. “I used to spend a whole lot of time just going through random artists on SoundCloud and seeing what obscure garbage I could find,” explains the Calgary teen. “I found somebody called Kid Trash Pop, and I was like, ‘Whoa, what kind of music is this?’ It was so grimy and robotic and artificial and shiny and colourful. I hadn’t really heard that in music before, so I was super-intrigued. Later I discovered 100 Gecs, and I was like, ‘OK. I gotta get in on this. This is such great music. Sounds like it would be really fun to make.’”
Making the outlandish clash of hyperpop began as trial and error of opposing beats and punk influences. And then ElyOtto accidentally landed on something that worked. “I made some songs and they all sucked horribly, so they’re deleted now, but out of these songs came ‘SugarCrash!,’ which actually sounded quite good,” says ElyOtto.
He explains that what ultimately became “SugarCrash!” began as a mixture of disparate pieces. “The lyrics were a completely separate piece,” he sa!ys. “I made the instrumentals very early on – like, days after the pandemic started – and it sounded very orchestral. It wasn’t at all hyperpop. I kind of forgot about that instrumental for the longest time. But I went back to it with some lyrics – I came with the lyrics in about a day, I was almost improvising on the spot [but] not quite – and I just recorded them over the instrumental, and re-worked them into hyperpop. And it worked.”
The track’s rise to 2021 viral status didn’t happen overnight, but its popularity was immediate. “I released the song about midnight on August 26, 2020, and then the next day I made a little promotional video on TikTok, and uploaded it, expecting maybe a few of my friends to go listen to it,” says ElyOtto. “I wasn’t expecting it to blow up at all, but I kept refreshing my page and more and more likes were coming, and comments saying, ‘This is going to blow up. This is great.’ I was getting followed like crazy, and I was just pacing back and forth on the train platform, like, ‘Wow! Oh my God, this cannot be happening right now!’ It was so exciting.”
Over the next year, “SugarCrash!” did anything but crash; instead it kept growing, including being used in a video by Nick Luciano on Feb. 23, 2021, sent out to his millions of followers. “It didn’t really hit me that this song was a worldwide phenomenon until almost a year later, when it just kicked up again, stronger than ever, and people were using it in their TikToks,” says ElyOtto.
Now signed to RCA Records, he’s preparing to release his debut EP, and working on more music. Preferring to write solo, he says all the experiences around him can inspire a song, and that means songwriting wherever and whenever he can. “Generally, I just wait for inspiration to come hit me,” he says. “It’s usually when I’m on the bus, I have long commutes from school, so I have a lot of time to let lyrics and melodies pop up in my head. I try to have a lot of party experiences, and things that people my age would have, so that I can write something relatable.”
When not using GarageBand, ElyOtto relies on the guitar, banjo, or occasionally the piano to compose. And if the banjo sounds like the antithesis to hyperpop beat-making, he makes it clear that he’s more than just a one-sound artist.
“I write in a lot of different genres,” he says. “I’m definitely not bound to hyperpop, but it has been what I’m doing most of late, because it’s really fun to make. It’s all in the computer, so you can just do it anywhere – on the bus or what-not. But at home, when I’m in a band or band session, or a setting where computers aren’t involved, I prefer to write in genres like folk, punk, and bluegrass.”
Those other sides of his sound are on hold for now, while the young man remains focused on exploring the hyperpop vein his fans can’t get enough of. “I ‘m working on some music videos with friends at school,” he says. “We’re doing something a little more lo-fi. I’m hoping to get into a film studio and do something a little more polished and professional for the EP. There’s going to be a lot of visual accompaniments to the music, so I hope my fans are looking forward to that – because I am.”