You’ve heard of overnight success? ElyOtto’s ascent to stardom took little more than 80 seconds.
The moment the now-18-year-old Calgary high school student born Elliott Ferrous-Martin Platt uploaded his hyperpop anthem “Sugarcrash!” to SoundCloud and TikTok last August, the tune caught fire, went viral and changed Platt’s life forever.
“Sugarcrash!” spawned 6.8 million video creations on TikTok. The restless, hectic anthem for impoverished and disenfranchised souls with its timely and psychoanalytical F-bomb-peppered take on despair, escapism and wrestling with the demons in one’s head, is delivered over a frenzied cascade of beats, a captivating synth-driven melody and a helium-pitched falsetto.
To put it in perspective, it was TikTok’s top song of 2021 — outgunning the popularity of more established Canuck artists like Justin Bieber’s “Peaches,” Drake, Future and Young Thug’s “Way 2 Sexy” and Mother Mother’s “Burning Pile.”
Naturally, record companies came a-running and suddenly ElyOtto was the subject of a seven-label bidding war that ended with RCA giving him a small fortune for the rights to release and record his present and future music.
“It’s definitely a bit of a hurricane,” Platt said over the phone from Calgary, shortly before the April release of his debut EP, “Hellscape Suburbia.”
“It’s unbelievable, borderline incomprehensible. All of the business stuff, it’s very hard to grasp.”
Platt said the song’s creation was prompted by being laid off from his job at a pet store.
“Honestly, my job laid me off right when COVID was starting to get really bad,” Platt said. “I remember being pretty paranoid at work about it because it was a new thing — we didn’t know what this coronavirus was.
“I made some music to cope with it and, that August, it really blew up. I hadn’t released it to very many platforms at the time, but people were really listening to it on SoundCloud and obviously using the song on TikTok.”
He figures the key reason for the success of “Sugarcrash!” was its timing.
“I think it was a right time/right place kind of situation,” Platt surmised. “People were really craving that hyperpop sound that (St. Louis duo) 100 gecs had brought into the public eye earlier that year. They’re like kind of specific, but not really, so I think a lot of teenagers and people in their 20s could kind of relate to what I was laying down.”
By the end of year, with RCA involved, Platt found himself set for life — a far cry from many other high schoolers who are still figuring out their postgraduate futures.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Platt acknowledged. “Because before, I had everything to worry about.
“To be honest, I don’t really have too many life skills. I don’t know how to cook for myself. I eat mostly frozen meals. I had my job at Petland, but I got laid off. Things were not looking too fine for me. I had plotted a nice little space under the local crack bridge that I was probably going to lay under for the future.
“But this completely changed everything. I don’t have to worry about my future. I could potentially support a family. It’s pretty incredible.”
It hasn’t been all gravy for Platt: he’s not much of a business person and admits he doesn’t relish being a public figure.
“I don’t know if I want to remain in the public my whole life,” he said. “It’s a lot of criticism and people all over the world have opinions on me just based on surface-level information. I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m not really a fan of being a ‘celebrity’ per se. I’m just in it for the music, really.”
However, there has also been a big benefit, mainly increasing Platt’s profile as a trans artist.
“Well, that’s the bright side of things,” he agreed. “As a trans artist, I do tend to get a lot of criticism and hate from people that don’t have a very good grasp on trans people and the LGBT community but, along with that, I get a lot of love from people who are discovering and loving my music and realizing what good artists trans people can be.
“Hopefully what I’m doing is inspiring other young trans artists to put their work out there and make art expressing the way that gender dysphoria and these uniquely trans experiences turned into art.”
If you enjoyed “Sugarcrash!,” ElyOtto’s new EP contains eight more two-minute-and-under slices of assorted hyperpop, from the altered vocals of “Stalker” and the beat-driven repetition of “The Cops” to the slightly psychedelic “Dayzee” and the absorbingly experimental “Don’t Eat All Of the F—ng Viva Puffs” all meshing to offer Platt’s fans an exciting glimpse of his future.
Although he’s first to admit that the motivation to put out an EP was contractual.
“My inspiration was that I was signed to a label that said I needed to give them an EP,” Platt said. “So, OK, I’ll give you an EP. ‘Hellscape Suburbia’ is a bit of a compilation of the music that I would have been making anyways on the side; only this time it’s a real EP backed by a record label and it’s going to have proper advertising and whatnot.
“So I’m really stoked for it. I want people to see what I’ve been up to. The unfortunate thing is, it’s been going on for so long — this EP has been in the works for like a year — so the earlier music, the earlier tracks are really what I would like to get down and groove to these days.
“So I guess it’s kind of an homage to my progress and how my tastes have developed as an artist. You can kind of hear it as you go through the tracks, listening to it.”
When it comes to the actual definition of hyperpop, whose reference points seem to hail back to 100 gecs, the late trans producer Sophie, and artists A.G. Cook and Dorian Electra, Platt says there aren’t many rules to creating it.
“I think it’s a bit of a rejection of super commercial modern pop,” he said. “You don’t have to speed up or pitch down your voice. You don’t even have to put Auto-Tune on it, really. I have a few tracks that don’t have Auto-Tune that are in the works right now.
“I think a big thing about hyperpop is making your voice and what you want to say sound exactly the way you want it to. That’s why it’s very production heavy. A lot of trans hyperpop producers will do all sorts of wacky things to their voices to match their voice with their soul, if that makes sense.
“Don’t get me wrong, a lot of cis people are making this kind of thing, too, and messing around with their voices because it’s what sounds cool or it’s fun. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There are no real rules to hyperpop, but I think it’s so appealing to trans people and trans artists because it’s really just making yourself sound the way you really want to.”
In the meantime, Platt, whose dream collaboration partner is KFC Murder Chicks, just wants to finish high school in a few weeks. He’s happy that his friends and fellow students treat him the same, despite his success.
“We pretend that ‘Sugarcrash!’ doesn’t really exist,” he said. “It’s not a spoken rule: we just don’t talk about it.”
As for the topic of performing, Platt says he’s considering it, although, “because of the pandemic, I developed really bad stage fright for a while.”
“I did perform a lot onstage as a kid and I enjoyed it, but these days the thought has me wanting to throw up,” he admitted. “But I do have an incredible network of musician friends that are good at all the stuff that I’m not. Hopefully we’ll organize something and start small at local venues. I want to do some small ElyOtto performances before moving on to the big stage.”
By the way, those who see “Hellscape Surburbia” will notice a tarantula adorns its cover.
Apparently, it’s not a coincidence: Ely Platt is passionate about reptiles and arachnids. He owns two geckos named Freddie and Pippa, and two tarantulas named Michael and Chelub.
“My grandad was really into spiders when we were kids,” Platt said. “He had a roomful of snakes and tarantulas that we were exposed to at a young age. I always grew up with the notion that they’re cute and they’re interesting. I never really got that fear that other people did.”
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