A series of beeps go off from the speakers, triggered by the audio engineer, and the crowd goes absolutely wild, opening up a small pit to dance to the song “glittr.” There’s an intimate amount of space here since aldn’s EP release show is being held in the iconic Moroccan Lounge in Downtown Los Angeles. The fact that a song’s entirety can be identified by fans from a simple beeping noise is comical to say the least, and proves the crowd’s adoration for the birthday boy (along with the pointy birthday cone-hats dispersed throughout the crowd). The energy in the room is filled with warmth and love, aldn has won over a fanbase that is as loyal as it is playful.
Opening his show with the electronic super-ballad “tellmewhatuwant," aldn layers synthetic drama into the track to an ecstatic audience. The sound quality at The Moroccan is known to be good, but the audio engineer has elevated aldn’s show into something that translates beautifully to a live audience (something that is significantly harder for the hyperpop and voice-altered acts to achieve). aldn plays a mix of his old hits and runs through the entirety of his new EP, good grief, finishing just as it’s dropped on all streaming platforms.
Just turning 21, aldn sips what appears to be Jack Daniels several times on stage before throwing half of his birthday cake into the crowd upon their request. Chocolate and frosting-covered members of the audience stream through the room as the band sets up for an encore which includes a duet with glaive who appears onstage from the mosh pit, and a shaky rendition of “Hey There Delilah.”
Looking around the venue, it's obvious that aldn has an exceptionally — and almost exclusively — young fan base (the venue was all ages that night, of course) made up of attendees ranging from around 14 to 23. The main fixture, and most unique aspect of the hyperpop scene, is that it is terminally online. Hatched during the COVID-19 quarantine, many of its fans have never congregated outside of a discord server. In this sense, hyperpop functions less as a genre and more as a community. Many fans, just old enough to have their own autonomy, meet up for the first time dressed in grungy get-ups, elven ears, and six inch platform heels. Hyperpop is to Gen Z what Emo was to millennials, borrowing inspiration and attitude from Emo fashion. The cycle of culture and counterculture is a response to the more perfect, more buttoned-up lives of current influencer culture.
The artists making alt-rock and hyperpop are often not afraid to be emotional, and vulnerability is encouraged. Unlike previous generations, gen Z’s flashiness and outright openness about their emotional state and mental health has reflected into the music they create. An exasperated Glaive, out of breath from dancing in the pit, got onstage with aldn and gave a heartfelt speech about how when the pair met on discord which led his inspiration to begin making music.
Moving into the new music, aldn’s good grief is a seven track, 18-minute attribute to aldn’s mastery of production and understanding of what his fan base wants. Cleverly named and numbered after the seven stages of grief, aldn takes us through his own version of healing.
One of the most striking tracks on the EP is the deep cut, “do or die,”' with goth royalty carolesdaughter. carolesdaughter joins her upper register vocals in duet with aldn’s deeper, melancholy tone to create a kind of audible texture on the track.
“Texts from my exes and cigarettes, I swear I quit /
Above second guessing ending it, but you already know /
I can't keep this up, I'm worried you might have a breakdown /
You never used to talk like this”
“do or die” is pleasantly reminiscent of early 2000s Owl City or Sleeping With Sirens with a punk-pop twist.
In addition to the EP, aldn released a music video for “bargaining” with Verzache, a rising bedroom-pop artist and producer. The video is filmed in a vintage 80s setting, drenched in deep greens, maroons and beiges. The video starts casually with aldn posing as a schoolboy who gets a strange box delivered by Verzache, then the night gets progressively weirder as he moves to a party serving bright red martinis and is joined by an alien. Listen to the new EP below: