Calgary artist ElyOtto turns viral fame into record deal with massive TikTok hit SugarCrash

This is pop.

Yes, talkin’ ’bout pop music. Shooby. Dooby. Do-wop.

You can call it what you want, give it a weird little name or subset — punk-pop, folk-pop, indie-pop, pirate-pop, etc. — to help distinguish it from the Taylor Swifts, Drakes, Weeknds, Britney Spears (she’s still a thing, right), and anyone else who writes or sings a verse-chorus-verse that is popular, that is hooky … that is pop.

Which brings us to Calgary artist ElyOtto (a.k.a. Elliott Platt), a 17-year-old who’s become a sensation in the bourgeoning hyperpop genre thanks to an online viral hit, SugarCrash.

According to Spin magazine online, which featured a glowing feature last month on the local high school student, “more than 5 million videos have been created using the song, plus 85 million Spotify listens and a No. 1 spot on the streaming juggernaut’s U.S. Viral 50 playlist in February  and more than 120,000 views on YouTube of the official video.”

That was a few weeks ago.

From that little taste of fame, he earned himself a deal with RCA — after a bidding war featuring at least seven labels — and has since seen a greater push for the single, a video release, numerous international interviews, and the promise of an EP before the end of the year.

Hyperfame. Thanks to hyperpop. 

His career-defining and -creating song SugarCrash is catchy, popular, brain candy, that’s easy to like, easy to sing-along to and defies any other real definitions or genre, other than a melody and something that will barnacle to your brain.

You could argue that it’s an adult Baby Shark, but that would dispel the fact there really isn’t a great deal of difference between the TikTok juggernaut and, say, music a little more age-appropriate to his parents and their adult-pop experiences — such Vengaboys, Aqua and Ace of Bass.

It’s pop music. God bless it.

“Absolutely!” says Platt, happy for the connections. “SugarCrash and hyperpop is based on early internet pop songs — all of that stuff, happy hardcore. We’ve got Aqua, Vengaboys, stuff like that, that’s all in the same line … that hyper-processed, super-colourful, ‘Woohoo, let’s have fun …’ ”

Sure, that’s a great description for the frenetic, kinetic, often dark, usually brief bursts of sensational, aural saccharine blasts, but ultimately there is very little of the wonderfully, sickly sweet new movement that doesn’t stray too far from the more mainstream pop fair you hear on radio, TV, elsewhere.

Musically, again, it falls under the nouveau hyperpop tag, alongside other acts such as Sophie, Food House and Charlie XCX, and it’s a genre that appealed to the artist for numerous reasons.

As a person with ADHD, he says it was his perfect entry into a world that his part-time musician parents — two wonderful local roots artists Natasha Sayer and Michael Platt — introduced him to, just by introducing him to the world of music in general and giving him a gateway into something more.

“It feels like that type of music, hyperpop, was made for me. It’s making fun of very narrative common pop tropes in the music industry while also being very fast and loud and crazy and I just, like — I love that. It sounds good on the ears, it’s got enough repetition to get in your head and allow you to dance to it, of course, but then it changes to (where) it’s hard to listen to, if that makes sense

“It’s not bad, but if you’re an old grandma it’s not for you.”

Calgary artist Elliott Platt (a.k.a. ElyOtto)

Part of that could be because of the lyrics.

The song has few words, but is highlighted by one of a couple of different choruses: “I’m on a sugar crash /I ain’t got no fuckin’ cash /Maybe I should take a bath /Cut my fuckin’ brain in half” — words that have struck a chord with a certain generation, a sort-of Beckian Loser tune.

“Weirdly it was very matter of fact,” Platt says of the inspiration behind his personal Smells Like Teen Spirit. “I try to be relatable to the general populace, but at the point that SugarCrash had been released I had sort of just accepted that nobody was ever going to listen to me. 

“I was expecting maybe 100 views at most, I was just getting in there with the specifics, the abstract lyrics that only me and my friends would understand …,” he says, noting that a great number of listeners have reached out to him with their own interpretations and experiences, which have often been profound.

“I’ve had a lot of people say that it saved their life and saying that it was the best thing that ever happened to them and, ‘Oh, my god, this song inspired me so much, and thank you.’

“And I’m just blown away, like, ’Dude, I wrote this song about considering taking a bath later.’ …

“It’s not that deep. But people … have said it’s about hard drugs and suicide and all that, and I know they’re just projecting what’s going on in their lives, but it’s kind of crazy …

“But really, it’s just a very matter-of-fact song about my evening, and being sick of the pandemic and enjoying a nice hot bath on a week night.”

Again, it’s struck a chord, with Platt and the track becoming that online sensation and pushing beyond the four walls of his bedroom, where he recorded it quietly, sheepishly, hiding it from those same parents, for myriad reasons, who exposed him to the joys of music.

When he told them, well, that was when his life had already changed because of the popularity of the song and how big it done did blow up — something Platt never expected, was never prepared for.

“Yeah, it’s insane,” he says.

“It’s not hitting me as hard as I think it would for artists say outside of COVID-19, having this happen if it wasn’t a pandemic would be too overwhelming. I wouldn’t be able to handle it.”

He laughs.

As to why it struck a chord, Platt genuinely pins it on the Internet algorithms boosting him up — those 100 expected views turning into millions as he stood on a C-Train platform on his way to visit his girlfriend.

Now, he has to prove that one song won’t define him, something he admits to wondering about.

“Um, yeah, a little bit. I have had the term ‘one-hit wonder’ thrown around a lot, but to be honest it’s too early to see,” he says.

“I would say that SugarCrash is a good song and I feel like I’d be discovered some other way, because I do have that self-expression and I think I have what it takes to make music that people would want to listen to. But in that specific instance that was what was popular at the time, it was the peak of the first wave of hyperpop, people were just looking for new stuff and I offered that to them.

“Yeah, so that’s how I got big.”

Now, not only is the implied challenge — because of said deal and pressure — to stay big, but have a lasting career in the fickle music industry.

That begins with that EP, which will be coming in the next few months. It will, hopefully, be just as honest a representation of who he is as an artist as SugarCrash — a song he ’s adamant won’t define him — even if his new label wants to steer Platt into a different kind of pop artist — someone more palatable, push him into a ready-made mold that fits easily on radio. 

“I mean, yeah, they’ve tried to push me … in certain directions, like I’ve seen them want me to conform to mainstream pop a little more,” he says “And as much as I love these guys, I know they’re working hard for me and they just want me to be successful, but, yeah, no, I’m not conforming to mainstream pop, I’m again doing my own thing.”

As to what thing that is, considering we only have a couple of TikTok snippets to judge him on, Platt is unsure.

“My, god, the question I dread,” he says, before noting he’s “not done experimenting with genres, so I don’t really know who I am as a whole yet. I’m just going to keep making what I think is good and eventually maybe people will be able to find patterns in that and go, ‘Yeah, that’s the ElyOtto sound.’ ”

Wherever that pop does take him. Fame? Obscurity? Wherever.

“Honestly I don’t care,” he says. “As soon as the spotlight sort of dims a little and releases its grip on me, I’ll get right back to creating — just super-raw, self expression that I’m just (releasing) on SoundCloud and people are going to have to deal with it — it doesn’t matter if it’s popular, it’s what I want to do.”