Scrunk happens

By LEOR GALIL  |  July 14, 2009

BrokeNCYDE's messy setting of blandly misogynistic lyrics against a backdrop of catlike wailing, formulaic hip-hop tropes, and, yes, plenty of Auto-Tune has become poisonous to many punk ears. "There hasn't been a level of backlash like this toward one act in the 10 years I've been doing this," says AbsolutePunk founder and CEO Jason Tate via email. Tate is a regular contributor to the website's forums and has been absolutely stunned by the mere existence of brokeNCYDE. "They're just that bad, and they epitomize everything that music (and human beings) should not be."

Writer, musician, and author of the recently published TheGirls' Guide to Rocking, Jessica Hopper agrees with Tate's sentiment, and chats on the phone about how brokeNCYDE are "everything awful about pop music rolled together." Yet Hopper can sense the potential appeal to teenagers scrunk acts have. "If you are 16 or 17 right now, brokeNCYDE just completely references anything that might be a contemporary pop culture reference, or anything that a teenage person is into. . . . You kind of get everything at once."

When it comes to scrunk's newfound popularity, Hopper traces the sound's influence back to 2005, when Panic! At the Disco first mixed up emo and electronics, much to the delight of mainstream music listeners. Warped Tour co-creator and CEO Kevin Lyman points towards Boulder, Colorado's 3OH!3 as the real tipping point for scrunk. "They were right at the cusp of this at the beginning," says Lyman over the phone from Phoenix. "Though 3OH!3 doesn't incorporate the blood-curdling screams of many scrunk acts, they were the first emo-influenced act to depart from traditional instruments in favor of pre-programmed beats, all while retaining many of the same stylistic elements that define emo today. A couple of years ago, this stuff started coming around, and I let them [3OH!3] play one show in Denver. It went exactly like the showcase I'd like to see."

This year, Warped is packed with bands that have taken to a mixture of electronics and screamo, be it the aggressive Christian technoscreametalcore of Attack Attack or Breathe Carolina's sugary electropop punctuated with growl-filled choruses. Of all these bands, the bulk of the attention continues to be split between brokeNCYDE and another band, Millionaires. This all-female Huntington Beach, California, trio have been relegated to scrunk largely by association. Although Millionaires refrain from any actual screaming over their crunkish beats, their immature and sexually provocative lyrics, weak style, fashion extremes, and secure place in Pete Wentz's Decaydance label have solidified this status – as well as an aura of perma-spite surrounding the group. To many, Millionaires are the quintessential example of the inertia and uncontrollable popularity of scrunk acts: what began with a couple of sisters shouting in-jokes in rhyme over GarageBand beats has snowballed into massive MySpace popularity.

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