Any belief that pop-punk was a genre of music best left in the 2000s has been thrown out the window with KennyHoopla’s latest project. Pop-punk vet Travis Barker, who has become sort of a mentor for this new generation of artists including Willow Smith, lends his hand as executive producer on the 23-year olds sophomore EP. While KennyHoopla’s discography may be limited, his evolution and narrative as an artist rival that of an established musician.
Inspired by artists ranging from electro pop-band Passion Pit to southern MC Ludacris, he first started recording music a year after he graduated high school. The need for expression through music was something he desired since first stumbling upon Fall Out Boy in elementary school. It was only until his close friend obtained recording equipment where he obtained a form to project all that his Wisconsin upbringing as an outcast had to offer. After a bundle of Soundcloud releases, he released the agonizing track “how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway?” in February of 2020 which landed him on the 8th spot on Billboard alternative airplay chart and was his first video to reach a million views on youtube. In May of last year, he released his debut EP of the same, which saw him take on genres of music like indie to new-wave to pop-punk. All this notoriety grabbed the attention of alternative music figures such as Neighbourhoods Jesse Rutherford and nothing,nowhere both of which KennyHoopla has collaborated with.
The EP kicks off with “silence is also an answer” where KennyHoopla reincarnates the pop-punk bands that he grew up cherishing. A soft-spoken melancholy verse transitions into a pounding drum roll that leads to the chorus where he relentlessly belts out his being. Songs like “smoke break” and “hollywood sucks” take listeners into the mind of an angsty teenager discovering their true identity; a place everyone has been at one time or another. There are moments on the EP where the catchy melodies are scrapped in favour of full-on screamo like on “inside of heaven’s mouth, there is a sweet tooth” which may prove too intense for a casual listener. Throughout the whole EP KennyHoopla never seems to take his foot off the gas, each track delivers a blend of imaginative lyrics chanted so authentically that sounds so similar to pop-punk bands of the past yet worlds different.
What sets KennyHoopla apart from the competition is his deep devotion to creativity and a desire to express himself as transparently as possible. His often deeply melancholy and poetic lyrics are not just a songwriting tactic, but rather the way that he views the world. Survivors Guilt displays the mind of a 21st-century misfit; where music regardless of genre is the only viable outlet to express any sentiment. His previous bodies of work have displayed looks at his talent, but this concentrated pop-punk project has been the best showcase of his talent yet. In a 2020 interview when asked about the next step in his career KennyHoopla answered “I just want to make a whole bunch of beautiful music, and get whatever this fucking overwhelming feeling is inside of me out.”. We have yet to witness the full extent of his artistry, but his newest EP is a great indication of what he’s capable of.