Frost Children and the Cruelty of Hype
At a live show, the hyperpop duo strained to deliver their new album's best moments.
2:35 PM EDT on April 17, 2023
Walking the runways in Milan and Paris, prominent Spotify playlist placements, the cover of Dazed, the cover of Dirty magazine, glossy editorials in PAPER and Office magazine—Frost Children is either the most or the second most hyped band in Brooklyn at the moment. At their Baby's All Right release show for their album "SPEED RUN" on Friday, there was even a video camera on a tripod filming the whole thing, like the footage might be in a documentary someday. But what went down on stage indicates that the attention the duo gets is outpacing their ability as performers.
Frost Children, comprised of the two siblings Angel and Lulu Prost, came to New York from St. Louis, Missouri. Fans of hyperpop crossover act 100 gecs will find a lot of the Frost Children proposition familiar—their plumbing of the junkyard of pop music (screamo, brostep, video game music) is intended to be funny, but not a joke. On "SPEED RUN," they mix hyperpop with sonic and aesthetic throwbacks to "bloghouse," a synthesis that's come to be known as "indie sleaze" (the duo is on the cover of an official Spotify playlist called "Indie Sleaze: NYC Revival," along with The Dare and Blaketheman1000, who guests on the album). With indie sleaze, hyperpop, typically an internet movement of reclusive bedroom producers from around the world, is being remade, somewhat heretically, into the soundtrack for a real-life New York scene that aches with nostalgia for the music and attitudes of the 2000s.
If all of those nouns and genre names make this music sound like indecipherable scene-y bullshit to you, the Frost Children show would have confirmed your skepticism. Even for a believer, their weak vocal performances left the duo unable to deliver on the best parts of their own album—on the quiet end of "LET IT BE," the YouTube R&B of "WONDERLAND," and the nu-metal hook-fest "SERPENT," they flailed for the notes they wrote, but couldn't find them, leaving their best bops in tatters. It made the fawning coverage the duo receives seem not just asymmetrical, but even irresponsible, a reminder that pedestaling artists with coverage out of mere popularity does them no favors in the end. The torrents of hype that sweep through New York's music and media scenes require discernment rather than breathless, dazzled acquiescence. If you're going to be a gatekeeper, in other words, do your job.
It would be a mistake to read Frost Children's semi-ironic, stylized presentation as a sign their music is apathetic. Their release show oozed with effort, from the perfectly synchronized "thank you" at the end of their best song "FOX BOP," to Angel's multiple outfit changes, to Lulu banging an electronic drum kit along to breakbeats. But their insistence on clutching instruments at various times throughout the performance of their highly produced music was confusing; it was difficult to understand what was actually being performed in real time, and came off ultimately just a self-conscious performance of performance. Indeed, the duo's several gestures toward being traditional performers only underlined their shortcomings—they should use autotune.
It must be said that, if by reading this review, you get the impression that the audience didn't have a good time, be sure that most of the crowd was loving every minute of Friday's show. And at some instances they had good reason to—the duo's humor was landing, and the party was rocking. A dadaist interlude that just involved chanting the names of Harry Potter characters ended perfectly ("JK Rowling," they said in concert. "Boo!" replied the crowd. Then: "Ron," which led to cheers). The audience of acolytes seemed, frankly, more happy for Frost Children's success than happy with what they were doing on stage. But hype without a sincere critical endorsement is sabotage, and Frost Children's trajectory is leading them far beyond their New York bubble. Those who seek to usher them there should make sure they're ready.
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Adlan has written for The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Pitchfork, Study Hall and more.
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