It is unclear exactly how the “incelcore” appellation originated, but the scene appears to have taken its cue from the Korean-American musician variously known as “School Shooter,” “Shooter,” or--less provocatively-- “NEGATIVE XP” (a gamer term denoting failure and frustration).

Negative XP, like the rest of the incelcore ilk, has never been signed to any record label, major or minor, but has instead operated in a strictly “DIY” manner. He established his “cred” on Soundcloud, where three years ago, he published the tune that would bring him both success and notoriety, “Scott Pilgrim Ruined A Whole Generation of Women.”

In this wildly vulgar, gleefully misogynistic punk rock anthem, heaps of scorn and derision are poured upon a young woman, who is asserted to be the paradigmatic representative of the demographic whom the singer assails as having been “ruined” by the movie referenced in the title, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.” In that film, the hero, a musician played by Michael Cera falls in love with a purple-haired girl named Ramona Flowers, who has a legion of menacing ex-boyfriends. The girl in the Negative XP song idolizes Ramona to a degree that plainly indicates her debased state, which the speaker of the song pitilessly records:

BPD and ecstasy
Conceited with low-self esteem
She’s a teenage dream if you hate yourself
Bright dyed hair and obnoxious clothes
Thinks Communism is the way to go
She’s a whore, a hole, a dime-a-dozen Jezebel

Bright dyed hair but dead inside
Plan-B lifetime supply
She’s a whore, a hole, gave head since middle school
She’s an alcoholic loser bitch
That likes to listen to shitty music
She drinks and smokes and tokes and chokes on dick

A hint of empathy creeps in during the chorus, as well as a bit of self-deprecating confession:

It’s sad to think she’s someone’s daughter
Like a lamb to the slaughter
But honestly, I’d still hit if I could…

The song is certainly an unsubtle broadside, but it packs a certain bracing punch. To date, it is the only “incelcore” song that has received widespread attention, mostly in the form of approbation from “triggered” feminists and the like. But in the best tradition of punk rock, it embraces its irreverent outrageousness with a cheeky insouciance, in a manner that recalls classics like the SEX PISTOLS’ “Belsen Was A Gas” or the DEAD KENNEDYS
 “California Uber Alles.” If listeners are offended, then the song clearly wasn’t intended for their enjoyment, i.e., they are obviously not its target audience; then again, the offense that they take only adds to the delight and enjoyment of the song’s truly intended audience… so in an odd way, by getting “triggered,” the song’s critics manage to enhance its ultimate allure for its fans. Their “saltiness,” so to say, only lends flavor to the experience of “vibing” to the song and its willfully offensive lyrics.

The chad incel, Negative XP

As a songwriter, Negative XP’s appeal is that he writes from the gut, fearlessly, pulling no punches. He has no apprehension of being “too on the nose,” in the phrase that critics have become overly fond of using lately. Thus, his lyrics expose both a fierceness and a fragility, simultaneous aggression and vulnerability. In “First Person Shooter” (also known as “FPS”), the speaker threatens bullies who appear to be more virtual than actual:

People talkin’ bout me, talkin’ shit on line
Well let them talk all they want, cuz I’ve got them in my sights

So does he intend actually to track these people down and take them out, with a real gun, or are his threats merely related to the virtual world? The ambiguity is what makes the song compelling, since we do not know if the “shooter’s” rage is impotent and harmless (in which case he is merely pitiable), or if he intends to do real harm to others (in which case, he is actually dangerous).

Left On Read” exposes the angst of an “incel” who gets “ghosted” online:

Left on read, I wish I was dead
I need some love, I need a hug
I need to get my fucking dick sucked

Feeling bored, and kind of sad
Want to chill, want to fuck
Want to get a fucking blow job 

What makes this song emotionally resonant is the manner with which it describes the variety of needs that are being left unmet, resulting in a state of extreme frustration with which anyone in a similar situation could relate. It’s not just about lust or desire, but also a more basic—and innocent-- wish for connectedness and affection (“I need a hug”).

While many of the “incelcore” artists share a similar meat-and-potatoes drums-guitar-bass homemade aesthetic as Negative XP, others favor a more lush, electronically-infused sound. UH OH SLATER’s “I’m Sorry That I Blew My Brains Out Across the Room” is a haunting anthem of simultaneous apathy and despair, set to a doomily luminous “wall of sound” that recalls WEEZER, except with eerily distorted vocals that seem to emanate from one trapped in a hellish trance. 

Then there is GEZEBELLE GARURGABLY, whose body of work includes the invocation of the mysterious figure known as “Snail Man,” who seems intent upon constructing a sort of expansive mythos involving many characters, and whose lyrics are high-quality, richly allusive poetry:

Good day sir
Wish I were a little less denatured
Devil ether
On the bleachers
Never ever gonna call out a cheater
Going along, coming on strong
Another sad know-it-all

POV, you’re a corpse
You were forced to be born
POV, you just died
And everything Is a lie
POV, you’re Jim Jones
He was stoned off his throne
POV, you’re a man
And that’s how your life began

There are also incelcore artists who favor the acoustic sound, and who spice their sadness with satirical humor, as exemplified in BAD TAKES ONLY's bruisingly hilarious ballad, “E-girl Song”:

E-girls will ruin your life
Don’t let them into your mind
E-girls will dance away
Her father’s glad he didn’t stay

It’s all right, she’ll learn
Hopefully she passes her midterm
Don’t worry, she won’t mind
That I am singing these lines
Her brain is denser than a rock
She’ll use this song on TikTok

It is true that many  themes recur in songs by incelcore artists: namely, depression, social/sexual frustration, and often nihilistic disaffection, as FRIED BY FLUORIDE expresses in “No Point”:

Can’t seem to find a purpose
Just living to survive
I’ll never be anything
Cuz there’s nothing that I like
I’m losing motivation
I’m starting not to care
I can’t feel anything
Except anger and despair

That said, it would be short-sighted in the extreme if one were to miss the degree to which musicians of the incelcore scene are self-aware of all that the term “incel” connotes, according to a media seemingly terminally prone to sensationalism and dishonesty, and they are happy to “troll” accordingly. HALLOWED’s “Boom Boom Boom Boom” reenacts  the sort of Columbine/ Elliot Rodger-like shooting spree that so many seem to automatically, and unthinkingly, associate with incels:

Boom boom boom boom!
Get outta my way
I’m gonna blow you away!
Stay outta my lane
Boom boom boom boom!

And PACIFIC PURGATORY's “Year of the Horse” duly expresses the perspective of one considering ending his life, though he consciously salves his pain with other instruments at his disposal:

It’s been a while since I last cried
I drown out the thoughts of suicide
With chemicals and lots of pills
I guess it’s still cheaper than a hospital bill

But now I feel so numb and empty
I wouldn’t care if the word was ending…

The above, perhaps, serves as an adequate primer or overview of the incelcore scene, though of course it leaves many talented artists unfairly unmentioned. A fine storehouse for incelcore music is the Youtube channel “Up to the Wolves,” which also features extremely creatively edited videos for many of the songs, often using footage from 80s movies with glamorous actors and actresses, whose visages form a compelling counterpoint to the self-described “losers” who are singing and playing on the soundtrack.

Incelcore is an up-and-coming musical genre that, at present, few establishment critics take seriously, except when they furrow their brows and clutch their pearls over its lyrics, or fret over the growth of its fan base. Yet ironically enough, it is this very hostility that helps to explain the origin of incelcore as well as to ensure the continued rise of its trajectory. Nature abhors a vacuum, and in a time of out-of-control, top-down censoriousness, dissent -- which our self-appointed cultural commissars attempt to smash to pieces -- has a tendency to grow back beneath their feet like a virulent weed utterly immune to pesticides.

Incelcore, like kudzu, will soon be everywhere. Ready or not, here it comes.

Andy Nowicki
Revenge of Riff Raff
1st November, 2021
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