By Paige Daniel
As pop music expands its horizons with certain trends and even throwback sounds (for example, the 80s revival we are currently entrenched in), there are also subgenres that have not yet seen the mainstream light of day.
One that is particularly underground is called PC music – a strategic amalgamation of hyper-real, heavily computerized sounds and hyper-reality itself.
PC music is a label run by A.G. Cook, a music producer based in London. While it is a label, it has thus engendered further offshoots, creating a genre on its own that stands apart from other electronic music.
PC doesn’t stand for potato chip, as I had hopefully thought it did, nor does its stand for politically correct.
PC implies computerization, literally “personal computer music.”
Cook acts as the man behind the curtain, equipped with studio software and a healthy amount of artists in his arsenal.
PC music is quite hard to convey in just words, for a basic orientation check out “How I Roll” by Britney Spears – a pop anomaly of its time that features key elements of PC music before PC music was an official thing.
The artists on his label have built upon his sound in their own ways, with him as producer and sound aesthetic wizard. Artists like Hannah Diamond present an ultra-feminized image, with pitched-up vocal effects and songs about vulnerable emotions.
Most notably, the music video for her song,“Hi,” is a blatant commentary on voyeurism and social media, as Diamond lays on her pink, silk-sheeted bed with her laptop open in front of her.
The level of hyper that PC music functions on has caused it to be called “parody,” effectively cheapening what I believe is good pop music.
It reaches euphoric heights, with synths piling on top of each other and wonky, random electronic sounds accompanied by crystal clear finger snaps or trap-style beats. PC music is the sonic equivalent of glitter, or perhaps the sparkle emoji.
It is the juxtaposition of highly digitalized, artificial sounds with oddly emotional lyrics that reveals more than a hint of self-awareness; however, this calculated edge makes PC music a cold science, while still being visceral and immediate.
On first listen it can be disorienting, but there is one person trying to take the edge off and introduce it to the mainstream.
Enter Charli XCX.
XCX has an alt-pop reputation, best known for her hit “Boom Clap,” now moving away from the style of her previous two albums and into PC music territory.
This move was made clear when she started a new label named Vroom Vroom along with an EP of the same name released two weeks ago, with aims to create PC music.
The Vroom Vroom EP was produced by PC music artist SOPHIE, and features Hannah Diamond on the track “Paradise,” a significantly more emotive instance of PC-ness in terms of its instrumentals (and its helium-infused vocal theme). “Vroom Vroom” is a staccato track with heavy bass synths and air horns; XCX evokes glitch pop, and playful, braggart lyrics add to the fun.
“Trophy” is a match to “Vroom Vroom” in its construction and energy, but presents a high-octane prelude to its faux-bass drop. Unmentionable final track “Secret (Shh)” falls flat when it hits its chorus and shares its lackluster conceit.
The EP is little more than PC music imitation filtered through XCX’s already present swagger and prowess, succeeding only when its throwing beats in your face, which, it should be noted, is not the point of PC music.
Ultimately confusing, but admirably submitted to the PC music repertoire, XCX’s new direction will have the chance to prove itself more when she releases her next album with supposedly the same style.
This leaves pure PC music as the crown jewel of its own creation, XCX somewhere farther in left-field. Maybe that attests to its bare bones deconstruction of pop music – anything else that muddles it might fail.
With this genre being so new, there is a mentality of boundless possibility, as exemplified by XCX’s description of her endeavor: “Vroom Vroom Recordings is my new, experimental pop label and it will combine my love for bubblegum pop with mystery and darkness.
The artists coming up through it will be sharp, potent, deadly, and ultimately, will leave their mark on pop music.”
Quite a claim at the end, surely, but the black sports car on the cover of her EP says it all – sharp, potent, deadly, though party bangers can only get you so far. XCX should drive her car over to A.G.
Cook’s compound and partake in what he’s doing. At its root, PC music is prepped for greatness. The self-awareness is necessary and appreciated, but we will see if it can sublimate.