PC Music’s artists pair playful gimmicks and odd aesthetics

Artist Hannah Diamond creates hyperactive and sweet pop tracks, in addition to glossy photographs and images for labelmates. PC Music artists take the pop aesthetic to a fun and often odd extreme. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Diamond)
Artist Hannah Diamond creates hyperactive and sweet pop tracks, in addition to glossy photographs and images for labelmates. PC Music artists take the pop aesthetic to a fun and often odd extreme. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Diamond)

It’s not uncommon to try and put a new spin on pop music, but label PC Music’s new twist hasn’t quite been attempted before. Love or hate it, the quirky, sugar sweet sounds and glossy electric synths are either annoying or the sound of the future. Even still, the label is definitely making a stir in the music world. 

PC Music, which stands for Personal Computer Music, a British label founded by A.G. Cook, is oddly obscure. The website reflects the ambiguity surrounding the label, simply listing artists that the label hosts, social media outlets for each, and links where people can listen to their music. The artists themselves are also questionable. It’s hard to tell who is who.

Take QT, one of the artists on the label, for example. Is QT a person, or simply an alias for one of the people involved with the label? QT, which stands for Quinn Thomas, is actually a fictional, genderless pop star advertising a fizzy energy drink. QT is played by real life Hayden Dunham. PC Music founder A.G. Cook and SOPHIE are the true producers of the song “Hey QT,” which is supposed to promote the drink. At one point, Cook and SOPHIE (not a PC Music artist, but one who is closely related to the label) were rumored to be the same person. It wasn’t until they appeared on stage together that the rumor was discredited. This seems like it could apply to many of the PC artists, seeing as there has been a whirlwind of rumors in the past that suggested that nobody truly knows for certain who each of the artists are.

“I think everyone is bored of ‘identities,’ or of artists that try to achieve authenticity with strangers,” Sasha Geffen, the associate editor of Consequence of Sound, said. “PC Music is artificially an aesthetic, so not knowing who these people are or what they’re like bolsters the affect.”

One artist who has made several live appearances is Hannah Diamond. Diamond is among the few who utilizes her own vocals for her project. Diamond, in addition to creating strangely emotionless, chipmunk voiced, hyperactive electronic songs is also a self-proclaimed “image maker” for labelmates, SOPHIE, QT and herself. The Facebook page for Diamond Wright, her image-making endeavor, is filled with bizarre, glossy and futuristic photos.

The entire label seems to follow this odd aesthetic. When any of the artists are played, Light Brites and Furbies and flashy, stick on rhinestones come to mind. Sleek, vibrant colors, shiny, slick surfaces and childlike whims are usually a motif throughout the pictures, songs, and culture of the label. Each project by the individual artists definitely differs from today’s pop culture, relying on warped, helium high-pitched vocals, trippy, erratic rhythms, and imaginative, blipping beats.

“I’ve heard PC Music described as ‘situationist pop’ and ‘accelerationist pop,’ which means that it’s music that tries to beat consumerism at its own game. If ads are annoying, then PC Music takes what makes them annoying and multiplies it until it’s actually fun,” Geffen said. “SOPHIE holds a production credit on Madonna’s new album, and A.G. Cook has done some pretty high profile remixes with How to Dress Well. So much of the attention around the label has come from its novelty.”

“All the tracks are about feeling good about yourself and living it up to how you want,” Jon Lundquist, a student at Harper College, said. “I imagine PC Music as a piece of candy, rolled in more sugar and then topped with a cherry. It’s sweet, fun and beautiful.”

“I don’t think there’s anything shallow about PC Music at all,” he said. “They took the pop music formula and made it their own.”

He also described PC Music as a “sub genre of bubblegum pop,” finding influences in the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s.

Another refreshing aspect about PC Music is that there seems to be a focus on female empowerment.

“I mean, pop music is popular music and it’s been around forever, but, in the dance club scene especially, it’s very macho. PC Music is so proud of their female roster,” Ahmad Asani, sophomore and enthusiastic fan said. “Like Hannah Diamond does everything except write the lyrics. People give PC Music crap about that but that’s what pop music does.” This fact alone seems to give PC Music a step ahead in the music industry.

Some people seem to reject the idea, claiming it’s simply pop-saturated electronic music.

“Some people think it’s video game music and that it’s annoying, but if they are getting that reaction and still gaining popularity they are obviously doing something right,” Asani said.

PC Music has gathered enough attention to earn a slot at Chicago’s own Pitchfork Music Festival. A.G. Cook, the founder himself, as well as SOPHIE, are both performing this year. With such few live performances, Pitchfork seems like an opportunity to help jumpstart interest in the Midwest.

“It’s gimmicky. PC Music from the start knew what they wanted to do and it’s so unique and hasn’t been done yet,” Asani said. “They’re taking pop music and flipping it on its head.”