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How PC Music Revolutionized Pop

Exploring how the PC Music label changed the sphere of the pop genre.

PC MUSIC LOGO
Credits: PC Music

Hyperpop has become a popular sub-genre of pop music as of late. It takes the best parts of pop music, exaggerating, deconstructing, or stripping it down to something magnificently sound. However, since “hyperpop” was introduced by Spotify, a lot of the artists who defined its sound became dwarfed by the new faces of the genre.

Before it was made in 2019, musicians in the PC Music collective were making hyperpop before it was called hyperpop. Artists such as GFOTY and SOPHIE (who was not officially part of the label but would frequently collaborate with the artists from the collective) were producing left-field pop.

They were taking the best parts of pop while adding electronic or industrial elements into it. It results in a piece of brashy and eccentric music, making their impact on hyperpop clear to any avid listener.

GFOTY portrait with blue hues
Credits: GFOTY / PC Music

However, their influence did not just end with hyperpop. Their sound and aesthetic can be heard in contemporary pop music by more established artists such as Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, and Madonna, who have been incorporating it into their catalogue. Moreover, the aesthetic attached to the music of PC Music could also be attributed to the Y2K trend that occurred at the beginning of the 2020 decade.  

PC Music’s influence has become palpable, revolutionizing pop music in ways that allowed it to become more experimental while proving it can make its way into the mainstream pop genre. It makes pop more exciting, which artists from the genre are just now seemingly catching up to.

What is PC Music?

PC Music started in 2013 as a record label in London where they would release their earlier works on SoundCloud. It was founded by A.G. Cook and had a roster of people making music under the label. Hannah Diamond, Namasenda, GFOTY, easyFun, A.G. Cook, and other artists were part of the collective. 

Although PC Music is a record label, it became a sound and genre of its own. The music they were putting out, albeit different in many ways, was in a similar realm. Their music would contain bright synths with a hint of nostalgia coupled with pitched-up vocals that took inspiration from house and electronic music.

Still from a Hannah Diamond music video.
Credits: i-D / YouTube

Artists from the label would also make deconstructed and experimental pop that was noisier and brashier. The songs were very committed to what they were trying to do, meaning that if it was minimalistic, experimental, or noisy, it would embrace that direction head-on.

A lot of the aforementioned artists, and others who were under the label, would frequently collaborate. As mentioned by Caroline Polachek in an interview with Arte TRACKS, people in the PC Music collective had a collaborative spirit. Ideas and opinions about certain tracks were always exchanged and they would often speak about consumerism and internet culture in their lyrics or the portrayal of their artists. 

Credits: Arte TRACKS / YouTube

This collaborative spirit and their critique of consumerism is perfectly encapsulated in the song “Hey QT.” QT was a project made by A.G. Cook and SOPHIE, with direct input from Hayden Dunham about the concept and vocals from Harriet Pittard. The song features a sugary electro bubblegum base with high-pitched vocals singing about an energy drink.

The lyrics are meant to be a satirical take on consumerism, advertising a product that can make you feel elated with its addicting qualities. With its sweet hooks, jumpy beat, and shiny synths, you’ll understand the addictive quality the QT drink has to offer with this track, making you want to hear it again and again.

QT wearing headphone
Credits: DrinkQTVEVO / YoutTube

The Rise of PC Music

From when it first started, PC Music already had a growing fanbase, mostly from underground scenes. They would play their tracks in underground clubs, even if their songs were met with a mixed reception. Music that they were releasing on SoundCloud also started to catch some people’s attention. And one of those people was Charli XCX.

Charli XCX helped bring attention to PC Music by means of collaborating with different artists from the label. In her 2015 EP Vroom Vroom, she collaborated with A.G. Cook and SOPHIE in production with Hannah Diamond featuring in one of the songs called “Paradise.” She would later collaborate with both A.G. Cook and SOPHIE in her later albums.

Although SOPHIE had collaborated with Madonna the previous year Vroom Vroom was released, Charli helped boost PC Music’s popularity. She had the mainstream pop attention gained from “Boom Clap” and her feature on Iggy Azaelias song “Fancy.” 

Each track in Vroom Vroom was laced with SOPHIE’s production and it’s evident. The songs are eccentric and hyper, different in its sound from previous Charli XCX releases. SOPHIE’s production is coupled with Charli XCX’s bratty attitude, resulting in an EP that is both fun and playful. 

Charli XCX against a black marbled backdrop
Credits: Vroom Vroom Recordings / YouTube

Birth of Hyperpop

A year after the release of Vroom Vroom, Charli XCX released Number 1 Angel and Pop 2 in 2017, which A.G. Cook had a strong influence on its production. The albums still contained songs that were of the same quality as her EP, but some songs were more minimalistic in their production.

In the same year, SOPHIE released her debut album Oil of Every Pearls Un-Inside. In this album, she experiments with more sounds and genres, incorporating harsher industrial noises in “Faceshopping” and making an ambient piece in “Pretending.”

Credits: SOPHIE / YouTuve

From these albums, a lot of different artists took inspiration from their sound. Their influence became clear in 2019 when artists released songs and albums that took inspiration from the aforementioned albums and the tracks that the PC Music label were putting out.

Dorian Electra, 100 Gecs, Alice Longyu Gao, Caroline Polachek, Slayyyter, and many more had qualities in their songs inspired by the catalogue of PC Music. Furthermore, artists from the PC Music collective and their fellow collaborators also released albums and EPs in the same year like GFOTY, SOPHIE, Charli XCX, and Hannah Diamond.  

Because many artists of the same realm were putting out music at that time, this prompted Spotify to officially label it as Hyperpop. This playlist included different artists from the PC Music collective and those who were collaborating with them. Spotify’s hyperpop playlist further popularized the artists that were included in it and cultivated a larger fanbase for the created genre. 

Hyperpop in the Mainstream

With the attention that hyperpop was receiving, mainstream pop and K-POP artists were starting to notice its popularity. Some even collaborating with the genres pioneers like in ITZY’s “24HRS”, a song produced by SOPHIE. It has the same attitude present in Charli XCX’s song “Vroom Vroom”: brashy, eccentric, and hyper.

Still from ITZY's music video "WANNABE" in the middle of a dance break.
Credits: JYP Entertainment / YouTube

Both “Unholy” by Sam Smith, featuring Kim Petras, and Aespa’s “Savage,” contain the same metallic snares that are derived from SOPHIE’s sound. “Savage” also contains somewhat of the same song structure as SOPHIE’s “Faceshopping,” where both bridges have a different sound compared to the rest of the song. 

More recently, Camila Cabello’s new song “I LUV IT” featuring Playboi Carti has taken inspiration from Charli XCX. It contains synths that evoke nostalgia with a repetitive chorus, both having been present in Charli XCX’s songs. 

Still of Camila Cabello and Playboi Cart in their music video "I LUV IT"
Credits: Camila Cabello / YouTube

PC Music’s End

Artists from the PC Music collective and its frequent collaborators still make hyperpop, but in a different way. Dorian Electra and Alice Longyu Gao have added metal into their hyperpop songs.

A.G. Cook has recently collaborated with EASYFUN to form a band called Thy Slaughter, releasing an album titled Soft Rock. The album still has the same qualities that can be found from earlier sounds of PC Music.

From her recent teaser singles, Charli XCX is seemingly moving towards making club music for her upcoming album brat.

Still from aespa's music video "Savage"
Credits: SMTOWN / YouTube

Unfortunately, last year the label PC Music released a statement saying that they would no longer release music after 2023. They state that no more new music will be released through the label but will still come out with special reissues and archival music.

Although PC Music has officially ended, their influence on pop music is admirable and undeniable. They have revolutionized what pop music can be and made the genre more captivating.

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