With Charli XCX, Vince Staples Collaboration Under Their Belt, Music Label PC Music's Future Seems Bright
It’s been less than four years since British singer/songwriter Charli XCX reached a peak in popularity in 2014, featuring on Iggy Azalea's “Fancy” and having her own Top 10 single with “Boom Clap.”
However, the drastic difference between those songs and her recent material may lead people to believe it’s been a decade. It did not take long after Charli came into the limelight for her to dive into her most experimental work yet.
It started in 2016 with a 4-track EP entitled Vroom Vroom and continued into 2017 with two mixtapes: Number 1 Angel and Pop2. These projects, while still showcasing Charli’s sharp songwriting skills and sassy vocal delivery, were elevated to a whole new level due to the producers she has worked with ‒ the likes of SOPHIE, A.G. Cook, Danny L Harle and EASYFUN brought a progressive, futuristic sound to Charli’s vision. All of these artists are associated with one strange label: PC Music.
The London-based record label has been active since 2013, releasing music from dozens of artists whose material has few if any stylistic predecessors.
The PC Music ethos is to expand on mainstream pop music, and to do so by accentuating the sugariest, most lovesick, and most plastic elements of bubblegum pop music to the point of surrealism. This theme extends into the artists’ visual aesthetics, which embraces the shallow, futuristic kitsch of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. The results yielded from this formula range from shallow fun to unorthodox beauty to avant-garde confusion.
Even for as uncompromisingly odd as PC Music work is, it still managed to catch on and turn heads rather quickly. By 2015, music by SOPHIE was already being featured in McDonald’s commercials. Various members of the labels have also collaborated with the likes of Madonna, Diplo, MØ, Carly Rae Jepsen, Vince Staples, and, of course, Charli XCX.
With so many high-profile connections, the suggestion that mainstream success could be in PC Music’s future becomes more legitimate. Maybe not at this exact moment though, with trap rap’s domination of the charts. The current popular music landscape doesn’t seem to be quite fit for something as sugary as Hannah Diamond. But there is hope ‒ whenever there is a major shift in the landscape of popular music, it often includes a major mood change.
The polished, over-the-top hair metal of the late ’80s was taken over by the messy grunge and alternative rock of the early to mid-‘90s. The boy band-infested late ‘90s were replaced by the rise of gruff, angsty radio rock and nu-metal at the turn of the millenium. Larger-than-life EDM was swapped out for dim, grounded trap.
In this context, the suggestion that songs similar to the impossibly sweet “Unlock It” off of Charli’s Pop2 overtaking songs like Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO TOUR Llif3” as the zeitgeist of popular music.
One more thing to ask is what version of PC Music will get big, because there have been endless ways artists under the label have depicted and interpreted the label’s ethos. The avant-garde, post-modern material from the likes of GFOTY (Girlfriend of the Year) and the more abrasive, industrial-tinged tracks from SOPHIE are most likely not going to result in the breakthrough. Even the poppier songs from Hannah Diamond and A.G. Cook might struggle, due to how intensely saccharine they are.
In reality, solo artists from PC Music will most likely not be topping the charts. Instead, it will be through already established pop artists, a la Charli XCX. Many songs off of Pop2 sound like the kind of PC Music that could realistically hit the Billboard charts (“Out Of My Head,” “Unlock It,” and “Porsche”).
The conclusion that can be made by this assumption is this: PC Music is going to have to become more pop rather than pop having to become more PC Music. It’s a truth that has applied to most cases of underground music movements hitting the mainstream. However, even if the music of A.G. Cook or SOPHIE never reach the general public, there’s no doubt that their music would not only attract listeners they never would have reached if artists like Charli XCX, and their names and art, would have a notable place in the neverending evolution of popular music.