PC Music: why the hype?

“Last week, PC Music launched their fake social media outlet Pop Cube.” If that sentence means nothing to you then congratulations, you probably go to Merton. Let me fill you in. PC Music is a much-hyped music label that rose from tumblr fanboy dungeons to the dazzling heights of The Guardian Film and Music supplement over the course of 2014. Their music, if you haven’t heard it, sounds like 90s pop that’s been genetically fused with a heart emoji. Some people say it’s great. Some people say it’s shit. But everyone’s saying something.

The rise of PC Music was unstoppable. High-concept acts like GFOTY (which stands for Girl- friend Of The Year) and QT caught the attention of journalists early on. Interviews were few and far between, but when they came they revealed bizarre figures that spoke more like teenagers’ text messages than humans.

When the Guardian interviewed GFOTY she was in bed next to a naked man. QT’s first single was framed as the promotion for a fictional fizzy drink. I don’t know if there’s a Guinness world record for ‘highest think piece
to music ratio’, but PC Music are absolutely smashing it if there is.

A vast proportion of the increasingly voluminous discourse surrounding PC Music portrays its over-sugared sonic and lyrical content as some kind of a critique, predominantly of this world where exploitative brands want to be your friend, and Buzzfeed interns want to manipulate your emotions for clicks.

This line of thought runs something along the lines, ‘PC Music is the only relevant musical reaction to the alienated subject in late capitalism,’ and it’s currently being espoused from behind a roll-up and a douche snapback all over the country. If you ever hear it be on your guard: once you hear the word ‘accelerationist’ it is your stern duty to take off your shirt and fight them. However, the idea that PC Music is in some way a criticism of hyper-branded personhood is tempting. “Look,” said PC Music, “we’re launching a social media like we all use, us young people.”

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“It doesn’t exist,” they say, “but you can come to our exclusive party and watch us perform from behind a glass wall.” That’s not a metaphor, by the way. They actually performed from behind a glass wall. “Read into it,” they whisper leaning in, “whatever you will.” Equally tempting is the larger idea behind all of this – behind the fake soft drinks, the strange puppet-personas, the non-existent business – which is simply that PC Music is in some way the future. They are unquestionably the most hyped act in music right now. In fact, the bubble of hype surrounding the label is so large, you might begin to worry that if it burst there would be a depression. And what would we do then? Simply wander around in a dustbowl populated only by Sam Smith, Marcus Mumford and Tupac’s hologram, which flickers fainter, ever fainter…

Well, no. I like PC Music (well, I like some of it – I’m looking at you GFOTY). However, these two ideas both seem false to me. Last week they launched Popcube, a fictional multimedia company. “Best thing ever to happen, happens in New York!” said some people. “UK label formed by ex-private school kids throws party in New York with corporate money,” said no one. This is because behind PC music, in the form of Red Bull sponsorship, there is big, scary money.

At which point I ask of PC Music’s roll-up smoking philoso-fans, if they are now in a strict sense branded content, are they in any position to be commenting on the place of branded content? Does doing the shitty thing that you attempt to criticise actually amount to a critique of the shitty thing?

And as for the hype-tsunami? Well, the sad truth is that even with Red Bull’s backing, PC Music is a minnow compared to corporate giants like Sony. Their in-house producers will mimic the label’s trademark sound, and eventually, pop will eat PC Music, and students all over Oxford will listen to the results at bops, blissfully unaware.

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