The London-based collective PC Music is known for skewering the pop-music machine in tricky ways. When it emerged with a roster of shadowy pop stars like Hannah Diamond, QT, and The Lipgloss Twins, the project's aims were left intentionally obscure. These artists seemed more like avatars concocted in an energy-drink lab and less like real people, their sugary, cliché music often reading as winking satires on the heavily autotuned '00s bubblegum pop of m2m or Hoku.
But in recent years the faces of PC Music — including founder A.G. Cook and closely associated friend-of-the-label SOPHIE — have been more visible than ever. These days, they're not just working with conceptual constructs, but with actual pop stars like Madonna, Charli XCX, Mad Decent signee Liz, and the Japanese girl-group Tempura Kidz. In an interview last year, SOPHIE even casually mentioned a meeting with Miley Cyrus' A&R people. So instead of being an alternative, funny take on pop music, the sound of PC Music is now simply the sound of pop.
Carly Rae Jepsen is the latest pop star to join their universe. Her new single "Super Natural" is produced by PC Music mainstay Danny L Harle, who's previously worked with musicians Caroline Polachek of Chairlift and Raffy. The song is surprisingly radio-friendly for a PC Music–produced cut, and it almost plays like a more subdued EDM track in the vein of Zedd's "Clarity." But its synth arrangements also harken back to the '90s and '00s eurodance music that has had such a strong influence on Harle's work — the hyper pop of Alice Deejay or DJ Sammy. "This is easy love, everyday euphoria," Jepsen sings. "It's just like we don't try / We just fit, you and I / We're supernatural," with her signature raspy vocals left intact — which isn't traditionally how PC Music play their chipmunkified, computerized vocals.
The sound of "Super Natural" has more in common with Jepsen's 2012 debut Kiss than the cool '80s pop pastiche of last year's EMOTION. Seen in another light, though, her decision to work with Harle chimes with her recent choices: EMOTION was full of indie producers, from Ariel Rechtshaid to Dev Hynes, and Jepsen is clearly interested in cultivating her own brand of pop that exists on the fringe of today's Top 40 hits. One of the reasons EMOTION underperformed commercially is that the singer, by her own admission, didn't feel able to recreate the same high as her breakthrough smash "Call Me Maybe." So she set out to color outside the lines, to make a cohesive album of great songs even if they didn't sound like certifiable mainstream hits. "Super Natural," with its almost cheesy, throwback '00s sound, proves she isn't going to stop experimenting any time soon.