What Hannah Diamond Has To Say About Digital Femininity
I was listening to an artist I’ve enjoyed for a while called Hannah Diamond. She’s affiliated with a UK-based pop coalition called PC Music, a group that makes really unusual soundscapes, taking all of the tropes you’d expect from the Top 50 to stratospheric heights.
Hannah came out with a new single called “Fade Away” that continues with the general bubblegum pop aesthetic that we’ve come to expect from her. After listening past the pitched-up vocals and energetic beat, I noticed something interesting about the lyrics:
Maybe you’ve given up
Maybe it’s just my luck
Wish we could talk things through
Wish I could click undo
The first verse, along with the rest of the song, is about Hannah lamenting a recent breakup. It’s the last line that caught my attention though. The meaning of “click undo” is obvious to anyone familiar with digital interaction, but it makes this song undeniably modern. To “click undo” on something would mean nothing to someone even thirty years ago.
Along with two lines from the second verse,
I always thought I’d be
The picture saved on your screen
it’s obvious that Hannah Diamond is not only singing about a breakup, but a breakup specifically within the context of digital socialization. This is a common motif that I’ve noticed throughout her work and the PC Music group in general. Hannah’s other single from last year “Hi” tackles the concept of love on the internet even more directly with lines such as
I don’t want to be alone in my bedroom
Writing messages you won’t read
Feels like I know you
But all I have is your picture
But I think that you look pretty good
Not only are these addressing a budding relationship on the internet, it’s also specifically from a stereotypical female perspective. This is because of the deliverer of this message: Hannah Diamond. Her voice is instantly recognizable as feminine and so are the visuals accompanied with it.
Similar to the rest of PC Music, visuals for Hannah Diamond are just as important as the music itself. And the visuals around her are almost always pink and blue, so shiny and refined that everything looks like it’s freshly molded silicon. Her videos and photoshoots are unabashedly “girly” and in a way that couldn’t have really existed a decade ago. There are hearts and makeup kits and everything else, but they’re consistently framed behind screens.
It might be easy to conclude that Hannah’s depiction of online femininity is meant to be unassuming, almost naive — especially judging by how simplistic her lyrics can be sometimes. This is where her severely contemporary image betrays something more sinister behind her brand of the digital girl.
Referring back to “Hi”, the music video shows Hannah lounging in her all-pink, vaguely 80's bedroom, doing her thing. The audience is introduced to her room by a fly by of London that quickly zooms in through her closed window. She’s not aware of the camera’s (and in effect the audience’s) presence as she moves over to her bed and scribbles her own name on a notebook in bright pink.
Throughout the video, we watch her apply makeup in a prism of mirrors, write her name repeatedly, and look at a feed on her laptop called “Hannah’s Bedroom Cam 1”. Obviously, we’re not the only ones observing Hannah.
She continues to return to her laptop screen which blows up with notifications: messages, call requests, and more. Though she’s physically alone in her bedroom, because of her stardom and femininity she’s never digitally alone. The fear present in the lyrics becomes very clear: social media and digital interaction in general allows her to distribute her own tailored feminine image exactly as she wants. The problem with this is that somewhere in this process she has lost a connection with reality. She’s in her bedroom “alone” — even with the hundreds of people watching from their screens at home.
PC Music addresses binary gender roles throughout a lot of their music, with artists presenting common situations that we see in pop with an obsessive tilt that seems to parody the male gaze (or ear in this case). Songs like Sophie’s Friday Night and GFOTY (Girlfriend of the Year)’s Don’t Wanna / Let’s Do It are much more sexual than Hannah Diamond’s work. Nevertheless, all three artists seem to be presenting a highly exaggerated form of the modern woman— or to be more specific, a presentation of the media’s form of the modern woman, since all of these depictions are heavily modified by screens and the camera’s presence. Whether they’re effective with these depictions is still up for debate, but hey. At least the music doesn’t suck. I think.