Hannah Diamond, “Perfect Picture”
By April Clare Welsh · October 04, 2023 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Hannah Diamond has always skirted the fine line between artist and invention. Long before major labels were signing AI-generated stars and influencers were getting paid megabucks to take selfies with shampoo, Diamond was toying with popstar tropes and constructing (and re-constructing) her own brand identity. After propelling PC Music into the spotlight with her 2013 debut single “Pink & Blue”—co-written by long-term collaborator A.G. Cook—Diamond became one of the collective’s early breakouts, co-creating their visuals alongside photographer William E. Wright.

This natural affinity for photography continues to shape her musical trajectory, so it makes perfect sense that Diamond’s second album—the follow-up to her long-awaited 2019 full-length reflections, produced by Cook—would be called Perfect Picture. The LP’s dewy cover portrait stages a hyper-real vision of Diamond in Barbie-friendly pink, and its tracks could slot in seamlessly on the soundtrack to the film of the same name. But, unlike the Mattel creation, Hannah Diamond exists in a world of her own making.

Producer David Gamson (Kesha, Chaka Khan, Charli XCX) was tasked with polishing Diamond’s sparkle into a starry, confident sheen, cranking up the album’s dance-pop sound to world-dominating, Top 40 volume, without forsaking Diamond’s beloved palette of trance. “Want You To Know” is pure bubblegum balladry, while “Lip Sync” marries cutesy sing-speak with diva-pop vocals. Huge on-camera moments are tempered by behind-the-scenes confessions.

Lyrically, the way Diamond delivers affirmations of self-confidence casts her in a strong new light. On Reflections, she was being fucked around by boyfriends (“The Ending”, “Never Again”) but on Perfect Picture, she’s “a businesswoman” and “my own CEO.”  Nowhere is this articulated more cleverly than on aptly titled album highlight, “Affirmations,” a lemon-sharp gem with high-pitched, airy synths that dance around Diamond’s hiccup-y, processed vocals. “I don’t have to be someone else/ The best version of me is myself,” she sings.

Diamond has described the album as being “more focused on who I am on the inside, a multi-layered self-portrait,” and you get the sense that she’s trying to break out of the screen and hold a mirror up to herself. On “No FX,” she takes a satirical swipe at the unbearable flatness of being extremely online: “In a world of windows and screens/ I touch nothing and nothing touches me,” she coos sweetly. The album also uses photography as a vehicle to explore wider themes of identity. “Picture Perfect” takes a tumble into the uncanny valley where Diamond is “permanently frozen in time,” while on “Poster Girl,” she’s reaching for perfection that’s “too good to be true.” The lack of physicality in the digital realm is explored on “Impossible,” as she zooms in on Photoshopping (“All the layers are clean”), her voice cascading like a luxurious Met Gala dress.

Packed full of trance-pop rushes, dopamine synths, and synthetic textures that pop and pucker like a tub of hot pink slime, Picture Perfect is the sound of an artist with her finger firmly on pop’s giddy, hyper-electronic pulse. After being tagged as the face of PC Music for years, she’s trademarking her own “Poster Girl” image, as the LP’s closing ballad “Unbreakable” makes clear: “My heart/ A diamond/ Unbreakable/ I know I can catch myself fall/ And I don’t need no one at all.”

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