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Review: Charli – Charli XCX

Written by Album reviews, Music

A trailblazer, a musical soothsayer, a pop revolutionary – Charli XCX juggles these labels with expertise, balancing on a tightrope of appealing to the transatlantic mainstream to further her career and using her platform to shine a spotlight on leftfield, hyper-stylised artists that status-quo pop has disregarded. Her latest album, ‘Charli’, is the epitome of this tightrope.

If you merely remember Charli as the ‘Boom Clap’ girl, you’ve missed years and years of sophisticated musical progression. But this is also understandable – she hid from the mainstream, and her next effort after 2015’s ‘Sucker’ (AKA the album with ‘Boom Clap’ on it) was 2016’s criminally underrated ‘Vroom Vroom’ EP that cemented her role as a PC Music-adjacent artist, a label focused on surreal, avant-garde, consumerism-wielding electronic releases from artists such as A.G. Cook, Danny L Harle, Hannah Diamond and their affiliate SOPHIE. A.G. Cook returns as an executive producer, but what differentiates ‘Charli’ from a PC Music release is that her work is presented as straight-up, unfiltered pop, rather than an attempt to transcend the genre.

‘Charli’ is a dissection of relationships and honesty staged in the relatable arena of a party. A non-explicit concept album that explores pop absurdity and introspection in 50 sweet minutes. Dance anthems are supplied in abundance – stand out high energy collaborations ‘Shake It’ and ‘Click’ are an assertion of Charli’s auteurship, a smug grin bookending a four-song streak of solo contemplations. Verses bounce off one another like atoms – Tommy Cash providing his sincere-satire post-Soviet rap, Kim Petras serving angelic yet edgy vocals, Cupcakke delivering her brand of ingenuity and hypersexuality, Brooke Candy’s vocals metallic enough to blend in with Cook’s mechanical beats like quicksilver.

Conversely, songs like ‘Gone’ (a collaboration with Christine & The Queens) and solo efforts like ‘Thoughts’ and ‘White Mercedes’ are the closest thing to ballads on such a hyper-kinetic album, their synthy depths and quick beats providing the perfect soundtrack to a 3 AM cry in the club toilets.

“One must wonder: has Charli supplied the future of pop to us already?”

The album culminates with Troye Sivan collaboration ‘2099’, Cook’s immaculate production whirring and whizzing over intimate, hushed vocals. Though the track is intended to be a gaze into the future following the millennial introspection of ‘1999’, one must wonder: has Charli supplied the future of pop to us already?

(5/5)

Last modified: 11th October 2019

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