REVIEW: Charli XCX ‘CRASHes’ back into mainstream pop

Charli XCX standing on a bridge. The words I'm About to Crash are in bright red letters in the middle of the photo.
Charlie XCX is back again with “Crash,” a collection of 12 tracks which properly demonstrate her capacity to make mainstream pop sound fascinating. (Photo courtesy of Innovative Commons) 

Charli XCX is a sellout. At least, that is what she needs you to feel.

“tip for new artists: just do what they say,” the 29-year-aged singer tweeted in September 2021. A limited sequence of, equally glamorous and gory, photographs accompanied the cheeky assistance, the kind of “Jennifer’s Body” main imagery that would have finished figures on Tumblr a ten years back. And these weren’t the only form words of wisdom Charli provided prior to the rollout of “Crash” other beneficial guidelines shared on social media bundled “it only will get even worse,” “sell your soul for funds and fame” and “suffer in silence.”

From the beginning, Charli marketed “Crash” as satire, an intentionally mainstream venture intended to poke enjoyable at huge report companies and the pop superstars they manufacture. This statement was extra than fitting for Charli, who often spoke of her frustrations dealing with this same major-label manipulation.

After a string of radio hits and professional successes in the early 2010s, Charli veered absent from mainstream pop. She commenced collaborating with names like A.G. Cook dinner and the late SOPHIE, who both equally hailed from London-based record label and art collective Personal computer Tunes, known for its overstimulating and futuristic approach to pop new music. By curating and uplifting her individual circle of friends and collaborators eager to thrust pop tunes to its extremes, she served beginning the style of hyperpop.

She also killed it.

“rip hyperpop?” she captioned an Instagram publish kicking off the “Crash” period. Often forward of the trends, Charli remaining pop experimentalism behind just as every person else was catching on. With “Crash,” she was all set to go mainstream once more, but on her phrases.

Though it was framed as a parody, “Crash” doesn’t truly feel significant. Rather, it is a celebration of large, boisterous, polished pop new music. The album may well not be as intelligent of a assertion that Charli has claimed, but it’s continue to a fantastic time — a string of dance ground-ready bops curated by an artist mindful of their simplicity.

“I’m about to crash into the water, gonna choose you with me / I’m higher voltage, self-destructive, finish it all so famous,” Charli sings on the title observe, the album’s opener. The song’s instrumental harkens back to pop icons of yesteryear, this kind of as Janet Jackson — who Charli cited as a major affect for the project — but the staccato shipping and delivery feels straight off “Pop 2.” “Crash” is fortuitously however the similar glitchy femmebot we know and appreciate.

Charli’s signature audio peaks by means of her fantastic-pop facade just frequently plenty of. Album spotlight “Lightning” proves as placing as its title with a hard-hitting chorus and a distorted outro that breaks down with as a great deal gusto as 2019’s immaculate “Gone.”

Likewise, the playful “Yuck” serves as an current, 2022-welcoming version of Kesha’s “Grow a Pear,” placing a special spin on the usual never-catch-emotions warning music with the swaggering self esteem she’s identified for: “Put me on a pedestal / ‘cause my love’s outstanding / Never wait up on me / I just can’t make those plans / Capture me if you can.”

Elsewhere, Charli’s references are her powerful level. One “Beg For You” faithfully interpolates September’s “Cry for You” with the enable of pop-experimentalist Rina Sawayama. It is a genius meeting of pop history with pop upcoming, helmed by two artists who audio at-residence in the center. “Used To Know Me” samples Robin S.’s “Show Me Really like,” putting the perfect stamp on Charli’s adore letter to pop music.

Therein lies “Crash’s” greatest weak point: The cynical notion that Charli touted on social media is scarcely current in the actual songs.

 There’s no sinister undercurrent or knowing grin guiding her verses. Without the need of her constant shepherding and PR strategies all displaying the same information, “Crash’s” intended commentary would cease to exist.

Regretably, Charli established the bar significant for herself. “Pop 2” highlighted a whopping 13 artists on only 10 tracks, “how i’m sensation now” was manufactured fully around six weeks through coronavirus lockdowns. Although Charli’s previous successes really do not completely spoil “Crash’s” pleasurable, they dilemma its importance.

On album closer “Twice,” Charli sings of trusting your intestine and living in the moment: “All the things I really like are gonna go away me / One working day you’re hardly ever gonna be there / I notify myself to take it quick / Really do not assume 2 times about it.” Potentially this was her technique to building “Crash” — immediately after a long time of churning out avant-garde, mind-bending pop music at substantial speeds, she’s just possessing enjoyment. Probably she really should be authorized to.

Charli may not be driving “Vroom Vroom’s” Lavender Lamborghini or her “White Mercedes” anymore, but she’s even now driving the wheel in total management. And she’s not frightened to go off-course — buckle up.

Ranking: 3/5