It’s been flat-out exhilarating to look at Charli XCX elude typical stardom for therefore a few years. Although she’s thrown some tracks into the business vortex, she’s been an excessive amount of of a free-thinking weirdo to let her boundless creativity get crushed out by mainstream expectations. As a substitute, she discovered a strategy to feed the business large, ultra-hooky bangers by writing on different artists’ tracks — Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” Selena Gomez’s “Identical Outdated Love” — and serving to them cannonball onto the charts. When it got here to her personal work, her sound absolutely clicked when she started spiraling out to the outer limits of the underground and avant-pop worlds, choosing up bionic hyperpop influences and letting her good, bizarro impulses take over. She’s a self-proclaimed “anti-pop star,” all the time outrunning the pop flywheel.
That’s, till now. Crash, her fifth and last on Atlantic Data, is the glitziest, most maximalist model of Charli ever. However to be clear, she’s not precisely surrendering to the shiny attract of business fame. Charli has stated she’s “very into making final pop music” and that she’s been wanting her “major pop-girl second,” however she’s additionally without end an art-school child. She conceived Crash as a sort of idea file that interrogates the thought of an artist promoting her soul to churn out mega-bops on a serious label. She’s included macabre, blood-splattered visuals within the album rollout, constructing a villainous pop princess who dances on the grave of the outdated Charli we knew. As a technique, it’s masterfully good: She will get to poke enjoyable on the artificialities of movie star and the large, unhealthy label machine in a particularly Charli method, whereas firing out songs with the potential to change into gargantuan hits.
This all makes Crash unabashed pop glitter — with a wink. Charli begins with the album’s title observe, a music that embraces chaos and acknowledges that if she’s going to take a large gamble on this venture, why not exit in a blaze of glory? “I’m high-voltage, self-destructive, finish all of it so legendary,” she sings over blindingly shiny manufacturing. She bedazzles the remainder of the music with gleeful touches that really feel like they have been plucked from synth-filled dancefloors, disco curler rinks, and Eighties throwback bashes. A few of it, sadly, is usually a little forgettable — the only “Child” got here out earlier this month and already feels prefer it’s light into the fray. However Crash works when it’s checked out as Charli seizing a pop dialog that’s already been occurring, and it’s notably thrilling when she enlists rebel-minded artists like Caroline Polachek and Christine and the Queens for the hovering “New Shapes” and Rina Sawayama for the “Beg For You.” If she’s crashing the mainstream occasion, she’s taking all of the left-of-center girlies together with her.
Not everybody has been into the brand new strategy. Individuals have known as bullshit on the entire commercial-subversion idea, seeing it as an alternative as an excuse for her to make “generic radio rubbish.” Charli truly took a social media break after the backlash intensified, however not earlier than reveling in her skill to stir issues up. “Individuals be mad that i’m testing the main label system an artwork piece while nonetheless making bops … and truthfully i like it,” she tweeted.
It’s true that a few of Charli’s finest songs have all the time been extra electro-avant, which was a part of the draw of How I’m Feeling Now, the 2020 adrenaline-packed album that felt like a bunch of tiny thunderbolts stuffed in a jewellery field. There are a number of jolts of that on Crash, like “Lightning” and the spangled ballad “Each Rule,” however not quite a bit, to the chagrin of listeners who love that facet of Charli. On the identical time, it’s price questioning how for much longer she may have stored the sound going. Charli had already predicted the hyperpop wave years in the past, teaming up with folks just like the late visionary Sophie earlier than extra of the world found her. Now that hyperpop is flickering round within the mainstream, Charli shifting onto one thing else truly makes a number of sense. Her pop swing feels even ballsier as a result of it remembers the a few of the power from her 2014 studio debut, Sucker, launched after she emerged as a teen prodigy on MySpace. For years, it appeared like she’d left a number of that behind, making this one of many least anticipated instructions she may have taken.
Plus, it’s enjoyable. Probably the most auteur-y auteurs, like Arca, FKA Twigs, and Rosalia, have gone deeper into mainstream sound swimming pools during the last couple of years, so Charli’s not precisely alone — she’s simply extra direct. She’s been trustworthy about how a lot she adores the boldness of pop, and he or she’s been so good at crafting sticky, hovering blockbusters anyway. Right here, she’s merely storming the gates head on.