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  • Writer's pictureBradley Gambosi

It's Charli, Baby

“Crash” - Charli XCX (2022)

Over the past few years Charli XCX has been one of the torchbearers of the PC and hyperpop music movement since her first collaborations with the late and great producer, SOPHIE. However, on her newly released fifth album, CRASH, she throws all of that out of the window, and many die hard fans won’t be down for the ride.

CRASH will be XCX’s final album with her major record label, Atlantic Records — which she has been signed with since her debut, True Romance. Her sway back to more traditional pop music was influenced by her want to close out this chapter with Atlantic. CRASH sees her return to the sound she started her journey within the music industry with on 2013’s True Romance.

CRASH is generally a squeaky clean produced pop album. Though at times it’s missing the grit and uniqueness that Charli’s most recent works have been known for. The inspiration she takes from 1980s pop divas, such as Janet Jackson, can be heard throughout the album, but sometimes she finds herself too stuck within the grip of the past.

The third single from the album, “Beg For You” featuring Rina Sawayama, samples the 2006 hit single “Cry For You” by September; however, this causes the chorus of the song to sound almost uncanny of the latter. Moments like these on CRASH, mainly on the albums promotional singles, just simply feel redundant and dull. Despite this, Sawayama’s vocals sound effortlessly gorgeous on this track and melt perfectly together with Charli, but it’s a shame that pop’s brightest rising star’s shared moment was here.

Don’t get me wrong, for a pop music aficionado like myself, CRASH has amazing pop songs, which is exactly what Charli set out to create. More specifically, the non-single tracks are the true standouts and most enjoyable for me.

The album opening and title track of the album, “Crash,” is a fairly simple track of breathy spoken-word from Charli, but the heavy hitting guitar solo that leads out the outro is an absolute earworm and takes the track to an entirely new level. The lyrical content covers the topics of self destruction and self empowerment, a vital theme within this album. This song is “…about to crash” into one of my favorites this year.

“Lightning” is undoubtedly the best song on the album. It’s a song to cry out loud your broken heart on the dancefloor to. It sees Charli reuniting with producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who was a major producer on her debut album, True Romance. The song sounds like it could’ve been taken off that album. It’s a tune that echoes the heavy-thumping synths and heartbreak of songs from pop innovator Robyn. “Heartbreak already hit me once / They say that it won’t happen twice / You struck me down like Lightning, Lightning,” she sings in a heavily robotic, autotuned vocal. The heavy hitting instrumental, interesting vocal effects, and heartbreaking lyrics provide everything that the singles of CRASH leave you yearning for — it’s a quintessential, near perfect Charli XCX track.

“Constant Repeat” and “Yuck” are two other highlights of the album. They offer lyrics dusted with the melancholy of heartbreak and the humor of lust itself — which are persistent themes throughout this album. The comedic lyrics on “Yuck” are a noteworthy touch. “Calling too much, you’re breaking my phone / Mad when you do and sad when you don’t… and you tell me I’m pretty / Yuck.” Both songs will undoubtedly be heard “on repeat” in gay clubs across the world.

Sadly I once again have to go back to the prerelease promotional singles of CRASH. Specifically, “Baby” which is lyrically boring and cheesy, whilst being on top of overly generic production. “I’ma f*ck you up / I’ma f*ck you up / I’ma f*ck you up / I’ma f*ck you up (baby).” A track like this with no real lyrical content just seems to be a desperate attempt to make a song with viral capabilities for TikTok, which has sadly become a priority within the music industry today. The most exciting part of the song is the first five seconds of interesting production value that ends up just going nowhere.

The album also conforms to current music industry trends, noticeably with the track lengths. Music currently just keeps getting shorter and shorter to maximize streaming possibilities and viral capability. The twelve track long CRASH is just barely over 30 minutes long and noticeably leaves you feeling shorthanded after listening.

I do regularly enjoy the album’s second single, “New Shapes,” which features alt-pop darlings Caroline Polachek & Christine and the Queens. While the song doesn’t come anywhere near Charli and Christine’s previous collaboration, “Gone,” the three still work in utter harmony together. “You call it art, but you pulled on my heart / And you twisted it into a new shape.” The music video for the track showcases the trio as the hottest girl band that we could ever dream to even be a reality. What I wanted… they definitely got it.

CRASH is a great traditional pop album and may even be the best and most cohesive sounding one released so far this year, but the question remains: what else does it have to offer? Well, despite gorgeous visuals, not much. The album tracks were quite an amazing surprise with expectations set from the mainly lackluster prerelease singles, which are arguably the weakest songs of the entire album. The best parts of CRASH are when Charli breaks the rules of pop music rather than trying to fall in line within them.

In comparison to her previous works such as 2020’s how i’m feeling now and 2019’s Charli; CRASH doesn’t really make the bombastic and fiery entrance you want, instead it just leaves you with a few minor scratches.

Rating: 6.8/10 ★

Don’t take a wrong turn and try not to CRASH below.


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