Five years after her last studio album, Charli XCX released the most adventurous album in her catalog.
Charli XCX is an interesting character; one glance at her Twitter will tell you that right off the bat. A songwriter and artist in her own right for just about the entire 2010s, Charli didn’t get a good grasp of the limelight until she was featured Icona Pop’s 2012 smash single “I Love It.” With two adequate, yet routine, studio albums and two worldwide hits in “Boom Clap” and her feature on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” under her belt, Charli seemed to be a unique voice in pop music that just wasn’t making much of an impact from a critical standpoint.
Then something changed. In 2017, Charli released two projects labeled as “mixtapes” in the form of “Number 1 Angel” and “Pop 2.” Both made critics take notice, especially the latter. By embracing the production style of the PC Music group and experimenting with different songwriting styles, Charli was finally carving out her own distinct lane.
All of this led to her newest major release, “Charli,” her first in five years. Charli uses the album as a vehicle to keep pushing boundaries to show us her version of pop music. For the most part, these interesting twists and turns make for a really exciting listen. The frenetic opener “Next Level Charli” is a true shot of adrenaline with no defined hook whatsoever. A damn near perfect opener for a Charli XCX album. The next track “Gone” featuring Christine and the Queens is just as good in a different way and essentially that can be said for the first four tracks on the entire record. The opener, “Gone”, “Cross You Out” featuring Sky Ferreira and “1999” with Troye Sivan are some of the most enjoyable pop songs you’ll hear all year.
Unfortunately, the album on the whole hits those same hits only sporadically throughout the rest of it’s runtime. While there is nothing wrong with tracks like “Click” with Kim Petras and Tommy Cash and “Warm” with HAIM, they don’t necessarily stand out. If anything, the former at least has a great breakdown while the latter is just kind of there. Blame It On Your Love is a remake of “Pop 2” track “Track 10”, and while you may love or hate the addition of Lizzo, a certified remix is certainly an interesting choice for a major label release.
The major problem with this record is the longer than necessary runtime. While a majority of the tracklist serves some fantastic material, when you fall in love with some of the more experimental tracks, the ones that are less innovative tend to just be there. “White Mercedes” sounds like it could be the B-Side to some of Charli’s best older material, but it’s better in a vacuum than it is nine songs into a fifteen track album. By the time some other true highlights such as “Shake It” with it’s eclectic cast of features or “February 2017” with Clairo and Yaeji come on, there’s a very real chance you’ll be burned out by songs that sound like they could’ve been bonus tracks instead.
In the end, what’s good on this album is great and what feels like filler could easily have been left on the cutting room floor. While not quite as good as “Pop 2” mainly due to length, Charli XCX continues to prove why she’s one of the most interesting characters in all of pop music. A more than welcome change from the Charli XCX of five years ago.