CRASH lacks the cohesion and forward-thinking sonics of the work that has defined the recent years of Charli’s career.
Charli XCX has had one of the most unexpected careers as a pop star in the last decade. Breaking out with a handful of large singles, and features on smash hits “I Love It” by Icona Pop and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” Charli was shot into stardom.
The first surprise in Charli’s career came in the form of 2016’s Vroom Vroom EP, enlisting bubblegum bass pioneer SOPHIE as executive producer, hot off the backend of her 2015 project Product. SOPHIE was becoming one of the most in-demand producers, known for her deconstructed club sound with heavy left field tendencies, which made this EP cut out for a dance floor in the loudest nightclub in town, and not the FM radio waves.
After a pair of collaboration-oriented mixtapes, and two more studio albums, Charli has (intentionally or not) become the figurehead of what came to be the “hyperpop” scene, blazing the trail for numerous artists like 100 gecs and Dorian Electra.
The 2017’s Pop 2 and 2019’s Charli became a harbour for this scene, with an all-star lineup of artists being featured across the tracklists, all while also maintaining the pop sensibility that made her a star.
CRASH is the most radio-pop project we have received from Charli since 2014’s Sucker. The PC Music label sounds preceding hyperpop that Charli embraced in recent years have dissolved into a more conventional sound.
CRASH comes loosely packaged with a plethora of pop and dance music influences through the decades. Whether it’s the ’80s synth pop tinted “Good Ones” and “Lightning” to 2000s trance leads and 2-step drums of “Beg For You,” the project lacks the clear cut direction of her last two records.
Though going over well on Number 1 Angel, which like this project did not have a rock solid sonic identity, CRASH comes across as a bit of a jumbled mess. Disorientingly bouncing from funky guitar lines, to big ’90s gated drums and 2000s Ibiza synths, the variety of sounds on this project can at times mix like water and oil.
Highlights like “Move Me” and “New Shapes” have immense vocal performances and spotless production, but these highpoints only crop up in the first half, leaving CRASH feeling front loaded.
CRASH comes as a bitter end to her five album contract with Atlantic as Charli’s TikToks and tweets have not shied away from expressing her frustration towards PR and contractual commitments.
If CRASH is Charli’s out from this contract, and she was simply trying to just dump a more conventional pop album on Atlantic to sell, then she has done what she sought out to do. Major labels are notorious for editing artists into creative oblivion and CRASH could be a record that’s content got lost in translation. Though she may not have made a product that fully expresses her artistic direction, given full creative control, I am sure future projects will result in a full realization of another pop opus Charli surely has within her.
Trial Track: “Beg For You” feat. Rina Sawayama