Crash marks Charli XCX ’s fifth studio album, and the last on her current record contract with Atlantic Records which she has had since age 16. Delayed since 2019, the self-described “poptastic” album is a controversial move away from the alternative sound of her 2020 album How I’m Feeling Now.
The move away from hyperpop has disappointed lots of fans, and in part, rightly so. Charli XCX was one of the first people in the genre, and certainly one of the most successful. Seeing her stop making hyperpop in favour of more commercial pop is disheartening, however she has never shied away from the fact that it was always meant to be a commercial pop album. Judging it on that basis, it is clear that she is still standing well clear of most pop artists, pushing boundaries within the genre.
This album symbolises the end of a record deal and an era for her, and was advertised with dark images such as one of her own gravestone, captioned with “tips for new artists” reading “it only gets worse” and “suffer in silence”. She has used ‘Crash’ and its promotion to make a point about how big labels treat artists, especially young female ones. Some of the lyrics also make a nod to this such as “Tell me what you want, Imma give it to you” in ‘Lightning’, referencing the control that record labels often have over artists content.
The singles disappointed a lot of ‘hyperpop Charli’ fans as they all cater to the charts. Her most successful song in the charts ‘Beg for You’ featuring Rina Sawayama heavily samples the 2006 euro-dance hit ‘Cry for You’ by September. It’s filled with nostalgia and the perfect vibe for a club. ‘Baby’, while still a fun dance track, is one of the weaker songs from the album. It is catchy and lively, but just doesn’t have the creativity that her older pop songs like ‘Boom Clap’ have.
However, the singles definitely don’t represent the best that the album has to offer. The opening track ‘Crash’ is a perfect start to the album, and really sets the tone of the project. Charli XCX interpolates and references a number of old songs such as ‘Vroom Vroom’, the song feeling like a representation of her time on her current label.
Futuristic and infectious, ‘Constant Repeat’ is a highlight of the album. It’s glitchy in a dream-like way, with pitch-shifted vocals adding to the trance-y atmosphere. ‘Move Me’ is the perfect example of a pop-ballad. It is slower and more vulnerable than most of her songs, but still interesting to listen to thanks to the brooding synths which build up, and then dissipate during the chorus. The album peaks with ‘Lightning’ which is a masterclass in producing a vintage pop inspired song in 2022. Charli blends classic synthpop with her hyperpop influences, producing a unique sound which should satisfy fans of both her hyperpop and commercial pop songs. On the other hand, ‘Yuck’ sounds like something that Doja Cat could have written. Fun lyrics about getting “the ick” featuring over a cool, slightly groovy beat.
Despite the rollout and singles not setting expectations of the album too high, overall Crash sets an example of mainstream pop which is still creative and pushes boundaries, and Charli XCX has proven once again that she is the queen of pop.
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