Charli XCX’s newest release sees her take a more traditional pop direction that has some surprising results.
Crash is Charli XCX’s last album with a major label as her contract expires after this release. What she’s done is attempt to use all the resources available to a major label to release her most traditional and straightforward pop to as large an audience as possible. Does this mean that she has sold out? Given the quality of the work and the very knowing approach Charli has taken I don’t think that’s the case. That doesn’t mean that some of her fans aren’t still going to hammer her for it.
While listening to this I couldn’t help but think that Charli heard Dua Lipa and believed she could do better. No small feat given that Dua Lipa’s recent releases have placed her firmly at the top of the pop princess hierarchy. But you know what? Charli might have succeeded.
Take the track ‘Yuck’ for example. It’s a very Dua Lipa styled song with that disco influenced beat. The production might sound similar to a Dua Lipa song but what Charli does with it is purely her own. It takes a similar concept in pop, that of a crush and the feelings that entails, but it’s all done very tongue in cheek and kind of representative of the whole album. What I mean is that she calls these mushy, gushy feelings ‘yuck’ but at the same time she is also enjoying them. The feeling permeates the whole album.
Crash feels like a throwback to late 2000s and early 2010s pop with some literal samples from that era with ‘Beg For You’ coming to mind first. While it may all feel familiar it certainly isn’t the same as Charli manages to put her own spin and feeling into these songs, elevating them from standard throwback pop or even just standard pop.
Yes, this isn’t a hyperpop album but there are still some moments that share in that aesthetic, like on the track ‘Lightning’. The difference this time around is that it has been pushed to background a lot which is sure to upset some of her diehard fans.
What Crash does offer is just straight-up incredibly well-crafted pop music. From the beats to the hooks and the instrumentals. That is by no means a bad thing, as it is far harder to craft a brilliant pop song than most people realise. Their simplicity allows people to get fooled into thinking that they are easy to make. Every hook is purposeful, no song overstays it’s welcome, the album isn’t overstuffed. It’s quick, to the point, and effective.
It’s the lyrics that make Crash feel more like Charli and less your run-of-the-mill pop princess. Take ‘Every Rule’, a slower track about love and relationships. The topic itself is standard pop fare but Charli XCX avoids keeping the lyrics so vague that the song could literally be about anyone (something pop is interested in so as to appeal to as broad an audience as possible). Charli instead adds her personality and enough detail into the situation that if you’re listening close enough, you know it’s truly about her. But she still is able to keep it vague enough for lazier listeners to enjoy it as a standard pop song.
That isn’t to say that this album is perfect. As a result of it being more pop, it can just wash over you without leaving much of an impact at times. It’s unfortunate that these moments are found at the end of Crash with ‘Used to Know Me’ and ‘Twice’ being the weakest tracks on the album. They aren’t bad but they are certainly the least exciting. These feel like filler tracks unfortunately.
Charli XCX’s Crash is an album that is sure to divide her fans but it may be possible to that it gets her plenty of new fans. Charli is both proud that her brand of pop has kept her on the fringes but at the same time she wants to be accepted. This album feels like a melding of that and it is a success if that’s how you want to measure it. Will it actually get her more fans though? It’s still very much Charli and if you didn’t like her before, Crash is more accessible but not to same level as someone like Dua Lipa. Does Charli deserve to be a huge star? Absolutely, yes, but it is hard to say if this album will turn her into one.
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