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Photo courtesy of Charli XCX's instagram

Charli XCX’s CRASH: Where the past and future of pop collide

By Sophie Janos, April 17 2022—

Charli XCX speeds full throttle back onto the music scene with her new album CRASH. With the standard version released on March 18 and the deluxe released a week later, the English songstress delves deep into the world of dance-pop music.

Charlotte Aitchison, better known as Charli XCX, explained in a recent interview that for this record, she has taken on the persona of a sell-out ultra popstar. This being her final album with Atlantic Records, she critiques “the game” of the mainstream music industry and reflects on her experiences in it thus far.

The standard edition of this album is exactly what was promised — 34 minutes of pure, unadulterated pop. The instrumentals create a retro flair featuring synth and disco elements augmented through sampling various ‘80s and ‘90s dance hits.

This conventional style is a stark contrast from the experimental hyper-pop evident in her quarantine album how i’m feeling now and mixtapes such as Pop 2. Although much tamer than her previous work, CRASH still manages to feature that iconic “Charli” sound the world has come to love.

I’ve had the lead single “Good Ones” on repeat ever since its release in September 2021. Over an addictive synth beat, she confesses her inability to hold onto healthy relationships singing, “I want the bad ones ‘cause they’re all I know / I always let the good ones go.” 

This song encapsulates the vibe of the album — vintage, bold and unbothered. All the elements combine to strike the perfect balance between a sarcastic parody of pop music and a genuinely top-tier club anthem. 

The next few singles released had me slightly worried that Charli was playing her role of a generic pop singer a little too well. “New Shapes (feat. Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek),” “Beg for You (feat. Rina Sawayama)” and “Baby” tackle topics of love ranging from unsatisfying relationships to toxic desire and everything in between. 

These tracks feature repetitive lyrics, synth and drum beats which unfortunately create relatively one-dimensional performances. Although this album aimed to portray a sell-out and feature a more subdued style, I feel these singles start to verge on stagnant instead.

These are not objectively bad songs or even worth skipping. However, I don’t believe they were the best choices for single releases as they don’t reflect the quality of the rest of the album 

Any doubts the singles gave me immediately disappeared when I listened to the album in full. Featuring subtle elements of hyperpop, the title track “Crash” is the perfect segue from her experimental style into ‘80s-inspired pop. This time, her use of repetition builds momentum and musically generates a jolting feeling reminiscent of a stalling car. 

Another track reminiscent of this fused style is one of my personal favourites, “Lightning.” This song features a slightly more romantic tone but still carries an attitude as she sings, “You took me down, I don’t mind it, mind it / My stupid heart can’t fight it.” Featuring vocoder, synth snares and even thunder sound effects Charli skillfully utilizes traditionally cheesy elements to create a one-of-a-kind dance tune. 

“Used To Know Me,” which samples from the iconic ‘90s dance hit “Show Me Love” by Robin S., is definitely a stand-out track. In my opinion, this song should have been one of the singles released because it really captures the essence of the album. It’s upbeat and danceable while still exuding stone-cold confidence and a critical view of love and breakups. 

One of my personal favourites from the album is “Yuck.” Featuring a more laid-back beat, Charli contemplates the conflict between being nauseated by romantic affection while still enjoying it. Though the majority of the album features a very hard persona, this track shows some vulnerability and highlights the complexity of emotions. Additionally, the purposefully immature lyricism style creates a really fun attitude. 

CRASH proves that everything old can become new again. The clever combining of various styles results in a musical journey that is fresh and unique. This album is a confidence-boosting dance party perfect for anyone who enjoys pop music or any of Charli XCX’s previous work. As she departs from her current record contract, I am excited to see what the future holds.

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