Metro Weekly

Music Review: Charli XCX Goes Back To Pop Basics

With her new album Crash, Charli XCX makes it clear her urge to experiment and innovate is as strong as ever.

Charli XCX

After a few years as one of the most prominent standard-bearers for the bright garishness of hyperpop, it’s clear Charli XCX was ready for a change.

Anchored by ’80s-inflected sounds and its powerhouse singles, her new album, Crash (★★★★☆) somewhat abruptly discards the hyper- prefix. Instead, it channels the more straightforwardly pop sound of her earlier career while embracing funk and disco elements.

It has a shimmering, futuristic gloss that is heavily indebted to the sounds of 80s pop, but it still sounds fresh enough that it avoids being mired in nostalgia.

The experimental spirit that has characterized her more recent work is still present, but this time she deploys it instead in the service of a more funky, rough around the edges sound that is apparent from the album’s first moments, in the ecstatic beat and abruptness of the vocals in the title track that opens the album.

Never one to turn down the chance to turn out a banger of a single, Charli frontloads Crash with singles that are as good as any she has ever put out.

The lead single “Good Ones” is a relentless earworm, designed to come in strong and grab your attention with its heavy beat, then not let up once during its entire brief runtime.

The addictive, funky brashness of “Good Ones” is somewhat at odds with what might be the strongest of the four singles, “New Shapes.” This synthy, slow-burning dancey collaboration between Charli, Christine and the Queens, and Caroline Polachek sees Christine in particular shine alongside Charli on a complex yet club-ready alt-pop banger with larger than life production and rich synths.

Rina Sawayama does some heavy lifting of her own in her appearance on “Beg for You,” a juicy 2000s throwback with an addictive UK garage beat.

As strong as the singles are, Charli packs some of the most interesting work onto the latter half of the album, moving between teary confessionals like the ballad “Every Rule” and high-octane tracks with towering production, like the synth-heavy standout “Lightning.”

“Yuck,” one of the most entertaining tracks, is a breezy, sardonic reckoning with the embarrassing grossness of romantic feelings that allows her to be vulnerable in a detached sort of way while flexing her wry sense of humor.

Coming late in the album, the penultimate track “Used To Know Me” anchors this second act with its catchy, defiant recounting of a rebound from some poor decisions.

On its face, Crash is a catchy, streaming-friendly collection of 2- and 3-minute tracks, but there is no shaking the feeling that her sound is noticeably more subdued this time around.

Charli pairs the somewhat dialed-back sound with some notably darker visuals, notably the gory car crash imagery of the album art and the morbid video for “Good Ones,” which features a gothy funeral procession.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that she’s in a more introspective mood, and she offers us a window into why that might be in a brief, sober line at the end of the album’s acknowledgments, dedicating the album to her friend and frequent collaborator, the late, great Sophie.

Charli is nothing if not a master of bringing together apparent contradictions, and the dueling impulses to cry, mourn, dance and party all rub up against each other on the album.

Teasing the album early last year, she hinted that something “POPTASTIC” was coming and she has absolutely delivered on that front, delivering a suite of cleverly-written earworms, hopping from one to the next with whiplash-inducing speed.

Although she’s never been particularly shy or guarded in her art, it’s hard to remember when Charli was in her feelings like she is time around, and Crash is richer for it. It deals with all the classic Charli XCX preoccupations, from sex and sexuality, to regret over past decisions, to the line she deftly walks between swaggering bravado and moments of stark self-awareness.

Crash has far too much going on in it to give a straightforward indication of what’s coming next for Charli, but whatever it is, it’s clear that this time around, her urge to experiment and innovate is as strong as ever.

Crash is available to purchase and stream in full. Visit

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