The long awaited third studio album by British post-pop artist Charli XCX offers possibly her best showcase yet, presenting a collection of some of her best ever singles and her weirdest, most often beautiful deep cuts. The album has a lot in common with her recent mixtapes Pop2 and Number 1 Angel, as it features many guest vocalists including Troye Sivan, rapper Lizzo who is having a monster
year right now, and indie-pop girl-group Haim. However, Charli’s presence is so massive that it overshadows every other artist in her orbit, the most successful guest appearance is by French artist Christine and the Queens, lending her vocals to the stunning single Gone, which goes way harder than any previous Charli XCX track. Blame It On Your Love featuring Lizzo is a finished version of Track 10 from Pop2, I’ve heard some people say they prefer that unfinished version, but that’s what it sounded to me, unfinished, whereas Blame It On Your Love is an absolute anthem with a heavenly synth drop. Of all the singles which I am angry didn’t become hits, this one mystifies me the most, it’s so obviously, demonstrably a hit.
Much of Charli XCX’s music has displayed a kind of tension between her futuristic aesthetic and Charli’s personal nostalgic version of the past, her debut album True Romance defined her synth heavy pop-future bass sound, but her follow up album Sucker was a bubbly throwback to late 90s teen pop. Even her breakout features on tracks like Fancy by Iggy Azalea and I Love It by Icona Pop displayed her affinity for and influence from the era, as she belted out her timelessly infectious declaration “you’re from the seventies but I’m a nineties b*tch!”. This contrast continues in miniature on this record, the album’s leadoff single was the kitschy, ebullient track 1999 with Troye Sivan which features lyrics like “I just wanna go back, back to 1999, take a ride to my old neighbourhood” that transform the track’s generic ‘memberberry’ nostalgia into a genuine sense of longing for a lost sense of youth, freedom and innocence. While the album closes with 2099, where she and Troye deliver the album’s most intense and out there single with delicate plucky notes on the verses and a blossoming futuristic whirlpool of synths on the chorus and machine-gun drumming on the outro.
Another previous polarity in her music, reconciled here, is between her bold musical experimentation, best showcased on her noise pop mixtape Pop2, and her lovestruck tuneful pop stylings of her previous studio albums and many singles. As much as she clearly hates to be conventional, she also clearly loves the aesthetics of mainstream pop and wants to make music that makes people get up and dance and she combines the two seamlessly here, using more conventional structures and electronic instrumentals with her signature intuitive song-writing style and noise breakdowns, alternating slick, perfect pop tunes with more introspective, dangerous and experimental electronic tracks. Rather than progressing her synesthetic sound, she perfects and defines it, refining and polishing her tracks to a high sheen, resulting in her most complete and best album to date.