Charli XCX has had one of the more puzzling career trajectories in today’s landscape of pop music. Finding critical acclaim in her experimental electropop, Charli switched gears to aim for the masses with singles “Boom Clap” and “Fancy” with Iggy Azalea. While she has gained a passionate, cult fan base, Charli’s broader sound and audience has always been hard to pin down.
With her third studio album, Charli, the singer-songwriter finds her niche and her most authentic self.
Ambitious, unique, and expansive, the 15-song project showcases the singer at her best and most vulnerable.
Bathed in honest self-reflection, the pop star sings of imperfection, love, loss, and nostalgia. She laments love on “Gone” and “Cross You Out,” celebrates it on “Silver Cross” and “Official,” and escapes to the raves with bangers “Next Level Charli” and “Click.”
The record contains both bubblegum pop and experimental, but the overall sound is cohesive enough for the singer to pull off the dichotomy.
Charli exists in a very industrialized, neo noir fantasy world. The production evokes images of the strobe lights and that club atmosphere Charli has claimed as her own throughout her career.
Stripping each song down to the lyrics, the record reveals the sharp songwriting from Charli. Where she has proved herself in infectious hooks, the most profound moments come in the confident raps of “Next Level Charli” and moments of introspection on “Cross You Out” and “Official.” With such singular lyricism, Charli successfully individualizes herself.
That isn’t to say Charli didn’t leave room to party with all of her friends.
The album also emphasizes the singer’s own musical tastes and celebrates the more overlooked pop artists of today. Working with Kim Petras, Sky Ferreira, Lizzo, HAIM and more, Charli welcomes these women into her world while allowing them to add their own flairs to each track.
The album’s main drawback is its occasional overly experimental production. Most prominent on the back third of “Click” and the slightly disappointing Troye Sivan-featured closer “2099,” the futuristic palette sounds more like a vomiting computer than an innovation.
Regardless, it’s Charli’s willingness to push the boundaries with these tracks that makes her a one-of-a kind talent.