by Lily Elwood
Charli XCX, known as a rebel in the music world for her history of rejecting record labels and creating highly experimental music, went back to her roots with CRASH, with a heavily nostalgic sound reminiscent of her Sucker era. Coming off of the success of her previous album, how i’m feeling now, many fans expected Charli to continue pushing the boundaries of music with tracks that sounds just a little too far out there to be considered mainstream. However, CRASH was nearly as much of a pleasant surprise as if she had continued walking the hyperpop line. Each song is more danceable than the last with beautifully produced beats on every track.
Charli XCX makes fantastic use of the featured artists on the album, like Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek on “New Shapes”and Rina Sawayama on “Beg For You.” These three artists’ features truly put the album over the top and create a distinct sound, making them among the more memorable of the tracks on the album.
“Crash,” “Baby,” and “Yuck” are some of the other standout songs on CRASH, leaning closer to Charli’s more experimental side, which is where she truly thrives. Her traditional pop beginnings shine in these songs, and the more mainstream formula that this album relies on works. The title track sets up the album to be fast-paced, exciting, and upbeat, a string carried throughout the party-centric album. “Lightning” is another track that leans more toward her hyperpop sounds, using voice coders to create a build before the explosive chorus.
Despite this, some of the songs end up fading into the background, behind more basic beats and forgettable lyrics. Fans can dance to every song, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will remember them once their album listening is done. “Move Me,” “Every Rule,” and “Used To Know Me” all take a backseat on the album, making them seem a little more thoughtless and less inspired than other tracks.
Charli XCX used to be a mixtape queen — releasing music without a record label to be able to connect more deeply with her fans. “You have no idea how fucking hard it is to just release a free fucking mixtape in 2017,” she once tweeted, and has said she feels that labels are constraining, and prevent her from reaching her full potential.
Now, with CRASH, it feels like she has moved away from that sentiment. After interacting with a lot of content that revolved around selling your soul for success on social media, it seems Charli has relaxed some of her more radical beliefs about the music industry and joined the machine. Thanks to producers like A.G. Cook and SOPHIE, Charli XCX’s music had been heading in a very boundary-breaking direction as she pushed against mainstream music limits. But now, it seems like she has reverted back to more classic pop sounds that create hits.
That doesn’t mean the album isn’t good — it’s still worthy of a listen and should be played at all of this year’s parties. Charli’s creativity is still evident on CRASH — but it’s been dialed back.