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Charli XCX | Charli | Album Review

Asylum/Atlantic Records
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Despite her obvious talent–releasing her first album at age 18–Charli XCX has had trouble establishing her brand as a pop star. It perhaps doesn’t help that Charli has a habit of giving her best songs to other artists, like Icona Pop’s “I Love It” and Selena Gomez’s “Same Old Love.”

Charli has opted for a futuristic R&B sound that is distinctly different from her pop-punk predecessor Sucker. Her best songs on Charli are the ones when she’s emoting despair, which fits her syrupy high vocals. “Cross You Out” featuring Sky Ferreira, with its pounding kick drum and the repetition of the line “When you’re not around,” reflects the pain of losing a lover. “Gone” featuring Christine and the Queens has a haunting melody that complements the dark lyrics like, “I feel so unstable, fucking hate these people.”

Unfortunately, Charli is continuing her bizarre experiments with hip-hop that she previously used on singles like 2016’s “Vroom Vroom” with the same clunky results. “Shake It” sounds like the production team literally incorporated the sounds of microphone feedback and pouring water. It’s probably an attempt to be edgy and experimental, but it’s not pleasant to listen to.

Other tracks, like the previously released single “1999,” are catchy but feel empty of substance. Charli has been vocal about her love for 90’s culture over the years, but “1999” is a lazy tribute, repeatedly referencing “…Baby One More Time,” which actually debuted in 1998. The song names 90’s staples like JTT and Nike Airs practically like a list, not seeming to make much of a point other than, “Wasn’t this 90’s stuff neat?” It doesn’t help that “1999” will inevitably remind listeners of the superior Prince song of the same name.

What’s disappointing is the good tracks on Charli really are great, but it’s not the type of album fans will want to listen to front to back like Sucker was.

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