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Five on it: Charli XCX is a behemoth of her own design on slick new album CRASH

On her fifth album, Charli XCX is giving vision, intent and cold, hard execution. Plus new music from ROSALÍA, Sudan Archives, Lucy Tun and yunè pinku.

18 Mar 2022

As we’ve been so documenting over the past six months, Charli XCX is back with a bang – or, perhaps more appropriately, a CRASH. There have been the slew of singles, not to mention Jax Jones and Joel Correy’s slow burn dance anthem ‘Out Out’; arguably a Charli song, on which she provides vocal duties alongside Saweetie (the track has to date clocked over 220 million streams on Spotify alone). 

Charli XCX has always threatened to be her own definition of a chart monster, but is, instead, a behemoth of her own design. The artist – real name Charlotte Aitcheson – has made no bones of waxing lyrical on how being signed to a major record label has been a constant tussle between her definition of creative authenticity, and their ideas on what a pop star should be to succeed. However, on new album CRASH – her fifth and final for Atlantic Records following her signing to the label as a teenager – Charli decided to indulge the game that they have been pushing all along. 

“This is vision, intent, and cold, hard execution”

“I wanted to lean in as much as possible to the nature of a stereotypical major label recording artist,” she recently told Entertainment Weekly of how she worked with multiple collaborators across all the songs to “feel that full pop-writing camp kind of feeling of creating a record.” And the collaborations are extensive, covering the top to tail of her career to date, from early True Romance-era collaborator Ariel Reichstad, all the way to PC Music head honcho and progenitor of hyperpop A.G Cook, with whom Charli honed in on her anti-pop sound; it is interesting to see both apply themselves to the glossy sound of ‘Lightning’, the album’s title track, or recent single ‘Every Rule’ – itself the antithesis of Cook’s abrasive maximalism. 

Elsewhere and the features encapsulate some of the more public friendships Charli has acquired through her career in music, including Caroline Polachek and Christine and the Queens – first appearing on Pop2’s ‘Tears’ and Charli’s ‘Gone’, respectively, and who both feature on ‘New Shapes’ – and Rina Sawayama on garage-splicing, euro-dance-sampling hit ‘Beg For You’. Despite this, Charli is adamant that “it doesn’t really matter who wrote the songs, because all you care about is what’s coming out of Rihanna’s mouth and that you believe her,” she explains, reflecting on the power of albums like Good Girl Gone Bad, and the Bajan’s own stance on popstardom. “That’s kind of my take on pop music: I don’t care if you wrote it. I don’t care who produced it. If you sell it to me and I believe you, that’s all I care about.”  

Yet despite proclamations of lessening control, CRASH is still delivered with the laserpoint precision of an artist whose interpretation of ‘manufactured’ pop concludes with 80s synths, ice-cold production, femme-fatale fashion and a dollop of drama; there is nothing happenstance in the Lady Gaga-scale soft goth lux of the video to ‘Good Ones’, or the precision dance routine of ‘Baby’ – it’s vision, intent, and cold, hard execution. Finally, free from her label shackles, where will she go from here? In fact, who cares? It’s all still Charli, baby.

Charli XCX – ‘Every Rule’

The last single to precede CRASH, ‘Every Rule’ is a bit of a surprise. Once again teaming up with her long-time collaborator, A.G Cook, as well as Oneohtrix Point Never to assist on production, ‘Every Rule’ is a tender moment for Charli. A low key, autotuned pop ballad, the track captures the turmoil of falling for someone already spoken for – and breaking the rules to keep them.

ROSALÍA – ‘HENTAI’

Another artist switching it up with their latest single is Spanish wonder ROSALÍA. Also releasing an album today (her third collection, MOTOMAMI), ‘HENTAI’ is a disarmingly intimate affair despite initially causing a stir when first teased on TikTok due to its explicit lyrics. Following recent reggaeton-heavy tracks ‘CHICKEN TERIYAKI’ and ‘SAOKO’, ‘HENTAI’ is instead led by tender keys before being interjected by rapid-fire electronic beats at the close, capturing the beauty of lust with its accompanying video.

Sudan Archives – ‘Home Maker’

An avant-garde violinist who made a name for themselves by running their playing through loop pedals, Sudan Archives has come a long way. As her first outing of 2022, ‘Home Maker’ is one of her most accessible tracks to date, its meditative rhythm, handclaps and skittish beats grounding an undercurrent of humming synth as she reinvents domesticity as something more sexy. Consider it the antithesis to homewrecking.

Lucy Tun – ‘314’

Initially making a dent thanks to last year’s release ‘Monarchy’, ‘314’ is the first new music we’ve had from Lucy Tun in a hot minute. Continuing her anecdotal approach to tales of love and loss, and led by her affable vocal, ‘314’ puts a brighter twist on lockdown isolation as Lucy recalls the strong bond she built with her housemates before seeing the threads separate as real life began to reestablish. 

yunè pinku – ‘DC Rot’

Making waves with her vivid reinterpretation of 90s rave-inspired dance music, yunè pinku returns with latest drop ‘DC Rot’. Cracking out breakbeats, rich synths and stoic vocals for a concoction as sweet as it is potent, the track is a heady blur of living and growing older; in yunè’s own words, “it is an exploration of a year and all the things you can do in one”.

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