For 21st century, internet-aged popstars, social media stan culture can be as much of a blessing as a curse. As Charli XCX’s fanbases go, the ‘Angels’ are particularly passionate; their insatiable hunger has them known for thirstily baying under pop’s full moon: it’s almost more vampiric than angelic.
In previous years, this need has led Charli’s Angels to descend to leaking her mythical unreleased album back in 2017. Originally the follow-up to second album Sucker, the now fan-dubbed XCX World was hacked from Charli’s computer in what she went on to describe as “an invasion of my life, my personal space, my personal property” and that “it was just really sad, and I was really hurt”. This to-and-fro with her fanbase has also been well documented with ‘Taxi’. One of Charli’s most popular unreleased songs, she once tweeted “imagine if i officially released taxi… you guys would have nothing left to tweet at me”. When asked why she performed the song during her 2019 NYC pre-show for her Charli tour on an Instagram Live, she responded with “because I’m a troll, that’s why”.
Whilst the jibes and leaks have no doubt generated frustration in the past, Charli has evidently grown more willing to partake in the tease; why not, if – despite your best efforts – the die-hards are likely to poach your goods anyway? Swiftly following the release of September’s comeback single ‘Good Ones’, tongues began wagging. In October 2020, Charli said she had “a vision of doing a song with Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek”, before more recently sharing an unspecified image of what appeared to be the three in a post on her Instagram account.
Charli had teamed up with both artists previously, collaborating with Caroline on the bassy glitch of ‘Tears’ from her Pop2 EP, followed by her icy pop hit ‘Gone’ with Christine but – in keeping with its predecessor – latest single ‘New Shapes’ feels a palpable stretch from her work on the Mercury Prize-nominated lockdown album How I’m Feeling Now. Whilst we’ve all become accustomed to the digitised, plasticky, glitchy goodness that has seen Charli be at once both the palatable front and genre-pushing experimentalist for hyperpop, this new work is her most fully realised yet as she plucks from her preceding eras to deliver her final form.
Always with a knack for a killer chorus, her appreciation for pop music leans into the archetypal 80s moments that transcend decades: think Whitney’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ or Jermaine Stewart’s ‘We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off’. It makes sense all the more considering Charli’s recent comments to Refinery29 that she is “just very into making ultimate pop music” and is “exploring what it means to be a popstar on a major label in a not very current way”. Released in tandem with the announcement of her fifth album CRASH and a US, UK and European tour – though minus a full tracklisting – there is plenty of time left for some soft fan torment prior to the party (and afterparty).
Charli XCX – ‘New Shapes’ (feat. Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek)
Despite playing host to three of pop’s biggest names right now, ‘New Shapes’ is a surprisingly unified outing for “Charli, Caroline, Chris”. No one outshines the other – in the best way possible. Imbued with buoyantly rich synths and a gleefully stomping beat, the track captures the sticky heat of the dance floor with the letdowns of daytime love and the grapple to consolidate the two.
Summer Walker – ‘No Love’ (feat. SZA)
Summer Walker maintains being unimpressed with the release of her anticipated second album Still Over It, which is released today. Following her last single ‘Ex For A Reason’, which features JT from City Girls, new drop ‘No Love’ sees her continue the female collabs by teaming up with SZA. A match made in heaven, the pair flex their vocals over chunky bass notes, skittish beats and chilled production: it’s an old school slice of R&B that you won’t want to miss.
Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul – ‘Blenda’
As far as collaborations go, Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul have been cranking out some great songs in recent months – including previous outing ‘Thank You’ – ahead of the announcement of their debut album Tropical Dancer. New single ‘Blenda’ is a funky, rippling dance track that captures thoughts of Hot Chip, but has Charlotte considering messages of anti-colonialism and racism within its bop through lyrics like “Go back to your country where you belong”.
Omar Apollo – ‘Bad Life’ (feat. Kali Uchis)
The second taste of Omar’s debut album following the release of this year’s earlier single ‘Go Away’, ‘Bad Life’ has the Mexican-American talent team up with Kali Uchis for Big Ballad Energy. “You give me nothing,” Omar croons mournfully over simple guitar work and harmonic echoes as the track slowly swells into Kali’s honeyed tones, harking to holding resentment for a past lover and wishing them the worst instead of the best.
BLACKSTARKIDS – ‘I Hate Being In Love’
Label Dirty Hit have become known as the purveyor of what’s set to be big: they’ve made homes for The 1975, Wolf Alice, Rina Sawayama and Pale Waves after all. BLACKSTARKIDS are of the crop bubbling up, but their debut album Puppies Forever has already received tons of love for its so-called Gen Z anthems. New single ‘I Hate Being In Love’ downtunes the melodies of pop punk with wriggling guitar work and dreamy atmospherics topped with a catchy af chorus.
Image via Charli XCX/Instagram.