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Charli XCX’s album fails to meet expectations

I bought my tickets to see Charli XCX on her headline tour the minute they went on sale in June. Now that the album “Charli” has dropped, I’m starting to question that decision. 

Prior to this album, I was a huge Charli fan. I first got into her music when I saw her open Taylor Swift’s “reputation” stadium tour. After the show, I went home and listened to her discography, quickly falling in love with some of her old work. I was sure “Charli,” her third studio album, was going to be a phenomenal album. Guess I was wrong. 

It isn’t bad per se, but this record isn’t as good as her earlier work. The album starts off weak, with songs that sound like auto-tuned messes. Every aspect of these opening tracks are loud and obnoxious, but not in the good way. Her signature style, a scandalous bubblegum pop, remains, it’s taken too far. After about a minute into the first three songs, I was desperate to hit the skip button. 

The first track of the album, “Next Level Charli,” starts off too strong. The opening production makes it seem like a catchy track that’s great for dancing. But as the song goes on, you realize that she’s just yelling the whole time. It’s like an EDM song where the entire track is the drop. There’s never a moment to breathe; it’s all noise.

Unfortunately, half of this album is a mess of experimental sounds, cumulating in whatever “Shake It” is. This track features Big Freedia, CupcaKke, Brooke Candy and Pabllo Vittar; not a single one of these artists has a good verse. The song starts with Charli whispering “shake it” as a bunch of different auto-tune styles are layered over it. She sounds like she’s an alien, underwater in an old TV full of static. This is the most memorable song on the album, but not for a good reason. 

The closing track “2099” is perhaps the biggest disappointment. Her earlier track with Troye Sivan, “1999,” was an instant pop hit. It wasn’t long before I heard it constantly. But “2099,” the new collaboration with Sivan, is a mess of “futuristic” sounds. I can’t understand a single word either of them say; it feels more like an EDM track than a pop song. If that’s the future of music, I’m terrified. 

But the album isn’t all bad. The high points are genuinely good—I just wish there were more high points. 

“1999,” which features Troye Sivan, was the first song I heard from the album. Like I mentioned earlier, I love this song. When it was released back in October 2018, I was thrilled. It was the start of a new Charli XCX album cycle, and she was collaborating with one of my favorite artists. It’s easily one of the strongest songs on the album.

Oddly enough, the middle of the album is the strongest part. From track six to 12, the album remains interesting. These songs make me want to actually listen, and then go further and learn the lyrics so I can scream the words on tour. 

Haim’s verse on “Warm” brings a warmer sound to the album. This song is softer, with significantly less heavy production than most of the tracks which works to create an amazing song. 

Another stand out is “Blame It On Your Love” featuring Lizzo. This song also dropped early, another great decision by Charli to promote her album. “Blame It On Your Love” is that pure pop sound that I love from Charli.  

“Thoughts” might just be my favorite song on the album. For Charli, it’s a slower track. That is to say, the tempo is still fast, but not nearly as overwhelming as many of her others. I love Charli’s usual pace, but the decision to slow this one down (and place it immediately after “Warm”) was smart. 

I’m still stoked to see Charli on Oct. 17 at the House of Blues, but I’m definitely hoping that she chooses to play some of her older tracks. I eagerly await her next album, cautiously optimistic that it will be an improvement.

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