Credit: Terrence O'Connor
by Alex Clifton Music Pop Rocks

Charli XCX — Crash

April 13, 2022

Crash isn’t reinventing the dance-music wheel, but it’s still an energetic and enjoyable listen that highlights Charli’s talent for hooky pop.

Charli has been at the forefront of pop for nearly a decade, consistently stretching the genre for the casual listener. From the dark pop of True Romance to the hyperpop garblings of how i’m feeling now, Charli has never sat still, always challenging herself to find new sounds. Not everything requires a total rebirth of style, however. Crash is a step back from the more avant-garde inclinations of Charli’s last album, focusing here on a glossier pop sound. Thankfully, then, Charli’s ear for melodies and riffs maintain a high floor, making for an exciting listen all the way through.

The opening half of the album in particular is remarkably strong, anchored by ace collaborations with Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek on second track “New Shapes.” Charli has always been especially adept at selecting agreeable acts to feature on her own music, and all parties sound delightfully at home here amidst the cut’s throbbing synths. This track is particularly impressive as it offers space for all three singers to shine without being overshadowed by one another – it’s a true collaborative effort rather than just a couple throwaway lines from the guests. “Beg For You” offers further proof of the frictionless nature of these team-ups: featuring Rina Sawayama, whose voice fits perfectly alongside Charli’s, the track finds the pair matching each others’ energy line-for-line in a song about delirious, obsessive love, one that should absolutely fill dancefloors come Pride season.

But that’s not to say Charli doesn’t deliver great work on her own. Lead single “Good Ones” is Charli at her best, with a chorus that will have listeners screaming out of their windows. “Baby” is a neat play on a Janet Jackson-style dance track that marries Charli’s contemporary ear to a distinctly ’80s sound. And elsewhere, “Used to Know Me” sounds like a lost Britney track, but paired with a hypnotic Eurodance piano riff. In truth, there isn’t a bad song among the bunch, although the album’s latter half struggles a bit to sustain the same energy across its stretch. “Yuck” is a playful song about how gross it is to be in love and cop to all the mushiness, but it’s a bit boring to have the titular “yuck” rhymed with “fuck,” and Charli’s ill-advised lyrical use of “catch feels” definitely sticks out when the rest of the album feels suspended in dance-pop heaven. That said, every song is concise and stands up to replay – the album clocks in at a relatively brief 35 minutes for 12 tracks, though the deluxe edition (with four additional songs) brings it to a heftier 46 minutes. But these are all, for the most part, short shots of adrenaline; mediocre moments pass quickly, easily absorbed within the larger vibe.

Given the existence of these two versions of Crash, it’s worth noting that the deluxe version of the album is worth the listen over the standard edition. “Selfish Girl” features a pleasant bridge reminiscent of collaborator Sawayama’s song “Bad Friend,” while “Sorry If I Hurt You” is a surprisingly tender apology backed by a strong backbeat. Instead of mere throwaway filler, the add-ons here are great cuts in their own right, works that any dance artist would be proud to release. That they’ve been relegated to bonus status here only speaks to Charli’s skill as a musician: even with what others might consider superfluous extras, she still goes hard and crafts material that lesser artists would be delighted to situate at the fore of their discographies.

Published as part of Album Roundup — March 2022 | Part 1.