Charli XCX’s final release of a five-album contract with Atlantic Records is a hit. CRASH, if it is the end of Charli XCX’s musical career, or at least the end of an era, is a finale that encapsulates the true essence of the music she has released throughout the past decade. Nearly every song is a bouncy, upbeat pop track. Charli perfects the catchy hook that made so many of her past hits, like “Boom Clap” and “Boys,” popular. She doesn’t shy away from being pop-y — in fact, I think the album could be considered camp in how quintessentially pop it is. What makes CRASH genuinely good is the production of each song, many of which are new interpretations of inspired or borrowed sounds of pop’s past.
Most notably, one of the album’s singles, “Beg for You,” featuring another popstar, Rina Sawayama, directly derives its chorus from September’s “Cry For You.” It isn’t a cheap rip-off, though. Charli and Rina came together to create a memorable dance track that greatly improves the song that inspired it. It’s a nostalgic album, with references to older pop music and a clear homage to Charli’s career as a whole. Charli is no stranger to inspired sounds, and CRASH uses them all. “New Shapes,” featuring Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek is an ‘80s-inspired single with a powerful electronic keyboard instrumental and a heavy, groovy drum beat. Songs like “Used to Know Me” and “Twice” call back to the ‘90s and early 2000s.
What really makes this album special is the clear autonomy and control Charli had over the project. Throughout her career and contract with Atlantic, Charli has expressed feeling a lack of independence and artistic freedom with many of her projects and as an individual. What many fans of her know, but the general public might not be aware of, is that Charli is a master songwriter. CRASH showcases her ability to create a “perfect” pop song, with each track seamlessly flowing into each other while still maintaining its own unique and catchy sound. If pop music is about making a song that gets stuck in your head, CRASH does this to its utmost ability. Where some Charli albums have sounded somewhat disjointed in the past, like Pop 2, she makes no mistakes on this album. It is a polished, clean, cohesive record, all the way down to the smallest production details.
As a whole, this album is all things Charli XCX in her best form. The singles for this record, “Good Ones,” “New Shapes,” “Beg for You” and “Baby” were chosen perfectly, and all of the music videos Charli has put out to these songs are gorgeous on their own. It’s an album built for commercial success that also encapsulates the nuances and uniqueness of her as an artist. If CRASH is going to be the end of Charli XCX as we know her, it’s a damn good way to go out.
Daily Arts Writer Gigi Ciulla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.