Around this time last year, circa-Iggy Azalea collaboration, Charli XCX appeared as more of a pop sidepiece than an actual center-stage star. She provided the swanky, blaring vocals for the chart-busting “Fancy”, but ‘blowing up’ on her own certainly didn’t seem a likely scenario. At least that’s what it looked like to those not up on Britain’s electro-pop scene.
But on her sophomore studio album, the UK singer makes her propensity for the spotlight clear. From the first bleacher-stomping clamor of Sucker‘s intro, Charli’s shouts of “Do you get me?…Do you get me now?” certify the 22-year-old’s noisy, queen-bee power–something that meshes especially well with a preference for heavy-synth, ’80s beats and layered, Veronicas-esque groany vocals.
Charlie’s agenda can’t be missed; it’s nothing more complicated than being an innocently tough, bubblegum diva. But, she doesn’t attain this with any boys in the way (“Everything was wrong with you, so breaking up was easy to do…”), and when she speaks on money troubles–or lack thereof–she makes it clear that a real diva doesn’t have any (“Got offshore bank accounts and diamond blue palm trees, my platinum troubles/ Money pours like the rain falls and I’mma spend it like I don’t care…”). The self-acknowledged ‘London queen’ doesn’t have time to worry–and shames those that do.
While Charli belts out all these anthems with some type of angst, it’s always that kind of teeny-bopper, sneaking-out type, made known on tracks like “Break the Rules”: (“I don’t wanna go to school, I just wanna break the rules/ Boys and girls across the world, putting on our dancing shoes”).
Sucker‘s unfortunate downfall is its repetition–both of sound and substance, making for a handful of skippables. When Charli and producers turn a single, cute party jam into a 45-minute girls’-night-out sermon, with the same recycled, drum-clattering production, it’s hard to stay tuned. While there’s a special feel to the hyperactive workings of “Boom Clap”–a now longtime radio hit–or “London Queen”, the tracks before and after them might as well have the same titles, rendering even the better ones flavorless. Charli’s riotous voice doesn’t tire, but considering the bulk of unrelenting noise around her, 00:20:00 might’ve at least been a good time for volume turn-down.
Pop music doesn’t have deep-thinking requisites, and we’d never expect such from a genre known to accommodate radio simplicity first. That’s not the issue. Charli XCX’s easy, girl-power approach is certainly fun–and her pipes remain more than qualified, but Sucker doesn’t challenge their flexibility much.
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