Remember when I said that EMA was definitely the coolest person in the world? Then maybe you’ll also remember my boring and boorish balderdash about how important it is to always change your mind? Maybe you’ve read the former entry, but not the latter, so consider me an outrageous hypocrite? Perhaps you’ve read the latter but not the former, and will let the upcoming comment slide by without comment? Most probably, you’ve read neither, and are currently just massively confused by this ridiculously overinflated introduction? Don’t worry, the subeditor will remove this paragraph in the edit
Charli XCX is definitely the coolest person in the world. She’s a pop artist who knows exactly how a pop artist should look, act and sound. She writes some of the most perfect pop of the 21st century (occasionally leaving her songs unattended and letting lesser artists pilfer them), but also pop that sounds like it should exist in the 21st century. She manages to subvert pop’s tropes and expectations with every song, while never once paying the genre anything less than the upmost respect. Even more cooly, she’s smart enough to know that such a mammoth task of pop revolution through disruption could never be a one person job. So she’s always eager to use her records as presentations of some of the best and more outlandish ‘pop’ from the genre’s less appreciated corners. On this ‘mixtape’ alone we’re introduced to notable names that might have otherwise passed us by, Starrah, Raye, the unGoogleable MØ… My attention was first brought to the fascinating story of Uffie, and I was at one point even considered the Cuppcake album for NE2017 (but… wow… I mean, I’m no prude, but… does she kiss he gimp with that mouth??)
Whereas EMA is cool in an extremely measured and calculated way, Charli has actually measured and calculated being cool so well that it looks like she’s not measuring or calculating anything at all: she much put so much effort into appearing so effortless cool! It’s a dangerous game to play, because pretending not to care about looking cool and then being exposed as actually caring is, like, the least cool thing in the world.
Charli XCX is also adorably cool. EMA is cool, we all agree about that, but there’s nothing adorable about a person whose first song to recieve major airplay* was called The Warm Blood of Kittens Tastes of Insignificance. Charli XCX is adorably cool because, despite being possibly the greatest pop star of the 2010s (the ‘tennies’? The ‘dixies’? Yeah, I like that second one…), she is so fucking bad at being a pop star!
Her first album ‘True Romance’ was a decent start artistically, but sold roughly 84 copies. She was about to be dropped from her label and become just another promising but failed pop act to file alongside Shampoo** and Adam Rickitt, but suddenly developed an uncanny ability to craft hit pop records. For other people. Her label sighed and let her continue to make music.
Then, suddenly, a hit! An actual Charli XCX hit!! Boom Clap still sounds utterly enchanting listening to it now. Despite it being played non stop on every audio device in the world throughout the summer of 2014. This would be her I Kissed a Girl or Dirrty or, erm, Fancy: the song whose omnipresence catapulted Charli into the pop Premier League. As long as the moment was built upon properly
The accompanying album came out eight months later. In the US. Then two months later in the UK!? I mean, was that even possible in 2015?? Did she just, like, turn off Britain’s internet??
And ‘Sucker’ was an absolute sodding mess. ‘Stinker‘ more like, ammi right, lads?? ‘Sucker’, appropriately, sucked.***
So uneven and lacking in direction that it managed to contain both (still) her greatest song to date and the absolute worse piece of art that a human being has ever been responsible for. It sold roughly 127 copies, which made the label sigh and try to celebrate that at least it was an improvement. Charli (understandably) quickly decided that she hated the album, and chose to cancel its promotional tour. Charli doesn’t just headbutt a gift horse in the teeth, but she shoots all six feet present for good measure.
She quickly started work on her third album in 2015 to wash the messy taste of ‘Sucker’ out of her mouth. It was announced for May 2017. Then September.
‘No.1 Angel’, by the way, isn’t that album. It’s a ‘mixtape’ that Charli attempted to release for free in frustration at her record label still pissing about with her now mythical third album. Her record label, of course, threw a major shitfit at one of their potentialy valuable commodities just chucking her genius away for free.
They eventually reached a compromise: the ‘mixtape’ would be released. For £5. The label were at pains to stress how this weird and astonishingly profane collection definitely wasn’t the next Charli XCX album! But, y’know, they want to make some money off it, so it’s not really a mixtape at all. So, ‘No.1 Angel’ was released, but couldn’t be marketed as either a proper album nor a mixtape. In fact, less it distract from whatever they have planned for that infamous third record, the label would prefer if it weren’t marketed at all.
It was a ridiculous fuck up from all angles. Charli: you are fucking rubbish at being a pop star. And I sodding love you for it!
Whatever you can call ‘No.1 Angel’ (‘mixbum’? ‘Altape’? Yeah, I think I prefer that second one…) it is absolutely fantastic.
Some reviews have suggested that Charli XCX is frequently upstaged by her guests on the album. That is grade A balloney shite: Charli owns every second of the record. She has such a gorgeously obnoxious voice, and plays the disinterested pop brat to a spellbinding degree (it’s surprising how the artist Charli most often brings to mind is actually a far cooler early career Tyler, The Creator). And her enunciation just straight up gives me a fucking stonk-on!! The way she takes words that would rhyme anyway and just chooses to pronounce them differently (‘I blame it on yer, I blame it on yer/Every lie you tell comes trer/But I still wanna be with yer‘) is just spectacular.
Her stock and trade is still sweet yet ever so weird love songs. Album highlight (and Uffie introduction) Babygirl manages to offset the potentially unsettling infantilisation of women with the middle eight rap of ‘Go steal the liquor from inside/Wanna take a little sip with you/Wanna spend a little bit with you/Open the top, pop, drink in my glass/Here come the cop-cops, better drink fast’. But then that only confuses the matter further: perhaps the woman in the song isn’t an actual baby, but that definitely isn’t adult behaivour…
Charli: your rubbish at being a pop star, and make perhaps the best pop music in the world right now. More please
Oh, and ‘Pop 2’, the recently released record that’s sure to feature prominently in NE2018? That’s not her third album either! That’s another mix tape she banged out while angrily waiting for her label to get their arses in gear! God, I fucking love Charli XCX! Do you know the last time we had a major pop star this prodigious and so stylistically restless??
No, no, I can’t say His name. It’ll jinx it…
Age: 25 (-9)
That’s fucking offensively young. Fuck you, Charli XCX, I hate you
Album Number: 5 (+15)
I mean, I think… She’s hard to keep track of
Album Length: 37 (+9)
Very Good Songs: 1 (+4)
Brilliant Songs: 7 (+35)
AMAZING Songs: 2 (+20)
% of Album Worthwhile: 100
Yes. Yes. Charli looks as significant as she deserves to be here
Previous Entries: 2015 No.34
Meta Critic: 73
*’Major airplay’?? Fucking hell, Alex, this isn’t 1973!
**Shampoo met when they published a Manic Street Preachers fanzine. They were the coolest pop act of the 90s
***I quite liked it. When it was good it was very good. But when it was blah blah blah fucking London Queen!!