Album Review: Charli XCX - 'CRASH'

Charli XCX is the stage name of British singer songwriter Charlotte Aitchison. She came to fame via arguably frozen, mass appealing hits such as 'I Love It', but has since evolved into one of the most critically acclaimed pop stars of the era. Gemma Cockrell reviews Charli's long awaited seventh album, 'CRASH'.

Charli XCX is the definition of a musical phenomenon, and the trajectory of her career is unlike any other. She has transformed from a mainstream pop girl on singles such as Boom Clap, Fancy and I Love It, into an artist capable of making experimental hyperpop masterpieces like claws, pink diamond and visions. So, it was very difficult to predict what direction she would choose to take with the announcement of CRASH. One thing that was for sure was that there was a feeling that this project would be a monumental statement from her, with it being the last album on her five-year deal with Atlantic Records.

"[Charli XCX] was taking hold of the reins and reclaiming her place in the pop world"

A lot has changed in Charli’s life since she released how i’m feeling now in May of 2020, an album which was written when the world was under strict lockdown measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, she was living with her long-term on-and-off boyfriend of seven years, Huck Kwong, whom she has recently confirmed that she is no longer in a relationship with. She also lost her close friend and PC Music affiliate SOPHIE in the time since her last album cycle, who sadly passed away in January 2021 and undoubtedly left a huge gap in the world of experimental music.

how i’m feeling now was a time capsule of a world that existed then is no more, so Charli had no choice but to move forward. Or, one could say, take a step back. Her recent single with Joel Corry, Jax Jones and Saweetie, titled OUT OUT, was released in the build up to CRASH, and despite not appearing on the album, it very boldly revealed Charli’s statement of intent with this new era of her music, and her desire to achieve mainstream success once again. She was taking hold of the reins and reclaiming her place in the pop world, something that she admits was encouraged by SOPHIE before her untimely passing.

This saw Charli’s music once again being broadcast on mainstream radio stations and competing for chart positions, demonstrating that her releases throughout the late 2010s weren’t ‘flops’ or ‘disappointments’ like many of her original fans may propose on the internet. In fact, it proves that she could flick that switch back on whenever she wanted to. And she continued to keep this switch firmly on throughout the build up to CRASH; the singles that followed, particularly Good Ones, Beg For You with Rina Sawayama and Baby, had a much more mainstream and accessible sound than some of the glitchy, experimental cuts from how i’m feeling now.

"[Charli] will continue to influence the pop world for years and decades to come."

Having said that, CRASH is in no way devoid of influences from Charli’s past few musical eras. Autotune is still present on multiple songs, and artists like Caroline Polachek and Christine and the Queens, whom Charli has worked with in the past, appear on the track New Shapes. It is almost as if Charli has brought together all of her ventures from the past decade during which she has been signed to Atlantic Records, and combined them into what Apple Music’s Zane Lowe aptly calls “the perfect Charli XCX record”.

CRASH feels like the perfect way to end this cycle of her career, presenting an artist who has undeniably shaped the pop music scene beyond what many artists manage to achieve in such a short time span. Who knows where Charli will go next – whether she will sign to a new major label or go independent is still undecided and up for debate, but whatever she decides to do, this is definitely not the end for her and I have no doubt that she will continue to influence the pop world for years and decades to come.

Gemma Cockrell


Edited by: Elliot Fox

In article images courtesy of Charli XCX via Facebook. Video courtesy of Charli XCX via YouTube.