Charli XCX first made herself known in the mainstream music scene after being featured in Iggy Azalea's “Fancy” in early 2014. Since then, she’s made waves of her own, releasing hit songs such as “Boom Clap” (2014), “Break The Rules” (2014) and “Boys” (2017). Despite these successes, she hasn’t produced an album in five years. Released on Friday, Sept. 13, her new self-titled album “Charli” is her third studio album to date. She described this record as her “most personal album yet.” Within the 51 minute runtime, Charli opens up about the difficulties she has faced navigating through love and life.
The album is intertwined with both lively beats and slower melodies, containing the perfect combination of dance tracks and mellow sounds. She has names like Lizzo, Troye Sivan, Sky Ferreira and Kim Petras featured on the album. While the guest artists are great additions on their respective tracks, Charli shines through the most on her solo songs.
The British singer opens the album with a song fittingly titled “Next Level Charli.” The song is heavily synthesized, yet it is both energetic and calming. Perhaps an ode to shedding her old skin and reintroducing herself, the song is similar to her old works, as it still possesses her traditional get-up-and-dance quality but with a more mature presence and attitude.
There are several other similarly feel-good songs on the album, one being “1999,” made in collaboration with Troye Sivan. This is a song meant to be put on repeat and jammed out to in the car on the way to the grocery store. In “1999,” she reminiscences on the carefree time of her youth. She references the 1998 Britney Spears hit “...Baby One More Time.” With its fast-paced beat and multiple “oh’s,” the song does have a Britney-esque vibe to it, but with contemporary elements.
Songs like “Gone” and “Cross You Out” show a different side of Charli. In “Gone,” while the beat, true to Charli’s style, remains inexplicably catchy, the lyrics reveal a deeper level to her. “I am just now realizing, they don’t care/I try real hard, but I’m caught up by my insecurities … I feel so unstable, f****ing hate these people/How they’re making me feel lately,” she laments. Perhaps she’s referring to the fame and the price it comes with, like the lack of privacy. She makes note of the anxiety-ridden feeling of being in social settings and questions the intentions of people. The songs show a human side of Charli, who is in touch with her inner, anxious feelings and delivers a message that listeners can relate to.
“Cross You Out” is another emotional song. It has a softer, slower approach in both the instrumental and lyrics compared to some of the other tracks, allowing Charli to open up about the loneliness she’s experienced. In the song, she sings about the intense pain one feels after a break up but also realizes she is now stronger and can move on from the person she thought she couldn’t live without.
Charli takes yet another direction with her songs, diving into the realm of love and heartbreak. She bares her heart on the only true love song on the album, “Silver Cross.” With its sweet and honest lyrics, this song is a breath of fresh air on the album. The instrumental is light and airy, but still gets your toes tapping with its electronic additions. From beginning to end, it’s undoubtedly a lovely song, with no mentions of unintentionally sabotaging a relationship or apologies for being unable to commit. Instead, she promises to protect the person she loves at all costs, singing, “I’ll pull you close, so close, so close/I’ll never let you go, you know/Head on my chest, a silver cross/You can cry all night, I’ll never let you go.”
For the tragic tune “White Mercedes,” Charli keeps the beat simple. Lyrically, she touches on turning to substances when having trouble accepting that she’s the reason a relationship has ended, as she can’t commit and knows she isn’t deserving of second chances. “I take all these blue and yellow pills/… Like a white Mercedes, always been running too fast/When your heart is breaking, you keep on taking me back/Hate myself, I really love you/Hurting you feels like I’m hurting as well/All I know is I don’t deserve you,” she croons. She knows she was the problem in the relationship, and her voice carries the deep pain and remorse she feels because of it.
On the other side of the spectrum, “I Don’t Want to Know” is a song about the revelation of a betrayal. The sad reality of the circumstance is reflected in the tone of the song as it mimics the same drained feeling of having to finally acknowledge a betrayal and figuring out how to move forward after it. “I know I’m losing you, so come on, tell the truth/Don’t you tell me you’re sorry, don’t pretend you’re stormy/‘Cause I don’t wanna know, I already know/What you’ve done, what you’ve done,” she sings. The entire song is a conflicted battle within herself, fighting between remembering the love that she’s lost and having to finally accept the heartbreak.
Overall, “Charli” is a whirlwind of emotions. The entire album takes listeners on a journey to the top of a mountain and down to the depths of the sea. The album’s sound is still true to classic Charli XCX but with more evolved lyrical content. Most of the songs reflect serious topics in her life but still have upbeat tempos and catchy flows. It’s an album that has been long overdue, but well worth the wait because of the personal experiences and heart poured into it.