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Charli XCX's 'CRASH' transforms not only pop music but also her musical identity

Charli XCX's album "CRASH" showcases her skill as an artist and her transformation so far. – Photo by Charli / Twitter

Charli XCX has become indie pop’s darling since her arrival with Icona Pop’s 2013 hit song, “I Love It.” Since then, she’s released multiple albums to critical acclaim and has shifted the hyperpop genre in a forward-thinking and less autotuned direction.

As is the case with her contemporaries like 100 gecs and Bladee, Charli XCX’s fanbase carries a sense of loyalty and devotion to each of her projects. Her last project, 2020’s “how i’m feeling now,” was released in the heart of the isolation and helped soundtrack her fan’s isolation as the pandemic was raging in its early stages.

With Charli XCX's latest project, “CRASH,” she embraces a more abrasive sound as she further develops her hyperpop sound and pushes the boundaries of her artistic and creative goals.

“New Shapes” features Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek, marking their first collaboration together. With a list of new collaborators, Charli XCX is clearly expanding her wings creatively, and this starts the album out on a high note.

The swelling synthesizers and her voice shine on this track, and while the structure of the song follows conventional pop structures, it feels new and inventive in the way that the bass compliments the drums and chords.

While Charli XCX sings, “I don't know why I got a tendency to run away/Don't know why I'm always pushing for a sweet escape,” the production maintains a bubbly and atmospheric vibe. She both raps and sings on this track, and her voice blends nicely to create a powerful and memorable opener.

“Beg For You” features pop wonderchild Rina Sawayama, who’s been consistently making waves among the pop landscape for her unconventional song structures and consistent features.

By working with her peers instead of competing with them, Charli XCX puts her artistic goals first and keeps the energy high and genuine. They push each other creatively and, as a result, bring out the best in one another. Sawayama and Charli XCX is a surprising collaboration that many of her fans have begged for, so it’s rewarding to see these two on a track together.

“Baby” is Charli XCX in her element. The different synth flourishes and 80s style drum programming is reminiscent of pop heavyweights like Phil Collins, who helped pioneer the reverberated drum sounds.

Her vocal delivery is fast and staccato, while the chorus is simply “I’ma make you my/baby” — but her vocal delivery and instrumentation make her words feel punchy and in your face.

“What You Think About Me” serves as the album’s closer and best illustrates Charli XCX’s message for both her fans and her detractors. The moody shoegaze-inspired guitar licks complement the no-nonsense attitude of the chorus.

She sings, “I don’t give a f*** what you think about me/And I don't give a f*** 'bout the things that you do,” and it serves as an artistic reminder to herself to always place her vision first. While this uncompromising attitude often makes artists seem conceited or unwilling to change their style, Charli XCX’s commitment to growth shows with the final track on the album.

Her dedication to work with lesser-known artists puts her on a pedestal and spotlights artists who would not have this kind of exposure otherwise. She hones in on what makes her appealing and expands that bubble to keep her fans satisfied and hungry for more music.

Charli XCX's voice remains front and center on "CRASH," and her confidence also seems higher than it’s ever been in her career. Her career, itself, works to contradict pop detractors who say that the genre doesn’t innovate or expand on itself.

Charli XCX represents proper and substantial growth as an artist, and she seems unafraid to try new things and reinvent herself as her career progresses. Her image is both human and ethereal — and "CRASH" cements her status as a force of nature in the pop genre.

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