English singer-songwriter Charli XCX is bloodied and on top of a car on the album cover of her latest studio album “CRASH.” It’s a jarring visual departure from her previous album cover — her 2020 quarantine album “how i’m feeling now” — where Charli is laying in a bed with a camera.
Visuals aren’t the only thing that set “CRASH” apart from its predecessors. 2020’s “how i’m feeling now” saw Charli delve into a hyperpop sound, one with which Charli is well-acquainted.
Hyperpop as a genre is hard to define. It’s a genre that, when you hear it, you just know it’s hyperpop. Catchy hooks punctuated by chaotic and electronic production is probably the closest, yet vaguest, explanation possible. The Atlantic makes the comparison between rock and roll and hyperpop, claiming that both are a “countercultural sound” that define generations.
But, that was Charli’s past. “CRASH” sees the singer-songwriter return to a genre she is more than comfortable with — pop. Every song on “CRASH” is, in my humble opinion, pop excellence.
“Crash,” the title track and the album’s opener, functions as a perfect transition from “how i’m feeling now” to this new era. There are hints of hyperpop, such as the instrumental midway through the song, and the guitar solo is split by electronic glitches, making for an interesting and exciting listen.
In the album notes on Apple Music, Charli talks about the inspiration for the track and album title.
“One day, I was driving in my car and CRASH just came to me,” Charli said. She appreciated how it was “punchy and in-your-face” and how the title made sense in her discography, which is full of car references.
“Yuck” is an anti-love song, and sees Charli gag at receiving affection from someone else.
“Too cute, no, this ain’t me now,” Charli sings. “Yuck, now you got me blushin’.”
Pop songs often talk about love or relationships, but Charli turns this on its head, grimacing at the stereotypical “chivalry” she receives from someone else. Even better, “Yuck” is an instant earworm — I was ready to sing along within a minute. That’s how you know it’s a good pop song.
In a ballad reminiscent of Cyndi Lauper’s masterpiece “Time After Time,” Charli tells the story of meeting a romantic partner in “Every Rule.” The song is slower and dripping in synths, which made it an instant favorite.
“And we know that it’s wrong, but it feels real fun,” Charli sings. “I’m breakin’ every rule for you.”
Honesty is Charli’s greatest strength on “Every Rule.” She does not hold back in describing that she and the romantic interest of the song were both in relationships at the time they met, opting to sneak around to see each other. Yet, she recognizes that what she’s doing is not healthy, since she knows that she’s “hurting someone else instead.”
“CRASH” is a gleaming pop album packed with track after track of glossy songs. The album is remarkably short — only about 34 minutes — and it flies by in a whirlwind of danceable hits. “CRASH” is definitely worth the listen.