ALBUM REVIEW: Charli XCX Bets on the Sound of the Future, and Wins

The U.K.’s alt-pop queen has her finger on the pulse of something big.

As we transition into a new decade, established and emerging pop artists alike are embracing a new strain of sound that feels electronic, bouncy and futuristic. Spotify has a playlist dedicated to the subgenre aptly titled HYPERPOP, which describes itself as “PC music in the modern world of pop.” The playlist features tracks from the likes of Grimes, Kim Petras and 100 gecs, but no one is as represented as Charli XCX, who may as well be the face of this sonic movement. With her latest album, Charli, the British alt-pop star puts all her chips on the sound of the future, and she’s cashing in nicely. Simply put, this album slaps.

Right from the get-go, we hear punchy synths and popping percussion that carry Charli’s autotuned introduction on the declarative opener “Next Level Charli.” By the time we get to “1999,” we’re totally cool with a Troye Sivan feature and feeling like we’re in a Y2K-themed nightclub wearing all denim. While songs like “Cross You Out,” “Click,” and “Thoughts” push resonant synths to their limits, the familiarity of singles like “Blame It On Your Love” (feat. pop queen of the moment Lizzo) give the album enough mainstream appeal to succeed with multiple audiences.

For me, the sequencing for the last third of Charli makes the project feel less like an album and more like a mixtape. On the flipside, the entire track list doubles as an exercise in music discovery. Most folks are well aware of Lizzo, Troye Sivan and HAIM at this point, but all the album’s featured artists—the aforementioned Kim Petras, Sky Ferreira, Big Freedia, CupcakKe, Clairo and especially co-exec. producer A.G. Cook—have their own libraries worth diving into.

Whether it’s the production or the vocals, bangers or ballads, supporting cast or leading woman, Charli has a little something for everyone to enjoy, and a whole lot more to explore.

Score: 💖💖💖💖 / 5