“I’m about to crash, come watch me,” Charli XCX sings on the wheel-spinning, high intensity opening track for Crash – a promise of hedonism and self-destruction in equal measure.
Far from a tail-spin though, Crash is, as Charli herself rightfully pointed out on Twitter, her most cohesive era yet. Her last album, the pandemic-produced how i’m feeling now, was a far more DIY project, put together in just six weeks and laced with a similar hyperpop energy to her Vroom Vroom EP. Crash, on the other hand, is about as large-scale and high glamour as you can get. Relentless both in energy and in feeling, Crash sees her unleashed and producing earworm pop bangers from start to finish.
After the titular introduction, it’s the following tracks – ‘New Shapes’ and ‘Good Ones’ – that became the first singles in this album cycle, and which anchor the record firmly to the dancefloor. Self-destructive tendencies certainly informed ‘Good Ones’, a lament for self-sabotaged relationships, but on the follow-up ‘Constant Repeat’, it’s Charli who finds herself on the receiving end of that behaviour, insisting “You should’ve been brave / you had the chance of a lifetime”. Don’t try too hard though: on ‘Yuck’ she makes it clear that being overly clingy is a pretty giant ick.
While the entirety of Crash is a triumph of unabashed pop – wrapped up in a vinyl bodysuit and platform boots – one of its standouts is ‘Used To Know Me’ – a track that practically demands the full volume of a packed club. ‘Beg For You’, Charli’s iconic collaboration with Rina Sawayama, is similarly infectious, while ‘Every Rule’ provides a brief instance of calm as it ruminates on the memories of a previous relationship.
Admissions of vulnerability like this aren’t a dominant theme on Crash. The elaborate soundscape and aesthetic to match keep you at a comfortable arm’s length (dancing space) – but Charli isn’t afraid to show the human behind the popstar; last month, she took a step back from social media after criticisms about the album roll-out started to take their toll. “I’ve been grappling quite a lot with my mental health the past few months and obviously it makes negativity and criticism harder to handle when I come across it,” she posted.
Transparency with her fanbase, or ‘angels’, is what makes Charli the perfect pop figure for 2022. Not only do you get the iconic popstar-on-a-pedestal, but it’s backed up by a personality which is actually relatable. Crash’s closing track, ‘Twice’, is a testament to that as well – an existential anthem about living unapologetically in the moment and partying with your friends, it’s a fitting end to an album made to soundtrack exactly that.