Review Summary: X = wrong answer.
Unashamed. Unhinged. Party girl. Kawaii. Independent.
I’m sure Charli XCX was imagining the headlines and accolades being thrown in her direction when she thought up the concept and aesthetic of this E.P - and in her defence, she’s clearly very comfortable in this role, as essentially, she ‘jus’ don’t give a ***’. Which is fine, and almost admirable in the way that she’s experimenting with her style when another ‘True Romance’ or ‘Sucker’ would invariably be lapped up. So you go girl, branch out a little. But before showering her in too much praise, she would do well to remember first and foremost she is a musician, not a nightmarish cheerleader.
is a quick breeze through four disconnected pop tracks, all produced by fellow British knob-twiddler SOPHIE, known for some pretty messy but endearing singles which were compiled on the excellent Product collection towards the end of 2015. So the signs aren’t even all that bad. Unfortunately any promise is ruined by every single second of the twelve-minute runtime.
The overawing immaturity of the record is best summed up in the refrain of the title track, when she drops the ‘bitches know they can’t catch me’ line: rather than conjuring up the intended image of being ahead of the game, leading the way in a classy sports car, it’s just all so annoying that it has more in common with a small child pinching a disinterested adult and running away with a false sense of accomplishment. The track itself is a constant bounce between bubblegum rap and saccharine choruses that never sit together comfortably, and always jump from one to the other just when theres a threat of cohesion. ‘Paradise’ follows and is a sickeningly sweet trek through bargain basement happy hardcore which, barring a couple of unique stylistic choices on the production, sounds like a bedroom recording from a 12-year-old YouTube wannabe with one too many Britney Spears posters. ‘Trophy’ is essentially a slightly harder version of the opener, dropping all the sweet-girl pretensions of the first two tracks, and overall sounding like a rebellious pep rally, interspersed (dreadfully) with a ‘Pulp Fiction’ quote - no prizes for guessing which one. The only vaguely passable track here is the closer ‘Secret (Shhh)’, which is far from surprising given that it’s the only actual song (in conventional terms): it’s almost subtle in places, and Charli’s harmonious vocals on the chorus are actually quite inviting.
Where this record had a little potential, Charli XCX is unattractively desperate to be seen as edgy, and while this is nothing new in pop history, the fact that she has branched out on her own and set up a new label with this
as the centrepiece is almost unforgivable. Even more baffling is that this is solely being put out under her own name, giving no credit to the production, which is undeniably SOPHIE: wonky beats, trippy, jagged synths, like a ‘crunked’ version of a Dance Dance Revolution game, but this only contributes as a further downside. Where the SOPHIE singles had an element of anonymity and intrigue in their minimalism, here the production only provides a platform for XCX to drown out anything of any worth underneath her.
This really is a painful listen, and for her sake and that of the listener, the saving grace is that it’s only an E.P, as a full-length album would really go some way to damaging her career. Charli, the experiment failed.