Review Summary: moving backwards and forwards
so the prevailing attitude regarding CRASH
is that it is a major step down from charli's previous work. i don't blame anyone for thinking that, considering the first single was "good ones," a mediocre synthpop track produced by a mind behind "blinding lights" (another mediocre synthpop track) - seemingly with the goal, already failed, of hitting or coming close to the ridiculous commercial high of the latter track. "beg for you" was another track seemingly built on aping the success of another song, this time more literally as it heavily samples "cry for you," a far superior dance track. and on top of the worst singles charli dropped since "i finally understand," her rollout was messy, with NFTs and thin-skinned reactions to criticism and stans unable to decide if CRASH
was designed to fail and get her out of her contract or not.
i'll just be upfront and say it - it's not that bad. in fact, it's good! this is a good album, and i do not regret listening to it.
there are low points for sure: "lightning" sounds like a youtube mashup of charli over some new order song with 372 views, "used to know me" continues the trend "beg for you" started of heavily leaning on a much better song with next to no innovation. some songs on here really give ammunition to the since-disproved argument that pop music simply copies other trends and makes it digestible. there's nothing wrong with that, but the way parts of CRASH
do it is impressively lifeless. not ugly or bad persay, just really generic and dull. which, to be clear, is better! i'd much rather listen to a boring album than a bad one. and outside of one song ("lightning") nothing on here is bad.
in fact, there are several songs on here that are really good! the intro and outro - "crash" and "twice" - are some examples. the former is a brief nu-jack-swing jam with an unsurprising a.g. cook production credit that leads perfectly into the striking "new shapes" (featuring an excellent caroline polachek verse). and the latter, a pseudo-tropical bop is like a new retelling of "track 10" with its beautiful extended outro that gave me chills, proving that charli hasn't given up entirely on the weirder side of music. "move me" sounds to me like a genuine attempt at hitting the charts - i say that as a compliment - it's perhaps the barest track charli has sang on since Sucker
, really showcasing her voice and revealing her soul to the listener in a way she hasn't for ages (a theme on this album). and to follow it up with "baby" - wow. what a perfect heel turn into her catchiest song in years.
as you've probably noticed, i find it hard to avoid comparing her work here to her discography. when she has multiple perfect projects and is the most innovative popstar out there, it's easy to just make a glorified album ranking. but let's take a step back. imagine, if you can, if this was charli's debut album. it wouldn't convert me to instant fanhood, but i'm sure i would focus on her more in the future, as it often shows enormous potential. "constant repeat" is one of those moments, a perfect hook over shimmering production and a great breakdown. and as a whole, the album has surprising coherence coming from the scattershot singles, forming a team of tracks that contribute to a very specific, chart-friendly version of her usual style. breaking a rule i set earlier in this paragraph, early buzz is comparing this album to Sucker
but i think it has more in common with Number 1 Angel
, with its friendly, concise form. the only difference is quality control. and it's a matter of a lot of filler, this is a brief and tight album. it's more about the average track quality. if every song was as good as "constant repeat," which sounds exactly like i imagine timbaland must have sounded in the early '00s, we'd have another masterpiece. unfortunately, we don't. but that doesn't mean it's not worth listening to and discovering your favorite tracks. CRASH
might not be up there with her best, but it's still a good pop album, and worth trying for any fans of the genre. and maybe it's true what she has to say about it: "This album feels very cylical in many ways ... People can understand who I am now." and at her core, she is a popstar. so now's her chance to reinvent herself once more. "As major label artists crave to be more ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ and ‘involved’ and ‘left,’ I’m more interested in playing with the narrative of the opposite" she says to daniel lopatin (oneohtrix point never) - not coincidentally, another left-field artist playing with pop - explaining what anyone who's listened to this album knows by now. this is conventional, making a very sharp right turn from where she was to a place she has explored before. and that's just fine. i don't mind an artist exploring different fields after they master a style, which she certainly did. let's just hope next time it lands as well as she hopes this will.