Let’s talk about Charli XCX. In the space of six years, Charlotte Aitchison has transitioned from underground hero to rising star. A spiritual rebel in a world of pop she’s steadily marched towards the centre of commercial music. Her latest release and second mixtape this year, Pop 2, coyly dodges the gravitas of an LP, yet it makes a considerable bid to further consolidate the stratospheric successes of the year so far.
Despite being comfortably cool as a producer, writer or vocalist, Charli seems to always fire off best when she’s completely in control. The tape’s greatest strengths come with the uncluttered moments of ‘Lucky’ and ‘Track 10’. Yet like any heavyweight pop release of 2017 Pop 2 comes festooned with guest appearances. It’s a little emblematic of music’s symptomatic problem: collaborations are becoming a chore.
Fortunately, Charlotte handles collaboration considerably better than most. What’s more she pulls pop’s universality together with interesting musical ideas. Pop 2 is doing more than chasing novelty. At its core, it’s chasing spontaneous vision and the grand idealism of the medium.
Pop 2’s slick collection of songs- album or mixtape, however you want to skin the cat- continues to champion the idea of pop as something more than aural fodder. It’s a big, anthemic statement wrenched from a beating heart. Art, not soulless alchemy. XCX is capable of kinetic chart hits but just as often given over to brash flashes of oddball creativity.
Aitchison is no caricature, 2 is just as much about wreck-it-up-attitude and human experience, as adaptability and creative ambition. Uncontrived and catchy as hell, Charli’s narcotic pop is vital and exciting. From the opening stutters of ‘Backseat’, this mixtape draws from pop’s fabric to push outward, animating itself with a mass of energy, fast-moving dazzle and just enough emotion to keep real.