At only 20 years of age, it’s pretty impressive if your album starts being described as “long-awaited” but in Charli XCX’s case, this rings true. Recording since 2008 with money from her parents, she has been making music since her school days but has finally perfected her sound. Not only this but the album has been delayed by the incredible opportunities that XCX has been given including touring Europe and the US multiple times and supporting Coldplay on their Mylo Xyloto tour. Now, however, Charli XCX (Xrated C*** Xrated… yep) has finally released True Romance and it is sure to confirm her place as a modern day hybrid popstar.
The album name gives it away really, this is an album of love songs, but unashamedly they’re more straightforward than you might think. The music reflects the rebellious gothic teenage persona of Charli XCX, who relishes nothing more than making glitchy, flashing GIFs and smoking in her bedroom. This character is displayed in the video for latest single ‘What I Like’, dressed in her trademark crop top and creepers combination. The track itself begins with a fast paced drum beat before descending into a slower melody in which XCX sings the verses like M.I.A but then croons a chorus about teenage sex in a bluntly seductive manner: “your t-shirt’s on my floor and we’re undressing in my house again, you know just what I like.” From this track alone, the essence of True Romance is expressed, as an electronic pop record of alternative 90s love songs, firmly placed in 2013.
‘So Far Away’ is one of the stand-out tracks on True Romance. Dazzling production accompanies XCX’s distorted voice, made to sound like a child as she warbles “I can’t believe all those things that you said, you broke my heart and you fucked with my head, again.” Heartbreak is the main theme and this is spread through a gravelly syncopated drawl in which she raps like a female Mike Skinner. Elsewhere, fan favourites and previous singles including ‘Stay Away‘, ‘Nuclear Seasons‘, ‘Cloud Aura‘ and ‘You’re The One‘ exhibit a range of emotions from despair to ecstasy but share gigantic, catchy pop choruses.
As a female pop singer, there are plenty of comparisons that can be made with Charli XCX, but she uses these to her advantage. ‘Take My Hand’ emulates the sound of Whigfield as she bounces around singing “come on baby put your hands on my hips, dance with your lips on my lips,” whilst ‘Black Roses’ is a more electronic Marina & The Diamonds. The production on ‘Grins’ could easily see it get mistaken for a Grimes track but XCX’s voice puts a personal spin on it.
If you’ve enjoyed Charli XCX’s previous singles, True Romance will not disappoint. With buckets of melancholy and delight in equal measure, there is no filler here. Whilst her image may be cute, her music packs a punch and the kitsch, adolescent nature of the entire record is thoroughly enjoyable. There’s no doubt that Charli XCX has succeeded in creating one of this year’s most thoughtful and progressive pop albums.