Before my illustrious career on the 1’ & 2’s started to fade away in a cloud of filter sweeps & bar cards, I’d formed a bit of a habit (see: sick pleasure) in slipping my favourite 120bpm pop tunes into my DJ sets at clubs populated almost exclusively by house music acolytes. That habit started, no doubt, with Charli XCX’s breakthrough track ‘Nuclear Seasons’ - a song I loved so dearly I’d play it in every single set, and confidently stare down the crowd daring them to tell me it wasn’t a vibe (it never happened).
Fast forward a few years, and for Charli – a massive solo career has emerged. For anybody with their ear to the ground (or Wikipedia credits) Charli represents a powerful force in modern pop music, writing mega hits for Icona Pop, Iggy Azelia, and cropping up in the writing credits for everybody from Madeon to Ryn Weaver, Marina & The Diamonds to James Blunt. It’d be difficult to argue that she doesn’t – pretty consistently – bring something new to the table.
At A Glance
It’s her greatest body of work since 2008’s ‘Fourteen’. I’d never heard (or heard of) that release until today but it basically sounds like a female-fronted Hadouken and was recorded entirely by Charli, who played all of the instruments, and sung all of the vocal parts, when she was fourteen-years-old. The record changes hands for a lot of dough on discogs.com these days.
For real though, Number 1 Angel hits that super sweet point between progressive and accessible, with enough production wizardry from the PC gang to keep the Soundcloud campers happy, and enough thumping 808’s for the woo-girls. It moves from high energy silver-surfer pop to some genuinely startling moments of reflection and hopelessness, this is no Bright Eyes, for sure, but by being upfront about her LA living, champagne-swilling lifestyle, and filtering her first world woes through that lens, Charli comes off sounding pretty genuine.
The Best Song
Her flows on Dreamer & Blame It On You are more convoluted than 90% of your favorite rappers right now, and on slo-mo snowflake banger Emotional (sing the hook as “So Moschino, So Moschino” like I do for extra fun) the light hits Charli in just the right way, and she sparkles. It’s really the scope of “Number 1 Angel” as a whole that makes it such a winner. 3AM is how I wish pop music sounded right now, so let’s go with that for the day time and the bummer of a track White Roses for some existential floating in the early hours of the morning.
The Worst Song
None of the young people in my immediate vicinity know who Uffie is, which is a blasphemous admittance to anybody that’s ever D.A.N.C.E’d or Pop’d A Glock. Unfortunately, the 1st lady of Ed Bangers' feature on back-end track ‘Babygirl’ is so jarring that it almost ruins the track. Another one is Lipgloss, for an entirely different reason (sequencing!). Cupcakke is far from a bad rapper, but the ascent back into turn-up territory, on the very last track of a – for the most part – subdued and reflective mixtape.
This mixtape came off the back of a tirade of probably reasonable, maybe unreasonable, tweets about how difficult it is to release a free mixtape in 2017. If I had to take a guess, I’d say Charli wanted to prove with this release that if she’s left to her own devices, she comes up with her most interesting work. And, with the exception of a few moments, I reckon she did.