Release Date: Apr 16, 2013
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Pop, Pop/Rock, Synth Pop
"We use to be the cool kids/You were old school, I was on the new shit," chants Charlotte Aitchison, a. k. a.
There’s a new generation reaching adulthood, and it’s a generation who have had the internet as a constant in their adolescent years. While those of us who have racked up a quarter century (or more) of years on this planet can easily recall an era pre-information superhighway, this new generation can’t imagine a world without Google or Wikipedia. For them, making friends online has always been perfectly normal, they’re comfortable sharing the minutiae of their personal life on social networking sites (anyone with a Facebook friend born in the 1990s can attest to this) and their attitude to music seems totally alien to anyone who can remember the dark, pre-millennium days of paying upwards of £15 for a CD.
When I met Charli XCX, my mouth coated in bitter Xanax beneath Michael Jordan’s banners and Coldplay’s thumb in the guts of the United Center, she was candid about her goals. “I want to be a fucking pop star”, she said from the plain black couch in her understated dressing room, sans makeup, hair piled in an onyx tangle devouring a large pair of sunglasses like an ink stained cuttlefish, swimming in a bordeaux crew neck and bouncing a pair of ludicrously high platform sneakers in a caramel-and-cream zebra pattern from thin cigarette legs clung to by jet black cycling shorts. “But I want to do it on my own terms.
Internet platforms aren't genres, and maybe it's time to call a moratorium on treating them like they are. In 2006, when Charlotte Aitchison turned 14, she started recording a later-shelved album she has more recently disowned as "fucking terrible MySpace music." Now, almost seven years later, her proper debut album as Charli XCX can hardly avoid comparisons to Tumblr, from fans and detractors alike. A simple misreading of the UK singer and songwriter's biggest hit might explain this focus on technology-based shorthand.
Could it be that debut albums are becoming even more of a litmus test for the increasingly countless artists who manage to get written about somewhere within the wide expanses of the internets? If so, it would especially apply to those fortunate few whose song gets picked up for a day — a week, if they’re really lucky — by some blog, zine, or other. You know what kind of song I’m talking about — the type that actually meets the hard-to-believe-it’s-still-possible expectations of a real pop(ular) song in defiance of an — arguably — unequaled oversaturation in the history of pop music. And once you find it difficult to shake off, chances are you’ll try to find it as a free download or on Bandcamp or on SoundCloud — pretty much anywhere.
In the couple of years leading up to her debut album, True Romance, Charli XCX issued a slew of singles, EPs, and mixtapes that mixed moody synth pop with rap and R&B into a sound billed as "neon goth. " Despite that somewhat awkward description of her style, Charli does have a flair for chiaroscuro, switching easily from brooding ("Set Me Free") to sparkly ("Take My Hand"), sometimes within the course of one song ("You're the One," one of five previously released tracks here). In some ways, she's the opposite of Grimes, who sprinkles just enough sugar over her quirky musical ideas to make them accessible.
London's Charlotte Aitchison is just 20, but she's already got four years of banging away at pop's door under her belt. By not rushing out an album until now, however, she seems to have found the time to iron out the creases that made her seem like one of a dozen similar acts. True Romance is surprisingly oddball and packed with production quirks that often resemble a smoothed-off Grimes; You (Ha Ha Ha) and Grins harness samples inventively and playfully.
That True Romance is likely to ruffle few feathers on its release speaks volumes about the current shape of modern-day pop music. Once upon a time, such a collection of android beats and glitch-riddled melodies would have singled its creator out as a libido-led sonic provocateur. In 2013 it merely ensures Charli XCX's place in the pack. .
After almost three years, Charli XCX has finally graced us with the much promised and much anticipated major label debut. The Brit Goth-pop princess who brought us the explosively infectious and wonderful “Nuclear Seasons” has donned enough material to warrant an entire full-length album as opposed to the many singular EP-like releases she’s been teasing us with over the past two years. The first impression of True Romance is that it’s disappointing.
There’s no nice way to say this: Charli XCX makes goth-pop for Tumblr nuts. Thing is, it seems to be working for her. Charlotte Aitchison had a dodgy start to her career in 2008, hawking tracks called ‘Art Bitch’ and ‘!Franchesckaar!’, but a couple of years ago she re-emerged with great eye make-up and a more sophisticated sound. Since then she’s released a series of moody electro tunes (‘Stay Away’, ‘Nuclear Seasons’) that the blogs keep saying are actually pretty good.Recently, Charli’s reassured her core fanbase (the Tumblr nuts) by telling one interviewer: “50 per cent of my life is taken up by making gifs”.
She’s only 20, but she already seems like she’s been around forever. At the age of 16, Charlotte Aitchison recorded an album and distributed it to her schoolfriends. Four years later, she’s called herself Charli XCX, has toured with Ellie Goulding and Coldplay and, together with Icona Pop, has recorded one of the hottest singles in the year in the infuriatingly infectious I Love It.
As a Tumblr page brandishes hyperactive and ultimately throwaway slices of Internet-fueled culture, so does Charli XCX shred various musical trends and reknit them into shiny electro-pop formulas. The Hertfordshire-born singer is kind of like the British version of Ke$ha, crafting fuzzed-up, meme-happy party music that's just a tad more cerebral than it lets on, but probably still not as smart as its producers think. Which means that True Romance, despite its constant emittance of a drunk-n'-messy neon glow, is a little too slickly produced and self-aware to deliver the kind of spontaneous creativity or carefree chic that Charli XCX aims for.
“Pop” ceased to be a dirty word sometime in the early to mid-2000s. It became kitsch-cool to enjoy diapraghm-rumbling bass bumps, commanding female vocals, and earworm choruses that you once fought to disassociate yourself from. Loving Britney and Christina became almost grime-chic, as though seeing their lives unfurl was something of note. But that’s the thing about pop stars’ ultraviolet belters: they stick with you, whether you want them there or not.
With her proclivity toward leopard print and a love for sugary goth-pop, as featured on Icona Pop’s now-gold single “I Love It,” Charli XCX, nee Charlotte Aitchison, might as well be a mid-’90s mall rat. But to turn her out as a simulacrum of Gwen Stefani’s “Hella Good” years would be doing her a great injustice. At just 20 years old, the Hertfordshire, U.K., native has churned out a series of electro-pop songs that have only improved over the past few years.So many of the tracks featured on Charli XCX’s debut full-length, True Romance, have been previously released that it feels more like a singles collection than a proper album with a build-up to a predetermined release date.
Charlotte Aitchison’s debut album, ‘True Romance’, which follows up 2012’s mixtapes ‘Heartbreaks and Earthquakes’ and ‘Super Ultra’, has been a long time coming. She started playing her songs at raves when she was 14, which her Dad would attend dressed as The Mad Hatter, signed her first record deal at 16 and opened for Coldplay when they toured the US. A pretty impressive career already, especially for someone who only turned 20 last summer.As the opening notes of ‘Nuclear Seasons’ seep through the speakers, it becomes apparent that this is an artist much more mature than her years.
Like any overachiever, Charlotte Aitchison remains unsatisfied with her current success. It’s not enough that she’s created some very good, if not exceptional, pop songs. She strives to craft what she calls “luscious and beautiful and cinematic” music. And though she’s been getting plenty of positive attention since 2011, she longs for stardom.