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Charli XCX breaks genres, loses focus on ‘Vroom Vroom’

Charli XCX performing in 2014. (Photo by Justin Higuchi, Wikimedia Commons)

Charli XCX performing in 2014. (Photo by Justin Higuchi, Wikimedia Commons)
Charli XCX performing in 2014. (Photo by Justin Higuchi, Wikimedia Commons)

On “Vroom Vroom,” Charli XCX breaks out of genre. She’s known for rock and pop, and has tread hip-hop ground before (“Fancy,” “Drop That Kitty”) but this work isn’t really hip-hop, despite some stylistic inspiration. On her EP, “Vroom Vroom,” Charli XCX inaugurates a new sound (and a new label), composed with a haphazard mix of harsh effects, pitched vocals, and aggressive bass.

“Vroom Vroom,” the EP’s eponymous opener, is an MIA-style venture into irreverence. “Bitches know they can’t catch me,” Charli XCX quasi-raps to a big-drum beat. “Trophy,” which turns up to a Pulp Fiction sample, is a feminist anthem. “Secret (Shh),” probably the EP’s best work, and its most conventional, is a clever innuendo for lovers’ rendezvous.

The previous strengths of Charli XCX’s career resurface on “Vroom Vroom.” She’s a talented and charismatic vocalist who has honed an inviting group vocal. Her songs, as always, scream attitude. As a longtime songwriter herself, she has a knack for catchy hooks and originality.

And though Charli XCX’s willingness to take risks is refreshing in a staid and predictable pop universe, it doesn’t quite pay off on this EP. Charli XCX’s rebellion against the rules of music themselves is too much, too fast. “Paradise,” for example, is an incoherent mess until the outro; it can’t decide whether it’s a throwback or not, another victim of the album’s distaste for a consistent instrumental.

On “Vroom Vroom,” Charli XCX demonstrates talent and intent as an artist, as she consistently has. But to make her departure from genre work, she’ll have to commit more fully to an alternative sound in the future.

 

Contact Joshua Seawell at jseawell ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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