Originally published in The Edge
Since Charli XCX last put out a proper single – October’s frankly tedious ‘After The Afterparty,’ which somewhat legitimised luminous teen king Lil Yachty as a mainstream “thing” with its light, puerile production and lyrical hedonism somehow making its way into the top 40 for five weeks – she’s had a rather stunning little run of appearances. Alongside Japanese pair Yasutaka Nakata and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, ‘Crazy Crazy’ set a high bar for pop choruses just two weeks into 2017. After complaining of the arduous nature of releasing a free mixtape as a major label popstar in this modern age, the £4.99 Number 1 Angel more thoroughly realised the jagged vision of 2016’s Vroom Vroom EP with guest turns from Raye and MØ atop half a dozen A. G. Cook-helmed gems. Within a week of that came her role on Mura Masa‘s ‘1 Night,’ which has thus far proved to be one of the tracks from one of the albums of the year. Most recently, teaming up with a then-17-year-old Chicago producer named Whethan on ‘Love Gang’ paired a slick blob of guitar with unashamedly soppy lyrics which delivered accordingly.
Leaning almost à la Afroman in its one-size-fits-all negation of responsibility (“I’m sorry that I missed your party / I wish I had a better excuse like my house was hit by a tsunami / But I was busy thinking ’bout boys”), ‘Boys’ shows Charli on the sort of relaxed form rarely seen since ‘Boom Clap.’ Around her confessional lie similarly gentle synthetic flutters and the soothing tinkles of Mario-esque success, perhaps signed off by Nintendo in lieu of everyone’s favourite plumber joining the savvy video, an all-star cast of blokes posing through a staple spread of mundane decorative tasks usually reserved for women in this sort of visual. Think Brendon Urie on a bed of petals, Stormzy and Joe Jonas having breakfast, Tom Grennan and Charlie Puth getting carried away in the presence of soap suds, a topless Diplo working out with puppies, and Frank Carter’s fingers being candles.
Unlike her last two projects, ‘Boys’ is in no way a case of Charli being an eccentric pop savant by going experimental with sound or collaborators. In fact, by her standards, it’s entirely unremarkable – the most daring gesture is having no room for Charli herself in the six-strong team of writers. It is, however, a very pleasant celebration of distraction packaged as a concise daydream. Despite moving ever so slightly closer to the inevitable album with ostensibly a far simpler animal than what one might expect, Charli still refuses to falter.
Out now via Asylum and Atlantic