parodies by nacrowe
with so much POP MUSIC in the digital age feeling manufactured and the end product of an extended marketing and research investigation, its REFRESHING to come across a TALENTED songwriter with global POP ambitions that sounds like themselves over an extended catalogue. such is the CAMBRIDGE native CHARLOTTE EMMA AITCHISON a.k.a. CHARLI XCX.
i came across the BRITISH singer-songwriter CHARLI XCX when her debut TRUE ROMANCE (ATLANTIC, 2013) came out just over a decade ago. that release had an UPBEAT energy with a TRIPPY and SURREAL bend to it that was seemingly OUT-OF-STEP with the more outlandish output of LADY GAGA and her acolytes in RIHANNA, MILEY CYRUS, KATY PERRY and NIKKI MINAJ who all seemed bent on out-crazying each other on the visual front for attention. what set CHARLI XCX apart from this crowd was her focus on songwriting with a slew of memorable tracks in "GRINS," "YOU - HA HA HA," "BLACK ROSES," "TAKE MY HAND," "YOU'RE THE ONE," "WHAT I LIKE," and especially "NUCLEAR SEASONS." totally dug her debut.
i was teaching in VENEZUELA when her follow-up SUCKER (ATLANTIC, 2014) came out which was more PLAYFUL and direct and less TRIP-HOPy with songs that dealt with SELF-EMPOWERMENT themes. STANDOUT tracks include "NEED UR LOVE," "BREAKING UP," "BOOM CLAP," "FAMOUS," "LONDON QUEEN," "SUCKER," and most noticeably in the ANTHEMIC "BREAK THE RULES." these songs had more concise arrangements with MEMORABLE melodies often tinged with SELF-EFFACING HUMOR and BRAVADO to spare. it also felt AUTHENTIC to her SONGWRITING PERSONA and INDIVIDUAL PERSPECTIVE. often times with POP STARS you get the feeling that it is all just a theatrical exercise for them, inhabiting on roles in songs that are divorced from their essence as INDIVIDUALS. cant say that about CHARLI XCX since nothing feels forced or performative on her records. in that sense she is less akin to that aforementioned list of peers that are in the BRITNEY SPEARS industry mold (minus LADY GAGA who writes her own material) and more in league with the more AUTHENTIC company of SONIC AUTEURS like PJ HARVEY, LORDE, BJORK, TAYLOR SWIFT, AMY WINEHOUSE or even MADONNA.
at least in my opinion.
her hot streak since those two releases has continued unabated with FUN and INTOXICATING album and non-album tracks like "1 NIGHT," "USED TO KNOW ME," "BLAME IT ON YOU," "1999," "GOOD ONES," "BEG FOR YOU," "ILY2," "YUCK," and "5 IN THE MORNING." but my favorite track of hers bar none is the revelatory non-album single "BOYS" and its INGENIOUS music video (also directed by CHARLI XCX) that basically flips the script on the MALE GAZE. instead of half-naked women vamping it up suggestively for the camera (a posture and approach she no doubt is familiar with), on "BOYS" there is a seemingly never-ending cavalcade of shirtless men fulfilling female PIN-UP TROPES from EATING PANCAKES, HOLDING PUPPIES, PILLOW FIGHTING, WASHING CARS, LOUNGING IN BED ON SATIN SHEETS, DRINKING MILK and PUMPING IRON to CHILLING WITH STUFFED ANIMALS, RIDING ON INFLATABLE FLAMINGOES, EATING ICE CREAM and WIELDING CHAINSAWS. all in front of supposedly "feminine" pastel colored backdrops. of the exhaustive seventy-five men included some notable participants include OLI SYKES (BRING ME THE HORIZON), DIPLO, STORMZY, MARK RONSON, WIZ KHALIFA, CARL BARAT (THE LIBERTINES), JOEY BADA$$, CHROMEO, EZRA KROENIG & ROSTAM BATMANGLIJ (VAMPIRE WEEKEND), MAC DEMARCO, WILL.I.AM (BLACK EYED PEAS), BASTIAN SCHWEINSTEIGER (FC BAYERN MUNICH), G-EAZY, FRANK CARTER (GALLOWS, PURE LOVE), TY DOLLA $IGN and JOE JONAS (JONAS BROTHERS). i just love the fact that the music video is UNAPOLOGETICALLY playing the same game historically imposed on female entertainers by switching up the game and exploiting some quality MALE BEEFCAKE in the process. feels like a concept that was a long time coming and it is done with more than a healthy dose of INTELLIGENT HUMOR and nudge-nudge, wink-wink SELF-AWARENESS.
im always looking forward to her next release, probably the only POP STAR i feel that way about. especially now that she has completed her deal with ATLANTIC RECORDS and has all her options seemingly available to her a decade into a STELLAR career. stay tuned.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that originally aired a little over a year ago. the playlist includes music from throughout CHARLI XCX's catalogue. enjoy!
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