XCX marks the spot

Charlotte Aitchison delivers peppy pop tunes on 'True Romance'


The low-profile Charlotte Aitchison, who performs under the moniker Charli XCX and gained international popularity as the featured artist of Icona Pop’s anthemic “I Love It,” recently released her own studio debut, ‘True Romance,’ an album full of songs about love, relationships and partying. But even while working with these standard pop record themes, Aitchison does not seem to have mastered a standard sound.

Charli XCX has the appropriately scuzzy and seductive voice of any great pop star, but her own songs fall unexcitingly between the obscurity of an artist like Grimes and the rousing popularity of an Ellie Goulding. Aitchison is at her best when she is collaborating.

In “Cloud Aura,” for instance, Aitchison delivers the album’s strongest track when she collaborates with the hip-hop artist Brooke Candy; Charli clearly has an ear for production, creating a call-and response not only of her own melodic vocals with Candy’s emphatic rapping style, but also including some rapping of her own. While her own rap-style ends up sounding more like plain speech with some light inflections, it’s an honest and intriguing combination of both voices.

The track “Grins” shares characteristics with a sentimental Tegan and Sara song, whereas “You’re the One” is slow, dark and elegiac, along the lines of a Lana Del Rey track.

Charli XCX doesn’t fall into any one particular vocal style, alternating between inflected speech and more conventional singing on almost every track.

But if her musical offerings vary, her lyrical ones don’t. Tracks’ themes don’t stray far from reflections on current or past relationships. “I got to phase you out my zone / Hope you realize now that I’m never coming home / You were meant to be alone,” she exclaims to a lost lover at one point, demonstrating the fact that Charli’s tunes don’t need political overtones to connect with listeners. For dance-pop lovers, ‘True Romance’ is a dream come true.

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