Charli XCX; Number 1 Angel (2017) Review

File Apr 06, 11 54 16 PM
Number 1 Angel by Tre Simmons

Charli XCX is no stranger to a good hook; she has, in the past, riddled her songs with them and made other, lesser artists more palatable through her writing and chipmunk squeaked vocals over their tracks (hello, Iggy Azalea). She’s also flirted with the idea of becoming a more concise, minimalist version of herself. On her most recent release, 2016’s Vroom Vroom EP, she utilized the hypermodern production talents of artist and producer SOPHIE to an unfortunately annoying, thin effect. The songs were bolstered by some of her most earworm-y choruses to date, but they weren’t much else. She also tried her hand out with rap cadences across the glossy sheen of the EP, and on Number 1 Angel, she effectively rewrites that EP as a stopgap release between it and her next album as she goes through label troublesNumber 1 Angel rejuvenates the ideas she had across all of her prior albums (mostly excluding the pop punk ready Sucker), and comes back with her strongest work since her major label debut, the stunning dark pop opus True Romance.

The best songs show Charli’s ability to work well with her producers and guest features while simultaneously filling in every space with previously untried rhythms and melodies in her canon. Opener “Dreamer,” featuring rappers Starrah and Raye, lets you know essentially everything you’re going to get into for the rest of the album. Heavily autotuned, constant forward motion and with hook after hook, it establishes the ecstatic energy that continues mostly through the rest of the album until “White Roses,” in what appears to be the antithesis to True Romance late album cut “Black Roses.” Rather than “falling victim to” her lover’s wiles, she sets forth a winter wonderland of a track where she seemingly can’t live without her loved one. Standout track “Roll With Me” is a hyperrave fantasy; it builds on the quick flows she built up on the prior two tracks and funnels it through a candy-coated and brittle thin pop-rave track from previous collaborator SOPHIE that never ceases to put a smile on my face, no matter how often I listen to it. The first three-fifths of the album are full of these joy-inducing moments, whereas post-“White Roses,” the album is content to mellow out and relax a bit.

The album occasionally falters when Charli becomes more beholden to standard current pop tropes; “3AM (Pull Up)” isn’t without its merits, but it gets lost amid the “tropical house” genre that seems to be pop’s recent M.O., and artist MØ doesn’t add anything to the track either with her “Indie Voice” stylings. “Babygirl” and “Drugs” (featuring artists Uffie and Abra, respectively) aren’t lacking in any glaring way other than energy; it feels as though Number 1 Angel mirrors a sugar rush in that aspect, crashing down once the album has rid itself of the sugar high it was on, and “Drugs” clichéd drug-as-love metaphor doesn’t help it in this regard. The album is never a slog to get through, however, and closer “Lipgloss,” featuring Twitter favorite rapper Cupcakke, adds a final dose of candy gloss and gleeful vulgarity to wrap the album up in what is the best feature across the entire album.

Number 1 Angel stays firmly in the lane of what Charli XCX has done previously, while simultaneously stretching the form and function of what she feels she can get done in a 3- to 4-minute pop track. The album likely will only continue her upward path into the upper echelons of pop artists, and might even bring back fans who were lost on the steely Vroom Vroom EP. If she can continue to hone the incredible energy she has on the best tracks here, she’ll likely forge a signature that will keep herself happy with the content she produces. The most apt way of describing her remaining firmly rooted in her pop strengths is, as she intones on “Lipgloss,” “It’s Charli.”


MovieBabble: a brief word on a fellow media reviewer

MovieBabble’s article layout, taken from their website

MovieBabble is a WordPress blog designed to review and critically assess new movies and what merits new movies may have. Beginning in late 2016 with a review of “Deepwater Horizon,” the creator (unnamed on their website) has strived to create a space to discuss movies in a way that is accessible to all, while also strengthening their own ability to write about and review that which they love. According to their about page, they “work to extract as much new information about everything movies from storytelling devices, cool camera tricks and anything else you could possibly ever think of.” Being a new follower of the blog, it should be interesting to see the manners in which they progress as a reviewer, as well as how their tastes may change. This could be reflected in the content they produce in addition to the way they visually present said content.

The first thing that sticks out to me about their site is the simplicity of it all. They have chosen, so far, to stick to a standard WordPress format with no extra bells or whistles. They have included their social media, as well as a contact page in order for others to reach out to them, but other than that, the site is relatively bare bones, and this would be one thing that could possibly be changed in order to make the site more visually palatable and draw in new readers. The place in which MovieBabble shines is wholly in the content they produce. From basic reviews of recent movies to some of their best (& worst) of lists through the past and present of cinema, each post is tailor made to the creator’s individual personality and skill in critically assessing film as we know it.

My favorite review of theirs thus far has been the one they wrote for the new film, “Get Out.” It is already one of my favorite movies of recent memory, and the creator brought up a handful of points that I didn’t even think of during and after watching the film. One major point, for example, is how “Get Out” managed to create something heretofore unseen in horror films; not only is Jordan Peele’s story completely original (not being sourced from any other form of media, not a remake, and so on), it also manages to tackle race and identity in ways movies of its ilk have not previously done. There have been Blaxploitation and black-produced or black-centered horror movies in the past, but these movies tend to play up satire and humor more than anything. With MovieBabble’s review of “Get Out,” I was able to think about an already amazing movie in a completely different way.

Overall, MovieBabble does a great job of not only building a repertoire of movies to watch (or avoid) personally, it also shows how much passion and joy goes into writing these articles for the creator of the website. I sincerely hope they continue on in the direction they are going, combining original viewpoints and tried-and-tested methods of writing about the media we consume into its own body of work that shines as a beacon of media criticism and the fun we can have when we participate in critical discussions. While the focus of my blog will continue to be based around music and the avenues we can explore in that world, it’s enlivening to see that other people are equally as passionate about other forms of art and media.