Charli XCX Vroom Vroom
Published Mar 28, 2016Charli XCX, aka Charlotte Aitchison, has always seemed as interested in breaking new ground as chart dominance. And while that's certainly the path to critical adulation, in the world of pop music, fortune rarely favours the artists who get there first. Likewise, while SOPHIE and the entire PC Music crew have made significant splashes with in-the-know listeners, their culture jamming pop tunes have yet to reach the ears of mainstream pop fans.
So although a collection of SOPHIE-produced Charli XCX tunes would be music to any poptimist's ears, on these four brief tracks — each clocks in at two minutes — the duo is only intermittently able to find their groove. Even at her most adventurous, Aitchison's music remains ground by pop forms — verse, chorus, verse — and she's at her best when belting out a giant chorus. SOPHIE, meanwhile, excels at bucking pop forms — it's one of the foundational elements of entire PC Music aesthetic — and that creative chasm seems difficult for the two parties to reconcile here.
"Paradise," featuring PC Music's Hannah Diamond, is the standout; Diamond's computer-manipulated vocal loop is the closest thing the EP has to a sing-along chorus, and there are flashes of the effervescent burble that SOPHIE brings to his own work on this steroids-boosted power ballad. But he seems more interested in bending Diamond's voice to his own bidding than accommodating Aitchison's outsized personality, a pattern repeated across the entire EP. The most memorable part of "Trophy" is the Pulp Fiction sample that anchors the track.
When the two artists' diametrically opposed statements of purpose click — the cotton candy chorus of "Vroom Vroom," the stark, piano-driven verses of "Paradise" — they sound unstoppable. But just as often, the melding of styles feels more shoehorned. If the EP proves to be a one-off, it will remain a curiosity in Aitchison's discography, one of her many musical explorations. Yet, there's enough that works on Vroom Vroom to hope that it's the beginning of something much bigger. (Vroom Vroom)