Charli XCX – Sucker (Album Review)

With Sucker, Charli XCX has comprised a collection of 14 simple, effective pop songs that are simply the newest creations from a future pop queen

It may be a crowded market place, but it seems that the gift of young female pop artists from the UK just keeps on giving. The latest in this long line that  includes Adele, Amy Winehouse, Paloma Faith etc. is Charli XCX whose appearance on Iggy Azalea’s ‘Fancy’ and then her break out single ‘Boom Clap’ last year has delivered her right into the melting pot of young British talent gracing the music scene in 2015. Sucker, although not her first or even best album, will no doubt be the one that people refer back to as her ‘career-starter’ should she become as big as her potential suggests. Her debut album, True Romance, dropped two years ago to much positivity from critics but alas, the same could not be said for the purchasing public. ‘Sucker’ is where her mainstream career properly starts. Let’s just hope that it isn’t where her critical recognition ends.

Opening with title track “Sucker”, Charli XCX – real name Charlotte Aitchison – announces her presence maturely whilst also sounding maddening. She is authorititive with the straight-faced, deeply monotonous delivery of the verses and then lets rip on the song’s hook ‘Fuck You, Sucker’. All this laid over a busy, discotheque backing ensures the album is established very early on as readily present and, more so than anything else, LOUD. The album’s second single, ‘Break The Rules’ is next up and has a much more conventional pop structure to it. The pre-chorus is left hanging with no beat, in between a verse and chorus composition straight out of the early-2000’s girl pop-punk scene of Avril Lavigne etc. However, Aitchison’s delivery has an innocence to it a la Britney Spears, but without the second layer of flirtatiousness that sees Spears a world-conquering megastar and Aitchison as a fairly mid-ranking recording artist at this point in time.

“London Queen” is similarly busy and scatty but has a pop simplicity to it lyrically that is more endearing than most of her other releases to date. It is similarly edgy – by that I mean it has a fairly solid presence of guitars – and the lyrics have a percussiveness to their emphasis that makes this a catchy if not overly sophisticated track. On “Breaking Up”, Aitchison takes a relative breather in terms of tempo compared to anything on her opening stint. The multi-layered vocals once more provide a depth to the song it couldn’t hope to achieve by any other means as the lyrical content is once more simple, short, repetitive and infectiously catchy. Next up “Gold Coins” is a rawer, less optimistic-sounding track. The wacky electronica that dips in and out at the most unexpected of times compliments the straight-up guitar riff that whips and slaps everything into shape. It’s clear in the first half of this album that Aitchison is still enjoying the experimental part of being a pop artist on the outer skirts of the mainstream and finding ways to introduce that into songwriting that still has popular appeal.

The standout track and single from the album, ‘Boom Clap’, is a little, bubbling gem of a pop song. It just stays in your head forever but has a musical substance to it through its beat and production that ensures it is more than your run-of-the-mill number one single. Although she’s annoyingly prevalent at the minute, Rita Ora’s appearance on the album’s latest single “Doing It” isn’t as annoying as it should be, simply because her inclusion in the track is gracefully minimal – as far as modern pop duets go – and the real, glaringly obvious annoyance of this song is the lyrics. They’re the most insipid and generic on the album and this taking-the-foot-off-the-gas in terms of writing is a troublesome moment on this album and one that it does well to recover from.

The jarring beat and melody of ‘Body Of My Own’ sees the album back to its feet with short, snappy vocals and simple, but effective production. The main reason for Sucker falling on its arse on ‘Doing It’ is because the music just felt flat and lifeless, something that cannot be said for the rest of the record. It has a life, force and interactivity to it that is utterly commendable considering how relatively simple the formula is for its tracks. The same can be said for the visceral and explosive “Famous” before the heavy, weighty “Hanging Around” comes in full of attitude, swagger and confidence, speaking of unbridled optimism and the naïvety of youth.

“So Over You” and “Caught In The Middle” echo similar statements with edgier delivery techniques and in between them comes the Daughtry-esque ballad – or closest thing to a ballad on this record – “Die Tonight” where the acoustic lead and unimaginative strumming puts a bit of a black mark on the back end of this album. Closer “Need Ur Luv” is a pretty tidy last track, structured well and concise enough to leave you wanting more. There is very little to say at the end of this review other than, in Sucker, Aitchison has provided a stepping stone to her next album that will be make or break of her global success. It is a simple, effective collection of similarly minded pop songs that charm and endear their way into your psyche but fail to leave a long-standing impression. 4/5

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Mike Watkins, Music writer at Seroword

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