Unless punk pop is one of your favorite genres, you may only remember Charli XCX from the brutally overplayed “Fancy” with Iggy Azalea a few years back. Charli has way more to offer than that poor excuse of a hip-hop song (her hook makes it a hit record). Charli’s late 2014 sophomore album Sucker released to critical acclaim as she made her way into the global spotlight. Her blend of sticky sweet power pop and punk rock persona have placed Ms. XCX on an exclusive path to stardom. I was never into much of her music strictly because of “Fancy” which is completely unfair to her artistry. Once I gave her a chance I was not disappointed in the slightest.
Last winter, Charli dropped a four-song EP entitled Vroom Vroom. Since it was fun-sized I figured it wouldn’t be too much of a task to give it a listen even if it ended up being bad. I was pleasantly surprised however. Although some critics deemed it as a “vapid” experiment with overbearing production qualities, I couldn’t disagree more. The almost industrial-like, outside-the-lines instrumentals provided by PC Music’s Sophie were charmingly wild and unpredictable, pushing their own agenda. In my opinion, much of pop music suffers from trying to please the masses. That’s why we get the same style of song five times a year (if not way more) on the radio. Artists and groups who have the least riveting lyrics seem to spread across the charts like wildfire.
It’s projects like Vroom Vroom that inspire hope in the future of pop music and shake things up with a sonic uppercut the genre so desperately needs. I came into this mixtape/project with high hopes that at least some of the occasionally manic production style made a return. It did not. Nevertheless, Charli herself packs enough punch in her vocal delivery that I wasn’t too let down. Number 1 Angel opens with signature XCX flair. “Dreamer” is a quality opening track that appropriately sets the tone for the remaining nine songs. One of several fitting guests, Starrah is making a name for herself as a versatile budding songstress; on top of being an under-the-radar writer for some of music’s juggernauts such as Rihanna (“Needed Me”), Travis Scott (“lose,” “way back,” and “pick up the phone”), Drake (“Fake Love”) as well as The Weeknd (“True Colors”).
The next track, “3AM (Pull Up),” is catchy without a doubt. However, it does mirror some elements from Grimes’ masterful Art Angels album back in 2015. I enjoy the song, but it feels less original than much of Charli’s previous work. Another track I love is “Roll with Me”. It brings the 90’s baby out of me. Its jock jam-inspired instrumental makes the listener want to get up and shake something. The repeating of the word “Yeah” may grow tired for some but it fits the aesthetic of the track in my opinion. “Roll with Me” embodies the punchy atmosphere from Charli’s aforementioned extended play and functions as Number 1 Angel’s most genre-stretching effort. Some of the songs here are a little dull, though. “Emotional” and “Lipgloss” feel bland and even cliche at times. The prior drags on a bit much for my liking despite clocking in at less than four minutes. The second half isn’t as sure-fire as its counterpart. Regardless of that fact, the various takes on many of the genre’s soundscapes does well to satisfy those who appreciate a more textured pop direction.