Charli XCX performing in 2015FLICKR/NRK P3

On March 18th, Charli XCX released her sixth studio album CRASH. To understand the significance and journey of this relatively straightforward pop album, knowledge of the trajectory of Charlotte Emma Aitchison’s career is crucial.

Aitchison is an atypical figure, a household name and a left-field pop icon. Charli signed a record deal in 2010, and became famous for ‘I Love It’, her collaboration with Icona Pop, which reached the Top 10 in Europe. In 2013, she released her debut album, True Romance, before featuring on the double Grammy-nominated Iggy Azalea song ‘Fancy’ in 2014. This was a significant year for her, as she also released the infamous Billboard top ten hit ‘Boom Clap’. After the mostly familiar trajectory of her pop star beginnings, Charli XCX began to break the rules.

“Hyperpop [...] solidified her loyal fanbase”

Charli released the EP Vroom Vroom in 2016, which divided fans and challenged her reputation as a pop singer. This EP is where the tensions with Charli’s label, Atlantic Records, became significant. From half-hearted promotion to the repeated, and then permanent, delay to an album fans titled XCX World, there has been consistent tension. In 2017, the difficulty with her album roll-out led to her releasing two critically and fan-acclaimed ‘mixtapes’. She has since confessed that these were essentially a way of her releasing music without worrying about formalities. The results were the experimental and acclaimed Number 1 Angel and Pop 2 — hyperpop that solidified her loyal fanbase.

In 2016, Charli XCX demonstrated a drastic change in her musical direction with 'Vroom Vroom'YOUTUBE/VROOM VROOM RECORDINGS

When she released her 2019 album, Charli, the single ‘Gone’ had a noticeably strange absent rhyme: “I feel so unstable, f*****g hate these people”. XCX later confirmed that the original line was “I feel so unstable, f*****g hate my label”. Charli’s fraught relationship with her label is to this day both hidden and explicit; a love-hate relationship that at times seemed to lack the love.

“CRASH feels like an extended metaphor for her entire career”

The vision of her new era, CRASH, was to embrace the benefits of a major label release fully. The final album on her contract, she planned to leave loudly. The opening lyrics of the title track exemplify this: “I’m about to crash into the water / Gonna take you with me / I’m high voltage, self-destructive / End it all so legendary”.

Charli is a hit-maker, which her label seemed desperate to promote. Despite her more experimental music, Charli XCX is no stranger to the mainstream. During her lockdown album how i’m feeling now, she collaboratively wrote the songs with fans. After sharing some lyrics, and having fans troll her, she reminded them that “I’ve got platinum songs, you don’t know what you’re talking about”. She has been involved in other hit tracks, such as Selena Gomez’s ‘Same Old Love’, and Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello’s collab ‘Señorita’. This takes us to the unapologetic ‘sell-out’ CRASH, which the opening track admits is a gamble: “I don’t know if I’ll be coming back to life again / All or nothing, burn in hell or go up heaven sent, yeah”.


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Charli XCX’s first ever UK number 1 album, CRASH reached a staggering 7th on the US Billboard 200. It also peaked at number 1 in Australia and Ireland, and had 31.5k sales in the US, her largest first-week sales ever. As well as being the second biggest weekly debut by a female album in 2022 on Spotify, the singles have also performed well; ‘Beg For You’, for example, peaked at 24 on the UK official charts. On Metacritic, CRASH achieved 79, and a user score of 8.6. These numbers are similar to her other releases, and CRASH has garnered more critical attention and praise than Sucker, True Romance, and Vroom Vroom. It is up to each fan to decide if they enjoy the music of this era, but it is hard to deny Charli XCX has reached some outstanding numbers with CRASH.

Charli entered the charts singing “I crashed my car into a bridge”. It feels utterly deliberate that she is ending her major label deal, again, with a crash. Indeed, CRASH feels like an extended metaphor for her entire career. Charli is not afraid to take risks. Aside from being one of the most cohesive pop albums of the year, CRASH is another example of Aitchison refusing to follow the rules, an impressive addition to a decade long discography.