Charli XCX’s “True Romance”

Throughout the last few years, European electro-pop music has sustained mainly because of the growth of young female singers, producers, and chart-hitters. These vibrant electro-pop performers, which include Swedish singer Robyn, Welsh singer-songwriter Marina + The Diamonds, and Norwegian DJ Annie, have obtained praise from critics and huge cult followings from both foreign and American pop fans. But in more recent events, another bright, young musician has also become part of the Euro-pop females: 20-year-old Charlotte Aitchison, known professionally as Charli XCX. Although she debuted unofficially in 2008 without much recognition, she eventually trascended her obscurity with her renowned synth-pop single “Nuclear Seasons” in 2011. Though the critical success of “Nuclear Seasons” skyrocketed in the indie music scene, as well as her feature on pop duo Icona Pop’s summer smash, “I Love It,” the release of her anticipated debut seemed ambiguous and unlikely. Fortunately, it wasn’t until this year, and one mixtape later, that her much-delayed, first major-label record, True Romance, debuted. Despite its original release date of April 2012 and its lengthy recording process (since 2010), True Romance is worth the wait; XCX’s debut is a passionate, powerful, and uplifting album, filled with catchy bubblegum-pop and R&B funk.

Unlike the discordance and disparity of Charli’s continuity, True Romance is refined and tweaked to the point of utmost perfection. At times, True Romance feels a bit lost and out of touch from reality, but XCX’s crystalizing vocals, explicit lyrics, and infectious beats steer clear from becoming too convoluted. Instead, they blend effortlessly and thoroughly into a colorful, mind-melting fantasy. Other than the instantly catchy opener “Nuclear Seasons,” True Romance is also filled with a palette of easily memorable tunes, such as the Gold Panda-sampled “You (Ha Ha Ha),” the blippy, electronic toe-tapper “Take My Hand,” and the seductive and soulful “Set Me Free (Feel My Pain).” In addition, True Romance can also be very sophisticated in sound and in lyrics, resulting in either a gratifying (“Stay Away,” “Grins,”) or a fairly disappointing outcome (“So Far Away,” “How Can I,” “Cloud Aura”). In some cases, certain songs are just plain and simple British electronic club-pop, such as the heavy synth jam “What I Like,” the buzzy “Black Roses,” or the breathy album closer “Lock You Up.”

From an artistic viewpoint, True Romance reverberates the moodiness of 1970s art pop with an early 90s feel. This amalgamation of periods in music also creates a slight nod towards XCX’s prominent line in Icona Pop’s “I Love It”: “You’re from the 70s/but I’m a 90s bitch.” Though True Romance evokes musical influences from the 70s, it mirrors more of a 90s pop album, hence the album’s thematic and euphonic juxtaposition between the past, the present, and the future. This type of retro vibe can be heard especially on one of True Romance‘s standout tracks, “You’re The One,” an oozy ballad, reminiscent of Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera, both of whom are from the 70s and 90s, respectively. Other times, however, Charli XCX easily manipulates synth-pop by mixing hip hop and a universally panned feature from Brooke Candy in the album’s weakest track, “Cloud Aura.” Although “Cloud Aura” derives from XCX’s disjointed 2012 mixtape Super Ultra, its place in True Romance shows that the album isn’t perfect, but that its best songs make up for its flaws.   

Maybe it’s just awkward timing or her naiveté, but Charli XCX demonstrates the complex True Romance with grace and passionate ethos. Like the Quentin Tarantino movie it was inspired by, True Romance is a savvy spectacle of Euro-pop music and a great start for the young Charli XCX.   

Grade: B+
Recommended: Yes
Suggested Tracks: “Nuclear Seasons,” “You (Ha Ha Ha),” “Take My Hand,” “Set Me Free (Feel My Pain),” “You’re The One”


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