Review: Charli XCX mixtape, ‘Pop 2’

By Joseph Geballa

“It’s Charli, it’s Charli baby,”  is all we can say to hail the return of alternative pop extraordinaire, Charli XCX, ringing in her second mixtape this year, “Pop 2.”

Following the alt-pop PC music crossover, “Number One Angel,” Charli takes her second mixtape this year to another level with plenty new collaborators on the way. The night the mixtape was released on Dec. 15, Charli said, “this is a body of music I want you guys to dance to, cry along to, and dance and cry at the same time to.” “Pop 2” compared to “N1A” is a full force effort in underground experimental PC Music mating with new age pop.

What is special about this piece of work is that it contains Charli’s old school emotional novel-like writing to provide a clash and contrast between dance beats and lyrics one would want to hold a waterfall of tears to. Features in “Pop 2” include Carly Rae Jepsen, Kim Petras, Cupcakke the Rapper, Brooke Candy, Korean Rapper-Jay Park to familiar friends of Charli and “N1A” like A.G. Cook, SOPHIE, and Tommy Cash.

Charli said she does not want this mixtape to be only about her, she wanted to merge her world with the other worlds these features create and she succeeded. The features in “Pop 2” sound less like features and more like a friendly freestyle or a team effort compared to “N1A” or any of her past works.

The mixtape opens up with the electronic-mid-tempo Carly Rae Jepsen collab, “Backseat.” The simplest way to describe the sonic atmosphere of this opener is, Carly Rae’s “E.MO.TION” album cruising through a fantasy futuristic land Charli and her PC music enthusiasts have created. The song goes back and forth between Charli and Carly as they talk about escaping indecisive thoughts about a past love by sitting in the “back seat” with “your song so loud.”

The mixtape provides a nod to the deep and emotional writing style fans fell in love with when Charli debuted with “True Romance,” this time just on a huge production high. The already infamous to XCX fans, “Femmebot” featuring Dorian Electra and Mykki Blanco; the EASYFUN and David Gamson produced track is the mixtapes peak of experimental pop music featuring mechanical-like sounds and a heavy PC production base.

In “Femmebot,” Charli is basically embodying her almost robot-like emotions when it comes to other love interests, but when it comes to one guy he makes her robot-likeness “electric shock and short circuit.” Dorian and Mykki shine and hold one of the best features of the mixtape leading Charli into the technical dysfunction that catapults Charli back into the last chorus with every ounce of production charging through.

Holding a spot in the middle of the mixtape, listeners will definitely “short circuit” in their first and every listen to this next level track. After 9 tracks filled with sonic glitter, heavy autotune, plenty of crashing like bass, and even more tears, the album comes to a close with the almost six minutes long “Track 10.”

“Track 10” was previously an unreleased XCX song titled “Blame it On Your Love” which wasn’t supposed to be included, but it was reworked and edited with producers Life Sim and Lil Data to make the perfect closing and last cry for the mixtape. The track is a heavily autotuned Charli emerging after a very technical instrumental introduction to delivering the last message of the record, “I blame it on your love every time I f*** it up.”

The instrumental and vocal effects on Charli work together to deliver the messy emotions we go through when we don’t know how to feel or who is at fault in a broken relationship. Charli goes through the same conflicting emotions as “Backseat”, the mixtape opener. The verses are very short and simple as production takes over towards the end giving listeners a cliff-hanger as to how she feels about this obviously dying relationship.

Mixtapes have been Charli’s way of creating music, writing out of her heart, and partying all at once, without the stress her label (Atlantic) has given her in the past. These mixtapes provide a contract-free and business centered free zone for Charli to release music she is passionate about to her dedicated fans. With the release of “Number One Angel” in the beginning of 2017 it captured her fans onto a new sonic and lyrical ride Charli has been dabbling into since the release of her “Vroom Vroom” EP.

With “Pop 2” it has shown that Charli has not only grown but proved she is a versatile and knowledgeable artist in any field she experiments with. Both “Number One Angel” and her latest mixtape are both excellent, but “Pop 2” has shown nothing but new found expertise.

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