Album Review: Charli XCX – Number 1 Angel

By Sam Tornow, Editorial Director
[Asylum; 2017]
Rating: 5.5/10

Key Tracks: “Dreamer,” “3 AM,” “Roll With Me”

Charli XCX has become synonymous with wealth. Her high-octane tracks and guest appearances preach the grandeur of fast cars, diamonds, Tokyo skylines and most of all, status. This lofty image fits cleanly alongside raved producer SOPHIE on the singer’s most recent 2016 project, Vroom Vroom, and began to push Charli’s career from the obsidian world of goth-pop into the gumdrop, shrinkwrapped realm of hyper-pop. In a continuous effort, the UK-singer has partnered with A.G. Cook, founder of PC Music, for a seemingly match made in heaven, Number 1 Angel. However, poor pacing and dwarfing guest features leave Charli XCX in the far-right lane.

In its early tracks, Number 1 Angel has promise. “Dreamer” and “3 AM” cater to Charli’s strengths: Pushed tempos, industrial beats and larger than life vocal effects. “3 AM” in particular is a solid blend of older and new Charli. Her vocal lines become percussive as they’re layered under the song’s fadeout.

Around the 7 minute mark of the album, the dust settles and what’s left is a few solid minutes of the early 2010s sounding tracks. “Blame It On You” would fit nicely on a That’s What I Call Music CD right after a La Roux track. It’s nostalgic but dated.

Track four on the album, “Roll With Me,” brings back the Vroom Vroom sound more so than anything else, but after the slow pacing of “Blame it On You,” the track sounds exponentially better on its own rather than in tracklist order.

After that, though, Number 1 Angel starts to fizzle. Certain moments in production stand out and are impressive, but ultimately Charli isn’t pulling her weight. On Vroom Vroom, she fought the waves of production and held her own. On Number 1 Angel, she sounds underwhelming when compared to the unique instrumentals and gorgeous guest vocalist performances. This is especially the case on the closer “Lipgloss,” where Chicago rapper CupcaKke absolutely desecrates her verse and cements her feature as one of the highlights of the B-side.

Number 1 Angel isn’t the worst project Charli XCX could have thrown into the world, however, it plays more like an homage highlighting A.G. Cook’s and PC Music’s creative and production skills rather than Charli’s ability as a performer. If she want’s to start collaborating with this scene, she’s going to need to reconsider her tactics.

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