Charli XCX's Pop2 Is a Banger

Pop2 is a near impeccable collaborative album/mixtape by Charli XCX. True to the title, Charli & AG Cook are redefining the structure and production norms of the contemporary pop song.

By executing fresh crossovers with other common genres (EDM, hip-hop, ambient, k-pop, to name a few), they're demonstrating the elasticity of the songwriter-producer dialogue that our current pop climate, with its accompanying norms, now presents to artists.

Backseat, feat. Carly Rae Jepsen, is a lush and subtle sleeper-opener with a sparser instrumental track that leaves room for the song to thicken spectrally as the vocals build during the verses. The swells in each chorus lurch like a jittery car ride, echoing the song’s theme of learning to reject those who make you sit in the backseat while someone else drives you through life. Charli asserts her power right here, at the album’s start, backed up by Jepsen. 

Worth noting, Jepsen has also had some relatable© times with labels controlling her output as an artist (which is an unfortunately common theme with non-dude pop singers who sling a mega-hit that kicks off their career). Judging by this collaboration, as well as Jepsen’s vocals on Danny L. Harle’s dance track Supernatural in 2016, she appears to have joined the ranks of the PCMusic family in some prominent capacity, which is great to consider for her potential upcoming releasess.

Every track on Pop2 is a banger in its own right, but standouts that will surely be bumping at dance parties from now until the summer are: Femmebot, I Got It, Unlock It and Delicious. The features on these (Brooke Candy/Mykki Blanco/Cupcakke/Tommy Cash/Pabllo Vitar/Jay Park/Kim Petras) are all fire in a poignant way that speaks to Charli’s character. Sharing her album with so many featured artists shows her own creative capability in fostering collaborations. It means she's driven to make space for other people to add their "best" to her material, which is indicative of highly advanced artistry and curation that not many other major capital-P Pop artists were demonstrating in 2017.  

Charli XCX. (Photo by Henry Redcliffe.) 

Charli XCX. (Photo by Henry Redcliffe.) 

Charli often receives criticism from her fans for using auto-tune, as if she's somehow not in charge of how or what she uses to sculpt her sonic personality. These ~haters~ are probably the same people who don't acknowledge:

a) That auto tune techniques are a form of re-synthesising vocals, and it's often done in parallel with a dry vocal, so your blending it with the mix and riding the dry/wet balance for predetermined sculptural effect(s).

b) That origins of synthesis was modelled after the vocal apparatus and thus we, in part, have the voice to thank for digital synthesis in the first place.

c) She can actually do whatever she wants for her sound in electronic music — so stop fussing. Charli also plays nearly all the guitar (and some synth) parts which are sourced in the mixes (whether or not they sound like guitar on the album is irrelevant). She is a consummate musician as well as a singer, performer and songwriter who cannot be pigeonholed anymore as a smooth-pop princess. And this was her second mix-tape of the year.

The partnership of this album’s production and songwriting is truly the most exciting thing for any contemporary songwriter to hear, and the highly automated, bravely executed vocal processing is sure to impress and inspire any engineer with both ears open. Congrats Charli and AG on writing and producing such a suite of songs. I'm personally still loving listening to every track (except Tears because I'm still mad at Carolyn over her embarrassing Moogfest debacle).

Cass Beau is a producer and sound engineer living in Toronto ON. You can bother them @seeseabeau on Twitter and Instagram.