Almost quietly, almost without notice, British singer-songwriter Charlotte Aitchison has landed at the nexus of this decade’s powerful and newly empowered pop. Her second proper album as Charli XCX, Sucker, finds her springboarding off her post as the brains behind Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” delivering anthems in the vein of La Roux and (hopefully) just scratching the surface like Lorde.
With a long interest and fandom in electronics from the underground, your author is normally predisposed against beats immediately targeted for the charts. An album like Sucker, however, has to be recognized for building up its accessibility from harsher and defiant roots. In the lead-up to its release, Charli tweeted she was inspired as much by The Ramones’ spice as by Britney Spears’ sugar, and from her opening choruses of “Fuck you, sucker!” there’s a definite rock (or at least power-pop) sensibility to her youthful ladytronica.
In hindsight, it’s no surprise that Charli’s songwriting and production partners here include Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij. You could easily hear them or contemporaries like Fall Out Boy use a typical guitar/bass/drums setup to work out drama with relationships (“Breaking Up”), bank accounts (“Gold Coins”), or their right hands (“Body of My Own”). Ariel Pink shows up as well, with “London Queen” glancing off the 1960s in much the same fashion as Azealia Banks’ recent rendition of his “Nude Beach-a-Go-Go.”
Yet the sound of the album is ultimately in Charli’s electro wheelhouse, informed by a host of producers plucked from her home island, Los Angeles, and especially Sweden. From the thunderous love song “Boom Clap” to guitar-flecked dance bubblegum like “Break the Rules” and “Famous,” she makes good on that last song’s promise: “We’re gonna come and crash the party/Weren’t invited but we’re feeling so outrageous.” Canada and the US have been toying with Sucker since December, but now it’s time for the rest of the world to enjoy Charli XCX coming of age.