The musical career of London born Charli XCX is twisted and inverted to the point where an implosion feels imminent. She finds herself on a pedestal, surrounded partially by her poptimistic original fan base, and partially by her chums from the PC Music label. Founder of said label, A.G Cook, whom she references on 'I Got it', is only credited for production on a sole track, 'Out of My Head' on POP 2, however the songs here, texturally are PC Music’s post EDM deconstruction amplified to a million.
The tape is the follow up to Number 1 Angel from earlier this year, a comparatively simplistic record which relished in recrafting the classic verse/chorus structure. POP 2 (also referred to as pop2) however shows a certain disregard to the strands making up pop music’s DNA. Although still harboring the same accessible grooves and emotive climaxes- everything is mutated. The addition of a ‘.0’ to the title would be more evocative of the record’s nature, a semi cybernetic upgrade of the most tried, tested and profitable form of contemporary music.
To peruse the ambition of synthetic pop progression Charli incorporates a sundry ensemble which includes names as disparate as MØ, Mykki Blanco and Kim Petras. Opening with an overdue collaboration with fellow ex-chart topper Carly Rae Jepsen, the pair gloss a woozy and strange sonic pallet, something that at times wouldn’t feel out of place of on Rustie’s Glass Swords Oneohtrix point never Garden of Delete.
Throughout the track list, XCX, with two fingers up, becomes the embodiment of the artificial pop diva her cynics would paint her as. Almost every track is saturated in layers of auto tune - creating a robotic personality with an uncanny appeal. However, this trite use of vocal manipulation can become jarring particularly within the back to back slow burn of 'Lucky' and 'Tears'. Ultimately stalling the project elapsing in a 5th of its run time.
Robotic voice modulation and seemingly AI developed choruses have led XCX to criticisms like “two-dimensionalizing of women”, relevantly, 'Femmebot' would seemingly portray Charli as some male aimed sex toy. This, however, shows a lack of understanding of PC Music’s underlying commentary gender expectations. SOPHIE, Hannah Diamond, QT and XCX all strive to mimic the feminine stereotypes. For all its deconstruction, melodramatic balladry and black mirroring. POP 2 is fit with dancefloor ready junctures, the fieriest cut of the bunch being 'I Got It', which manages to be sensual yet gnarly. Charli mumbles the title cyclically over the chorus before verses from Brooke Candy and Cupcakke crash through.
POP 2 is perplexing throughout. Cuts to silence and haphazard switching of rhythm make it constantly disorientating. With the exception of the chart beckoning 'Out of My head' with Tove Lo, every track here has the structure of subverted pop destined for the decades beyond.