When Charli XCX claimed on Twitter that her new “Vroom Vroom” EP represented the best music she’s ever made, the only thing one could expect from the pop forerunner was a heretofore completely unheard-of sound. As both a songwriter and performer, Charli XCX – the alias of UK singer/songwriter Charlotte Aitchison – has always exuded an aura of bratty, “eff-off” confidence as best epitomized in her last release, 2014’s searing punk-pop “Sucker.”
With the help of producers like London’s electronic producer Sophie and guest writer Hannah Diamond, Charli harnesses her attitude and refines it for a much more mature, assertive sound that is all the more unpredictable. On "Vroom Vroom," Charli is making her most pop-oriented work yet, but also her most experimental.
While it is safe to call the EP a natural step in Charli’s development as an artist, it is a far cry from anything else she’s ever released. Both her 2013 trip-pop debut “True Romance” and “Sucker” had dance elements, however foggy and scratched-up they may be. While “Vroom Vroom” is the closest one can expect her to get to EDM, even that doesn’t seem to be the appropriate genre. It’s high-energy, pulsating J-Pop influenced by a patchwork of other genres. According to her Twitter account, Charli envisions her latest work as an album to “redefine pop music” – but we only get fragments of great ideas, rather than finished products.
The dance influence that only garnished her past music is what most of the EP is based on. More similar to her debut album than here sophomore release, the music of “Vroom Vroom” is glitchy. But a new, mature swagger is introduced right from the title track, where booming hip-hop drums drive her distinct talk-rap style of vocals that built much of “True Romance.”
“B*tches know they can’t catch me,” she delivers with the most warranted ego on the title track. Charli is comfortable in her place in the industry and with hit hook-writing credits on songs like Icona Pop’s 2012 smash “I Love It” and two critically acclaimed albums in her catalogue, she has the agency to write and produce the music she wants.
While making the music she wants, Charli’s visions often supersede the expectations fans and critics may have had, but they can also sound displaced, or even put on: the 90s-rave trip “Paradise,” featuring London PC musician Diamond, superimposes bizarre voice modulation and saturation, making the endearing verses and melody verge on grating. It is in the second half of the EP where Charli seems to gain a better sense of her next steps. “Trophy” delivers a crowd-pumping chant during dance breaks sure to electrify audiences both in live concerts and through headphones.
The final song, “Secret,” sounds the most like core Charli – reminiscent of her witch-house tinged debut. While her ideas are able to mature into their fullest on “Vroom Vroom,” Charli’s vision may be a bit too inexplicable to become just a textbook pop album. Maybe the punk just never left her after “Sucker,” because Charli doesn’t seem set on making the best pop album so long as it garners attention. With enough confidence and vision to rival Kanye West, “Vroom Vroom” is the exact release Charli XCX needs to see her dreams of superstardom.