It didn’t take much. Only three years, one album, one hip indie show, two chart destroying collaborations and a trillion selling tear-jerking teen melodrama to finally make Charli XCX an overnight sensation. After far too long skipping around the sidelines looking on as pop’s nubile cheerleaders wore themselves out doing ever more elaborate flips to tired routines, at last she was called off the subs bench to play with the big girls. Beginning with the cool-kid take over in 2013 with Icona Pop soundtracking Lena Dunham’s Hannah bouncing round in a luminous string vest in Girls, the Charli penned tune ‘I Love It’ was her chart stomping clarion call.
Then 2014 became her summer. Car windows rolled down to the synthy- sizzle of ‘Fancy’ before the atomic bomb of teen hormones exploded through The Fault in Our Stars soundtrack and ‘Boom Clap’ became a bona fida ‘thing’- giving way to that oh-so modern mark of a musical success, the christening of her ever burgeoning fan base (Charli’s Angels). So who could blame young Charli for her eye-rolling, frustrated exclamation of ‘DEAR GOD DO YOU GET ME NOW?!’ throughout the one-two punch of Sucker’s title track. It’s taken the pop world a bizarrely protracted time to eventually get with the Charli XCX programme.
Now that the kids are finally listening, she’s making sure to cling onto them like a well-placed Topshop earcuff. Sucker does not follow on from the alluring chemical fog of debut True Romance but rather retains its more day-glo moments from tracks like ‘Take My Hand’ and jettisons the grown-up icy moodiness of the Martika-esque ‘Stay Away’ that made her the darling of Dazed as opposed to a daytime radio diva.
Taking its cues from interim stunner ‘SuperLove’, the album is calculated Charli 2.0 where hundreds of giant, goofy hooks fight for your attention and beat you into submission like Timmy Mallet brandishing his foam hammer with intent. With this album she has managed to concoct her own essential pop formula, borrowing the best bits from Britpop at its most bratty, dashes of Riot Grrrl as well as contemporary flavours of Miley Cyrus and even the achingly cool Blood Orange. Tracks like the plastic perfection of ‘London Queen’ with its Fisher Price guitar line and bleeping keyboards, are almost comically genius, akin to a forgotten video game sound track or a Nickelodeon theme tune made by Daisy Chainsaw. This cartoonish fun floods the album with standout ‘Breaking Up’ a two minute gum-snap that recalls the bouffant headbutt of Shampoo and the metallic coolness of the Flying Lizards. Its call and response chorus and strangulated bad boy backing vocals demands to be the musical two finger salute to tough teens everywhere.
Sucker is the playground where Ms. Aitchison really flexes her pop muscle, like shoplifting in the Pick-a-Mix she manages to chomp her way through almost every flavour with head-spinning efficiency. She effortlessly tosses out a throwaway fuzzy treat like ‘Famous’, a whistling three chord obnoxious ode to drunken fun, then the polished ’90s pastiche of ‘So Over You’ the song that Britney is desperately waiting for someone to write for her.
This diamond-eye precision can have its inevitable downside, with ‘Caught in the Middle’ sounding like a deflated Rita Ora. It may have all the trademarks of a chart hit but its po-faced whining makes it fizzle out into a forgettable mush rather than soaring to these impeccable standards. The Miley-style anthemic soon–to-be-summer smash ‘Die Tonight’ is all whoops and hands in the air hashtag heaven but simultaneously trundles through all those lyrical hedonistic clichés with an almost conveyor belt feeling of shrewdness that does not befit someone of her bright originality. This cynicism is tempered by the knock out doo-wop beauty of ‘Need Ur Luv’ that swoons and swoops with her vocals straining to Little Eva shrillness before she curls her vowels like smoke from a bike-shed ciggie. Drums slap and the robotic chug of the backing vocals take over and pop love truly blossoms.
Sucker is the Soda Stream of pop – endless sweet, cheap flavours fizzing through your brain. It is flipping your feet out of jelly sandals on a beachside day trip. It is Charli XCX’s made-up teen dream landscape filled with fairground, candyfloss fun times, where the coolest of girl gangs, all tangled hair and bruises offer fights to pale thin boys swooning round and round on the glittery Waltzers. An album built on the purest of pop fantasies where only a true sucker would not want to call home.