Music Review: Charli XCX’s “Sucker” Is Rude, Crude, But Pretty Good

Charli XCX
Charli XCX

I wouldn’t want kids to listen to Charli XCX’s most recent album, “Sucker,” but if you don’t mind an F-bomb here or there, it’s great stuff–punk-flavored, hard-edged pop with retro-80s styling.

Madonna might have sounded like this, if she was starting her career now and if she were starting with as much musical talent as she acquired over the years. It’s aggressive, unapologetic pop, and every song sounds gloriously distinct from every other song on the album.

Ironically, the song that gave the album its name, “Sucker,” is probably the weakest of the lot.

The second song and second single released, “Break the Rules,” is better, a sort of middle-finger salute to school that revels in its own obnoxiousness. That shouldn’t be a good thing, but if Charli XCX can get the biggest square in town (me) to appreciate a rebellious attitude, she’s doing pretty well, I’d say.

“Breaking Up” is a bouncy, upbeat tune about having dated someone who’s really easy to break up with for an apparently inexhaustible list of reasons, some of which are funny and some less so.

I feel like I’ve heard “Boom Clap” before, possibly on the soundtrack to “The Breakfast Club.” Well, we know that’s not it, but the song would fit right in that era with its wavery synths.

Then there’s the song that doesn’t sound like any of the other tunes on the album, “Need Ur Luv.” Its title may have been deliberately designed to aggravate grammar nerds like me, but it’s like someone took the backbeat of “The Hey Song” and wrote a new song for it. A song that appears to be about an unhealthy relationship, whose upbeat tune doesn’t match its gloomy lyrics. And that’s before the little-girl voice Charli assumes partway through it, which makes it all even more disturbing–and wonderful.

That song happens to have been produced by Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, by the way, and Charli shares a writing credit with Batmanglij and others on it. It’s the best of the album.

There’s plenty here for those who enjoy defiance-infused punkpop. Just chase any kids away before you play it, because there’s bad language and less-than-subtle references to sex and drugs, too.

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