Charli XCX, ‘Sucker’ (Neon Gold/Atlantic)
What do you get when you poke the bashing beats and sweet soaring synths of dance music with the punked-up, 8-on-the-floor snarl of the Ramones? Charli XCX is what — a crazy-talented, 22-year-old “bad girl” from London who’s clearly on her way to the top.
You already know that pouty, red-lipsticked face, piercing voice and hip-swiveling cheerleader skirt from the video of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy“ and the humongous hook of the lovestruck “Boom Clap!” But “Sucker” struts a much more diverse emotional palette, from the profanely nasty kiss-off of the title track and deliciously rebellious schoolyard taunt of “Break the Rules” — “I don’t want to go to school/I just want to break the rules!” — to more tender, radio-friendly fare like “Caught in the Middle” and “Need Ur Love,” with its Motown bounce.
Produced by the likes of Justin Raisen (Tegan & Sara), Stargate (Beyoncé, Rihanna), Cashmere Cat (Ariana Grande) and Kurstin (Lily Allen, Kelly Clarkson), “Sucker” combines zap!-pow! electro-pop beats with shimmering girl choruses, sudden change-ups to near-silence and call-and-answer story lines.
But it’s her quirky story lines that set Charli XCX apart. On “London Queen,” she admits she’s living the Hollywood dream — and loving it. “Hanging Around,” a song about teenage ennui (and libido), suddenly sports the line, “I wanna learn Japanese.” “Body of My Own” unabashedly celebrates onanism.
A couple of the tracks lack focus — “Gold Coins,” “Famous” — but this album has enough hit singles to start a jukebox and confirms the birth of new girl-pop star.