In an energetic follow-up to her Number 1 Angel mixtape, Charli XCX teams 80s synth-pop influences with some of the biggest, and most outlandish names in rap and pop. While Pop 2 struggled in the English charts, it has been praised as one of Billboard’s ‘Queer Necessities’, with the track ‘Out Of My Head’ featuring in their Pride playlist.
Pop 2 sees Charli XCX shift from the comforts of conventional pop to the techno-depths of bubblegum bass, reaching a new maturity in her sound and a breakthrough in mainstream pop, largely attributed to the production of PC Music’s AG Cook, who is credited across the full record. The synth-pop divinity of the mixtape is delivered by its introspective drive, pushing the boundaries of pop music into the ultimately weird and abrasive. Throughout ‘I Got It’ and ‘Femmebot’, Charli’s voice is auto-tuned to a mechanicity beyond recognition, the intention of this is captured perfectly in the latter track, as XCX opens with the lines: “Go fuck your prototype / I’m an upgrade of your stereotype”, it is clear that Pop 2 intends to pave an alternative route for the evolution of pop.
Ultimately, the mixtape is a celebration of diversity; in an earlier interview with Beats 1, Charli claimed to have wanted “as many collaborations as possible from all parts of the world, [from] all different music scenes.” A notably standout collaboration is found in Estonia’s Tommy Cash, delivering sounds reminiscent of Die Antwoord in ‘Delicious’. Pop 2 also showcases key LGBT artists Brooke Candy, Pabllo Vitar and CupcakKe, composing what is essentially paradoxical pop in ‘I Got It’, as CupcakKe’s heavy, hot-lipped verse is contrasted by a tonal softness in Vitar, which is again contrasted by Charli’s mechanical licks of “I got it”.
Be it in its cultural or musical diversity, proud feminist and LGBT themes, or in the ways it subverts and expands conventional pop, Pop 2 offers continual energy and excellence throughout: XCX and Cook have undoubtedly mastered their art.
Image Credit: Inflyte