Charli XCX takes the wheel with dynamic EP, ‘Vroom Vroom’

Charli XCX
Vroom Vroom Recordings/Courtesy

When it comes to reinvention, Charli XCX may have one of the most dramatic success stories. Once a mainstream bubblegum pop force with writing and vocal credits on summery pop hits such as Icona Pop’s “I Love It” and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” and having achieved stardom with her own “Boom Clap,” Charli shifts her sound to a harsh militaristic brand of pop music on her new EP, Vroom Vroom.

The EP, the first release on Charli’s newly founded Vroom Vroom Recordings label — and the first glimpse into a series of collaborations with London-based producer SOPHIE — show the singer exploring a completely different part of the pop music landscape. While 2012’s Heartbreaks and Earthquakes and Super Ultra and 2013’s True Romance were dreamy maximalist love letters and 2014’s Sucker mixed upbeat love songs with spunky girl power anthems, the new Vroom Vroom EP bears no thematic or musical resemblance to any of these projects.

Instead, the new EP proudly bears SOPHIE’s signature streamlined, percussion-heavy production, which perfectly surrounds Charli’s vocals. In contrast to Charli’s earlier releases, which feature carefully layered vocals effortlessly woven together with melody upon melody, each twinkling sound stands on its own on Vroom Vroom, as if each one were painstakingly, individually crafted just to be heard for a fraction of a second. While SOPHIE once described his own music as “advertising,” the meticulous production throughout the album sounds more like a labor of love than a product.

On Charli’s end, however, any resemblance to a love letter that her previous albums may have borne seems to have disappeared. In fact, it is only “Paradise,” Charli’s collaboration with fellow London-based pop singer and SOPHIE collaborator Hannah Diamond, that even plays with the idea of being an earnest love song. Yet, the singers’ vocals are distorted and indistinguishable from one another for much of the song. In the end, “Paradise” is genuinely sweet, but it’s far from being at all personal.

The EP’s title track and “Trophy” stand as dramatic contrasts, showing off the singer’s ability to rap as she asserts her confidence with lines such as “Bitches know they can’t catch me.” “Secret (Shh),” on the other hand, features the singer at her most seductive with a chorus punctuated by breathy moans.

While Charli’s new EP forgoes the love songs and playfully dramatic vocals typical of so much of the rest of her discography, Vroom Vroom offers a much harsher, futuristic approach to pop music and presents Charli as a much more formidable player in the world of pop music. By carving out her own niche in the world of pop music with the help of collaborators SOPHIE and Hannah Diamond, Charli has proven herself to be skillful at reinventing her own sound while opening the door for other pop artists to adopt a similarly jagged sound.

Contact Sannidhi Shukla at [email protected].