Review: Charli XCX – Heartbreaks and Earthquakes

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Charli XCX
Heartbreaks and Earthquakes
out on 6.12

At the age of 15, British singer Charli XCX released a number of witty electro-pop tracks. With titles like “Art Bitch” and “I Wanna Be Darth Vader,” these songs were funny, bizarre and self-aware. Charli XCX’s maturity and standoffish cynicism were surprising for an artist of her age.

Now, Charli XCX is 19. She’s older, angrier and raunchier — and she’s giving away her new mixtape for free. Heartbreaks and Earthquakes is a stunning release that commands attention and demands praise. Clocking in at just under 21 minutes, the tape stitches together swaggering lyrics, borrowed beats and wistful rips from 90s movies.

Like the singer herself, Heartbreaks and Earthquakes hovers somewhere between youth and adulthood. Charli XCX balances the two masterfully. Without missing a beat, she glides from a nostalgic sample from angsty teen movie The Craft to low, grimy lyrics like “I wasn’t looking for a fuck / I was looking for a bad boy.” She provides the perfect blend of youthful attitude and adult perspective. While her first singles were clever, carefree ditties that poked fun at others, Heartbreaks and Earthquakes proves Charli XCX has gained some experience and maturity.

The mixtape opens with an alluring invitation, ripped from trippy 2010 film Beyond The Black Rainbow. “You are about to embark on a great journey,” a fuzzy voice coaxes. “Let the new age of enlightenment begin.” It’s simultaneously seductive and frightening, and sets the tone for the remainder of the mixtape. “Champagne Coast,” the first full track, features Charli XCX repeatedly begging us to come into her bedroom. Combined with a sweaty, almost nightmarish beat, the song manages to be naive, urgent and sexy all at once.

Yet her flirtation transcends adolescent lust. Sure, growing up entails mistakes and misbehaving in the name of fun, but it also means dealing with the consequences. On the next track, she becomes desperately introspective, wondering “how can I fix what I fucked up?” Rips from movies like Cruel Intentions and American Beauty are weaved throughout the tape, further emphasizing its “coming of age” feel.

From there, Heartbreaks and Earthquakes takes on a (somewhat) lighter tone. “Grins,” which samples heavily from Blood Diamonds, is an upbeat synth-pop dream, while “So Far Away” blends Charli’s dark lyrics with Paul White’s uplifting vocals. Next, we get “Dreams Money Can Buy,” a bravado-laced track that features a Drake and Jai Paul sample and lyrics like “I’ll bring the rain / I’ll bring the thunder / Best bring your game / ‘Cause you goin’ under.”

“Lock You Up” wouldn’t sound out of place in an 80s video game, and “Spoons” should have been the mixtape’s fuzzy pulsating climax. Instead, Heartbreaks and Earthquakes ends with an Odd Future remix of glam dance track “You’re The One.” Chilled out and just a minute long (a full version of the remix has since hit the internet), it’s an odd choice for a closer and does little to improve on the original song. Thanks to the 20 superb minutes that preceded it, however, this is easy to overlook.

Heartbreaks and Earthquakes is everything pop aspires to be; enticing, original and ultimately irresistible. It’s youthful without verging on immature, self-reflective without becoming hopeless, and seductive without being trashy. Charli XCX has grown up, and this mixtape has us all thinking the exact same thing: please, please, please release a full length album already.

Download ‘Heartbreaks and Earthquakes’ here.

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