It seemed like a lot of digital ink was spent in the 2010s debating when Charli XCX would take up her throne as the Next Big Pop Star. This always seemed a little silly, since she became a pretty big pop star by any stretch of the imagination, though I suppose part of this stems from the fact that the biggest hit associated with her she didn’t even perform (Icona Pop’s “I Love It”, which she co-wrote and was featured on). There also seems to be some debate on Charli’s best album this decade, while I’ve always had a soft spot for Sucker, an amped-up, joyful kiss-off of an album.
The first song that drew me to this album was “London Queen”, a distorted bass-driven LA anthem that I first heard on Seattle’s independent radio station KEXP. This points at how Charli XCX was able to toe the line between the indie and pop world, like many of the pop stars of recent years. Sucker is almost certainly the record of hers that taps into the rock audience the most, since every track feels a bit like a punk song, but uses mostly pop instruments while pumping the catchiness up to 11. In a way, it’s a great companion piece to the fist-pumping abandon of “I Love It”.
It’s possible that this album did get kind of the short shrift critically, since it was released in mid-December, by the time all of the end-of-the year lists had been posted, while D’Angelo’s Black Messiah received a lot more attention as far as 2014 last-minute releases went. Interestingly, both albums were mentioned in my Top 10 Albums of 2014 as albums I hadn’t gotten around to listening to as much as I wanted. Also, Sucker didn’t seem to get as much attention as its lead single “Boom Clap” did earlier in the year. But again, Charli XCX is doing fine. She’s collaborated with basically every big pop singer of the last few years, and I’m sure we’ll continue to hear from her for some time. Still, I’m not sure she’ll ever craft another album that I’m such a sucker for. (Sorry.)