Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Charli XCX – Break the Rules

We’re waiting for the Alice Cooper cover.


Josh Langhoff: A worthy successor to “School’s Out,” which it sort of resembles. It’s got undeniable singalong potential and it’s not oversold by any fancy production — notice how, rather than exploding after the chorus, the “band” or whoever just chugs along. “Boom Clap” delivered the aesthetic pleasure; “Break the Rules” could be an effective rallying cry that outlives us all. But also like “School’s Out,” if it disappeared from the face of the earth I wouldn’t care.

Dorian Sinclair: I would love this track if it were shorter. If this were two minutes or less, it’d be a beautifully sharp, snappy sneer of a song, an insouciant little ‘fuck you’ to the establishment. Very punky, very fun. As is, it feels overlong and repetitive, and by the time you make it to the end Charli’s declaration of rebelliousness feels more perfunctory than anything, having lost all of the bite it has when you first hear it.

Micha Cavaseno: Oh fantastic, it’s The Great Stefani Robbery. Charli is the eternal playground rebel, and while I understand the value of someone treating those residual Spice Girls sugar highs of years passed as a holy treasure, it’s more ancient relic to me. The production here is beefed out like nobody’s business, as Charli’s clearly intent to stop giving handouts to the many snausages she’s been featured alongside and finally get herself in the key position of SUCCESS!. That breakdown is a massive damning home-run, and come New Year’s, it’s going to be the like the voice of the angel Metatron shrieking at you from every corner of the earth, convincing you that this time you will hit the gym and the tax returns will be enough, so get it in right now. But as someone who could never turn headphones up loud enough to drown out pep rallies across the eastern seaboard, I could do without this cheerleader bleating about.

Alfred Soto: She wants to break the rules with a hornet swell that could have come from a Calvin Harris record in 2008; besides, these days wanting to stay in school is breaking the rules. Alright, fine. Ear-catching gewgaws abound: the guitar she says she strums, a perfect synth solo to which she of course sings along. But in an environment where Adam Levine and Taylor Swift rummage through discarded odds and ends, Charli’s force can hold it together, for after all she sold those odds and ends once already. Resourceful like Iggy Azalea isn’t.

Katherine St Asaph: Taylor Swift announced her love for late-’80s pop just as Charli XCX thoroughly abandoned her immaculate recollection of the form that was True Romance. What she’s abandoned it for, thank goodness, at least in part isn’t bland “Boom Clap” metapop but pop-rock made by badass robots with teased hair-filaments: the stuff of Sky Ferreira’s “Red Lips” and Fefe Dobson’s debut and Garbage at their commercial tackiest on to Republica — and as the one person alive who listened to Christiana Obey, I’m all for that. Charli throws in references at post-Internet hyperspeed: building off that one guitar line everyone uses to signify punk in pop, rhyming “discotheque” with “getting wrecked” because anachronisms are also broken rules. The song builds like EDM, but instead of a drop there’s a low-key variation on the “Shout” riff, and is that a DJ Mustard loop I hear in the background where it’s pointless? Even Charli’s trash is treasure.

Danilo Bortoli: We should have seen this coming,  given the fact her recent affair with rebellion in a Snuffed by the Yakuza cover is not an isolated incident — anarcopunk has always been in her musical DNA. “Break the Rules” shows these feelings are simplified for this song, almost adapted to her pop sensibility. Sadly, this also means the original nerve of actually breaking the rules of pop music gets lost in translation: “Break the Rules” is no crossover. It’s a tried and tested, often soulless formula.

Hazel Robinson: It is kind of distressing to say that this chirpily obnoxious playground snot does not suit Charli XCX and sounds, dare I say it, pallidly hollow. :(

Patrick St. Michel: Honestly, I will never listen to this song after finishing this blurb…beyond the being-a-rebel-handbook lyrics (“I don’t want to go to school/I just want to break the rules” c’mon), it’s just not my speed. But I give Charli XCX points for two things. First, it’s pretty genius of her to rewrite “Song 2” into a vaguely EDM-pop number, because that move makes total sense but I’ve never heard anyone else try it. Second, I’m sure kids will love shouting along to this on the radio, and that’s who this will ultimately sound best to (“I don’t want to go to school” c’mon). 

Iain Mew: Charli’s declamatory staccato and the aggressive bass thrust find a happy midpoint of uneasy hedonism midway between “I Love It” and Marina’s “Oh No”. Then there’s the bit where the aggression suddenly disappear in favour of a happy little synth dance. It’s the closest thing to the great non-drop in “Spring of Life” I’ve heard since, and approaches the same levels of joy in the breaking of rules.

Luisa Lopez: Charli XCX never sounds like she’s singing so much as shouting. It works for whatever persona she’s going for, which seems to be hot belligerent teen (this song confirms it, as much as a song containing the line you catch my eye if you wanna fly can confirm something), but it doesn’t make for music that’s much of anything. Sweet dance break, though.

Ashley Ellerson: So happy Charli brought back the discotheque, heart thumping beats, and a new dance anthem. She’s breaking the rules by proving that she is more talented than simply being a featurette with other hitmakers. If the rest of Sucker lives up to “Break the Rules” glory, Charli XCX will rule the airwaves.

Brad Shoup: I guess the world wasn’t ready for “Billy S.”, huh? Where there was rock ‘n’ roll, now there’s kohl-lined grunge: monotonous bass tagging out with a great twiddly dancepop figure. It’s married to some Big Beat drums, too, giving us a sort of time-capsule transitional document that Charli’s gotten Sharpies all over.

Reader average: [5.75] (12 votes)

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6 Responses to “Charli XCX – Break the Rules”

  1. Katherine OTM (as always in this referential domain) – if I’d managed to blurb it I would have said this sounds exactly like Garbage circa 1998, only Charlie is half as charismatic a vocalist as Shirley Manson and the songwriting half as interesting as well. But I hope not to become a person who writes things like “this sounds exactly like [insert 90s band] but half as interesting” so just as well perhaps.

  2. Charli XCX is definitely one of the most overrated popstars atm (online I guess). And how is Iggy Azalea of all artists not “resourceful”?

  3. I was really interested in this song when I first went to blurb it, as it seemed like Charli had gone off in a new direction. Turned out I was listening to Hello Saferide by accident.*

    *It is a sign of my growth as a music writer that I noticed this rather than filing a 2,000 word review about the wrong song.

  4. im reminded of this song ( and so this is obviously an a in my book

  5. no one mentioned the way she sneers ‘i’m /such/ a star…’ at the top of the second verse? it’s the best part and sells the whole thing imo, partly because now it’s kind of true!

  6. The EDM breakdown-chorus kinda ruined it for me. Everything else is fantastic; probably would have tossed a [6]