Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom

Nice product placement there, Charl.


Will Rivitz: This is the ultimate PC Music song. The lyrics are more aggressively inane than anything Hannah Diamond has ever brought to the table (“All my friends are princesses, we keep it whipped and creamy / Ice cubes on our tongues because we like to keep it freezy”). The 808s in the verses are about twenty times as present as they need to be, accentuated grotesquely by a mid-range percussion sound that has no analog equivalent save for maybe a particularly clean car crash. The chorus channels every great/terrible early-decade trance #banger, somehow huge to the point of oversaturation despite consisting entirely of one synth, chimes, and offbeat snaps. In other words, “Vroom Vroom” is way, way, way too much, but if anything’s consistently held true about PC Music since its inception (aside from a good portion of critics’ disdain, a sentiment that is unfortunately way overrepresented on this particular site), it’s that bigger is always better. There is no overkill, and Charli XCX and SOPHIE understand that better than almost anybody else in their camps. Everything comes together with the force of an atom bomb, and the resulting fallout is the best song of the year.

Claire Biddles: The charm of Charli XCX is that as super trendy Tumblr teen-friendly as her look is, everything she does comes from a place of warmth and genuine enthusiasm for pure pop thrills. SOPHIE and PC Music don’t care about pop of course, and so their presence on “Vroom Vroom” acts as a vacuum for anything sincere — the overjoyed playground staccato chant of “Boom Clap” is diluted into “bitches in bikinis looking super cool and freaky”, an empty sort-of rap that could be by anyone. Charli becomes a symbol, becomes part of a system of post-ironic posturing that I can’t bring myself to care about. I don’t even hate it; I just want to ignore it.

Iain Mew: Early in Fernando Alonso’s career in Formula One racing, his talent was very apparent and he soon didn’t have much left to prove, topping the driver championship charts twice. After that he had another (flawed but impressive) close run, but then made a series of unfortunate career decisions on who to work with, and was landed with a series of underpowered vehicles. As he has become more marginal, he has continued to offer professional and exceptional performances, but has increasingly taken on a sardonic sense of detachment, almost futility. Anyway, I find it interesting that of all of the fast drivers Charli could have chosen to reference in this song (Kimi Räikkönen would have been a better fit for both Ferraris and parties), it’s Alonso she went for.

Alfred Soto: The production goes zoom-zoom-zoom-zoom and a boom-boom while Charli does her best L’Trimm impression, but the beats are rather tame for a car song, not when Kesha’s “Gold Trans Am” raised the stakes. Charli hears the vroom-vroom coming from a Honda.

Olivia Rafferty: I honestly hope this is the beginning of more pop princess x PC Music collaborations. Charli XCX perfectly emulates the brattish voice that PC Music has built a lot of its sound on (mainly with Hannah Diamond). It’s a cross between a Bad Bitch and an English Rose, and feels safely nostalgic. When I hear the simplistic, sickly sweet rhymes of the verses, I get transported back to the days of peeling a free lipgloss sample of the cover of Mizz magazine. Add a super-slick, R&B bridge with that airy voice, and we’ve just grown up in a half-second. This song bounces up and down between gorgeous and the gorgeously immature. I’m waiting for the next big collab.

Katie Gill: Charli’s got a great voice, I have no idea why half of the song is some sort of spoken word “Pretty Girls” nonsense. Anyway, this is obnoxious as hell and I can’t imagine it’ll score well but look, I have no taste, I’m a little bit endeared by this. The minimalist backing for the majority of the song is actually a smart idea because oh man. This sounds amazingly awful. Highlights include that “beep beep,” the way Charli XCX says “right siiiiiide” and “partaaaaay” and the most obnoxious opening fifteen seconds to a song I’ve heard in ages.

Crystal Leww: I’ve been a vocal opponent of PC Music, their associated acts, and their aesthetic, which I find to be condescendingly meta towards pop music. I usually have no idea what is going on with Charli XCX’s career — her constant career reinvention makes her the poster child of what the olds envision millenials to be: fickle and uncertain and constantly changing their minds. A singular vision is not interesting by itself, but when they are executed well, the end result is extremely compelling. I am surprised by how much I’ve responded to the Vroom Vroom EP. This EP is for bratty moshing by girls who don’t give a fuck, meant to be played in no more than minute long snippets in tiny, sweaty little rooms with massive soundsystems. The title track squeaks and plods and booms and creeps in such a weirdly entrancing way, like the sinister break before the DJ bumps it back up to 160 bpm again. This is so weird and cool and different and still great.

Ian Mathers: I always think this is going to be the time where Charli XCX loses me, where her consistently shifting sound hits a patch where it doesn’t work to my ears. Honestly, on first play “Vroom Vroom” left me thinking that moment had finally come. As with so many things that I wind up loving (songs and otherwise), plenty of things that stuck out as annoying came to be the exact things I found most endearing; SOPHIE’s production (that little tires-squealing blip!), Charli’s rather stylized enunciation of certain words, the bit where the track downshifts right when I thought a new level of chorus was going to explode instead (of course that’s the best bit), the way the whole thing seems almost schematically pop in a way even Sucker didn’t. Ultimately as with most pop there’s really only two questions to figure out whether this is okay, good, great, whatever: How often did it get stuck in my head, and did I mind when it did? A: all the goddamn time, and not even little. Beep beep!

Edward Okulicz: Every so often there are musicians so in love with pop and so in thrall to its possibilities that they can’t help but enhance it with everything they do — sometimes by being grotesque, sometimes seeming dismissive or condescending about other pop by acting as if they know better than the crap that fills our charts. Yet at all times they contribute bracing, vital tunes that justify the cult that worships them. But enough about The KLF. PC Music are dreadful and they’ve turned Charli XCX into a combination of Nadia Oh and Iggy Azalea. If you pitch-shifted the whole song downwards, there’s a sort of nifty mid-00s R&B-pop-ballad pastiche in there that would be cute, at least.

Will Adams: At the risk of being actually’d about the true meaning of Christmas PC Music or who is really affiliated with PC Music or whatever when I inevitably trash this, let me return to my original thesis: this sounds terrible. For every half-decent idea SOPHIE has, there are hundreds of bad ones. Generally it’s trebly mixing and canned percussion samples; for “Vroom Vroom” specifically, it’s that plus digitized banshee shrieks; a leaden trance breakdown tacked on to the end; and worst of all: pulling Charli XCX further and further away from what made her interesting in favor of another party-starting non-starter that sounds like lo-res “Hollaback Girl.” Based on the brief amount of time since the Vroom Vroom EP, this foray may have been a quick diversion. But given the alternative is “After the Afterparty,” I’m not sure where to even go from here.

Brad Shoup: Maybe you’d think the title’s also the hook. Psych — there’s no hook! Sharp-edged filth trades off with high-pitched, crystalline pop, like a scrapyard with an ice cream shop next door. Charli’s strong enough to nearly get the rippity-rap over.

Jonathan Bradley: When we reviewed CL’s “Lifted” earlier this year, I suggested one of the reasons it was so awful was that CL sounded as if she didn’t understand that the slang she was singing had actual meaning, that those words were more than signifiers of hipness to be deployed stripped of context. Charli XCX has a similar problem on “Vroom Vroom,” grasping at indicators of style with the same desperation Fergie has, but at least Fergie never suggests she has the mental capacity to seem less than completely committed. In Charli’s case, however, her awkward references to bitches, her suggestions that she likes to “keep it creamy” (or “freezy”), her celebration of wealth in the form of brand names and luxury cars all add up to a lazy and inept attempt at replicating hip-hop cool with just enough plausible deniability to pretend people like me who protest are making too much of it. I think this is meant to be clever, but it’s not actually satirizing anything so much as pantomiming wit in the hope that it could be confused for insight. It’s drab and cynical and stupid, and the redeeming edge compounds the noxiousness: on the hook, Charli still sounds capable of verve and joy.

Ramzi Awn: In a classic example of too little, too late, Charli buries her vocal talent beneath a cheer squad of one bleep too many. Didn’t she do something about not caring? And now she wants to ride in a Lamborghini? 

Natasha Genet Avery: Pop at its purest: when I’m blasting “Vroom Vroom” and careening down the freeway, my baby blue Prius feels as fly as a lavender Lamborghini.

Reader average: [8.8] (10 votes)

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14 Responses to “Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom”

  1. “a sentiment that is unfortunately way overrepresented on this particular site”

    good lord yes. the idea that pc music are just “post-ironic posturers who don’t care about pop” was maybe tenable back when they were some rando internet dudes. now that they are making actual big-budget pop for an already-existing legitimate pop star, i don’t see how it can possibly hold any water.

    i think it’s also important to note that the pc music #aesthetic is really just the current iteration of the 90s retro train, it wasn’t invented by them. it’s the aesthetic of basically every 19 year old art school student. kids were bumping “better off alone” at weirdo underground parties when pc music was just getting off the ground. it is possible to enjoy things in a retro-kitsch way without mocking them, and pc music do not have any kind of monopoly on it.

    attempts to triangulate this as the authentic, earnest, un-self-aware charli “vs” the fake, post-ironic, hyper-self-aware sophie et al, are incredibly cynical. they also have busted gender politics, as does the idea that a huge pop star taking on some weirdo producers means that she is turned into merely their symbol (???)

  2. dude maybe it’s your ‘gender politics’ that are busted considering you quoted half my review back at me instead of minimum two men who said pretty much the same thing in different words

  3. sorry i seriously was not trying to go in on your review specifically, more the general attitude that half the writers here seem to have. i didn’t really pay attention to how i was quoting, but i realize now how it comes across and that sucks. i’ll try to be more thoughtful about quoting in the future. sorry.

  4. “actual big-budget pop”, “huge pop star”

    I don’t have a problem with people liking this song at all, but this isn’t really big budget and Charli XCX isn’t huge, she’s had a few hits and a pair of albums that have sold disappointingly, especially after “Boom Clap” was a worldwide hit. This is a cheap quickie fun thing that both SOPHIE and Charli clearly wanted to do. It makes some people ecstatically happy and I hate it.

  5. to flesh out my second paragraph: it’s just frustrating because, in the real world, this scene/style/aesthetic basically consists of weirdo 20 year olds, almost entirely queer and/or women, who take it 100% in earnest and 100% in jest (after all, camp was invented by queer ppl)

    but somehow online the conversation is dominated by debates about this small coterie of older straight white dudes, with critics constantly deploying this group’s privileged status as ‘proof’ that the style they embody is thus necessarily un-earnest and mocking. i suppose some of the blame should fall on the pc music dudes for being so unrelentingly dude-y — but i can’t be too mad at them bc they’ve made some bangers (as well as some dreck). most of it should fall on the critics for framing things this way.

    also edward, i admit that charli’s star has fallen a bit in the past two years (tho this came out in feb), but a #1 top 40 single artist is so many leagues beyond where sophie &co were operating that it doesn’t really matter.

  6. the “idea” is that pc music place themselves outside of pop music as creators who are using pop signifiers to critique the hollowness of pop music and it’s one that comes from a.g. cook himself. quit trying to imply we all dreamed this up in a haze of constipation and caffeine withdrawl. irony has always been at the heart of every p.c. music endeavor and working with charli xcx doesn’t negate that. here’s a link: and here’s another link:

  7. I’ve linked this before but in the words of A.G. Cook:

    ‘Everything can get interpreted as satire, in that very cynical way. [..] We take it seriously. This is a big part of our lives. There’s no way that satire could be at the core of anything’. Don’t assume cynicism when there is none.

    Also a ‘low res Hollaback Girl’ sounds amazing someone should get on that ASAP.

  8. @apple music: I understand your frustration — there’s so much cool stuff that’s similarly weird coming out of scenes of weirdo freaks in LA, Australia, and Tokyo — that is being made by girls and queers, but where I think we differ is whether or not PC Music are in the same camp. They’ve indicated to us in several interviews (see Megan’s links above) that they DO believe in their sneering bullshit.

    I’m still a fan of this collab tho. I think Charli balances out the gross dude posturing and SOPHIE was always better than the lot of them bc he isn’t “officially” PC Music

  9. first time listening to this — the song and video are ‘all fired up’ by the saturdays adapted for 2016, even the length, which is a) uncanny and b) totally meaningless. only that song is amazing and this is not. (

    but then i was impressed because i thought this was based off the tagline from mazda ads in the early 2000s, which i thought was a fantastic reference and an interesting layer on top of the music, like they decided to double down on their childish nostalgia bait music and visuals and rip from the full spectrum of pop culture of the era. but the tagline was ‘zoom zoom’ and even considering potential copyright issues, that’s putting way too much faith/thought in pc music

  10. Did Nadia Oh just end up in the same sentence as Iggy Azalea? Because 2016 has been hard enough already.

  11. Holy controversy Batman!

  12. You did, and then you did it as well.

    Bleak, huh?

  13. I’ve become a monster.

  14. “SOPHIE and PC Music don’t care about pop of course” – I love TSJ more than anything, but this is *such* utter nonsense, come on now.