Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens – Gone

We do NOT fucking hate these people…


[Video]
[7.79]

Elisabeth Sanders: I have no idea if this song is good or bad, all I know is that I am a homosexual.
[10]

Alfred Soto: She triumphed at Pitchfork Festival against every one of my expectations: a diva who pirouetted, thrusted, and sashayed like a star with no interest in behind-the-scenes song doctoring. She played “Gone” in vivider incarnation; she sung “I fucking hate these people” as a shared joke between her and the festival’s largest queer audience. The boom boom clap of the percussion keeps out of the way, but I wish it presented an obstacle over which she could hurdle.
[7]

Nellie Gayle: Social anxiety does not exactly read as a the prefect pretense for a banger pop song, but then again, Charli XCX has a certain gift for emotional subterfuge. ‘Gone’ is a collaboration between Charli and a more subdued pop star friend, Christine & the Queens. The two wrestle between seething anger at fake social niceties and and a deeper issue – the desire to be loved and seen, even if by a group of people you couldn’t care less about. It’s comforting to know that even a seasoned partygirl like Charli XCX can feel the same debilitating and restrictive sense of social “unbelonging” – a scene she depicts fairly literally in the accompanying music video which features her in bondage. The jump between this wallflower characteristic and the club-ready beat feels like a perfect metaphor for Charli’s career and persona itself. As pop music evolves and begins to cater to an even more confessional and vulnerable audience of millennials, it makes sense its most forward thinking vanguards would keep the pace by divulging their deepest longing while also maintaining a danceable beat. 
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: Sharp, rubbery bass backflips, pirouettes and twists as soapy, seething synths and steel tipped drums shimmy across the shoulders as Christine and Charli spin through as they become intertwined as one.
[8]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: What’s that? Charli XCX writing a song about loneliness and social anxiety — but somehow making it work as a duet? More like Charli doing this again, except this time instead of ruminating about the cosmos, commiserating about lost love, or contemplating redemption, she and Chris are plotting their escape. They spend the entire track pouring gasoline on their worries and stresses, until 3:04, when they finally erupt into flames. And then they’re literally gone, leaving behind only the glitched screaming ghosts of their pop consciousness, any chance at salvation vanishing with them. 
[8]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Charli XCX’s trajectory since the release of Pop 2 has been confusing. Over the past year and a half, she’s released 15-or-so singles/features, running the gamut from remixes of experimental rappers to big shiny club collabs with Diplo, Lizzo, and Troye Sivan. It’s largely been good material (save for that Diplo Spice Girls remix), but the songs have kind of felt like diversions from the goals set out by Pop 2‘s post-PC MUSIC synthesis of pop artifice into sincere emotion. This is entirely her right– if Charli just remade Pop 2 until she retired, it wouldn’t have the same deconstructive power it had when it first came out. Yet even the best of her singles from last year (songs like “5 in the Morning” and her remix of Tommy Genesis’ “100 Bad”) felt somewhat unambitious– playgrounds in the wreckage of pop, rather than attempts to build a new level upon it. “Gone,” then, is that new level. It’s the best of all possible worlds: the shiny synths and hard-hitting rhythms of “Nuclear Seasons”-era Charli, the glitchy breakdowns of her PC Music collabs, and the open, collaborative feeling of her wilderness year. “Gone” encapsulates Charli’s appeal in a compact 4 minute salvo, taking a conventional core lyrical concept– dancing the social anxiety away– and twisting it to her will. Chris makes for perhaps the best partner Charli’s had on her pop mission: her voice is clearer and more sincere, the perfect tool to clear out any suggestion of irony. But Charli herself is the key to why “Gone” works. She’s the glue that holds together the disjointed impulses of the track, like she always is, but here she’s also constantly moving it forward. Her vocals here are perhaps the best they’ve ever sounded, aloof and emotive all at once, and the fragmented lyrical picture that she and Chris paint is vivid. It took her a while, but “Gone” reveals a revitalized Charli XCX, capable of pop mastery once again.
[10]

Oliver Maier: “Gone”‘s release feels timed to ensure that Pop 2 fans don’t abandon hope for Charli’s album after the disappointing “Blame It On Your Love”, with metallic globs of bass and sparkling synth arpeggios hearkening back to the palette of the 2017 mixtape. However, it’s actually Christine and the Queens who gives the stronger performance here; Charli excels in emotional extremes and bratty earworms, but the purgatorial feeling of anxiety that “Gone” reckons with — as well as the song’s cavernous arrangement and less immediate hook — are better suited to Chris’ subtler wheelhouse. The breakdown in the last minute is a little superfluous, more a signifier of a willingness to experiment than a successful experiment in and of itself, but “Gone” still provides a brighter forecast for Charli than we had a few weeks ago.
[6]

Joshua Copperman: So I did the dumb remix thing again. The Katy Perry one was a reorder of different parts, but this one adds more instrumentation and a four-on-the-floor kick that takes Charli back to 2009 instead of 1999. Despite my favorite performance I’ve heard Christine give (“do they wish to run through mee,” the plainspoken way she says “baby” just before the breakdown), and the clear vocal chemistry between her and Charli, this song has so much empty space when a melody like that requires bombast.  That breakdown feels like someone trying to recreate NSYNC’s “Pop” using “Call Your Girlfriend” samples on a broken MPC. Couple that with the ugly flanging on Charli and Christine’s voices, and any momentum and goodwill feels squandered. “Gone” is so strong until that point that it’s still extremely listenable, but extremely listenable feels disappointing when it’s this close to being great.
[7]

Kayla Beardslee: I can’t think of a more appropriate artist to enter the “crying on the dance floor” pantheon than Charli XCX: pop’s resident party girl saying that she “fucking hates” the people at this party is not an artistic confession to be taken lightly. Although the marketing for this track has been informed by the tired “most personal album yet” cliche, Charli has thankfully pulled off the introspective turn by maintaining her PC Music inspirations, metallic synths bouncing off the edges of the song and giving the message of grappling with anxiety some much-needed bite. The presence of a feature is another XCX signature, and Christine and the Queens is a welcome addition: for once, a Charli track clearly shows the collaborator’s influence, in this case with its clipped melodies and off-kilter yet evocative lyrics.
[8]

Will Rivitz: “Backseat,” off 2017’s Pop 2, cascaded into perfection on the strength of its final minute ripping the preceding three into shreds. “Gone,” in doing exactly that again, but even more transcendentally sublimely this time (and with a transcendentally sublime beginning three-quarters to match, something its predecessor missed by a hair), is by extension better by about one degree. And I gave “Backseat” a [9], so…
[10]

Joshua Lu: In light of the multitudinous takes on social anxiety pop stars have churned out in recent years, “Gone” feels surprisingly honest. Anxiety is seen as illogical (Charli’s cry of “they don’t care” seemingly comes out of nowhere, which is where these feelings often come from), shameful (the song opens with an apology), and maddening (the entirety of the prechorus and Christine’s verse is filled with an untempered rage), and the song’s unapologetic portrayal of these aspects acts as an effective catharsis. It hits harder when casted over the stutter-step instrumental, filled with uncomfortable white space and coarse industrial noises that put the listener on edge.
[7]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: A song about being impossibly and destructively tired, so much so that one can’t help but be vulnerable as a last ditch effort to maintain sanity. The production captures it perfectly: steely and anthemic and spacious, it encourages one to sing along in a sort of therapeutic karaoke session. The outro is a cute release–a moment to decompress by way of A.G. Cook’s love for Scritti Politti.
[7]

Michael Hong: Like the best Charli XCX tracks, “Gone” deals with solitude in crowded spaces, no matter the number of collaborators involved in the track. The industrial soundscape threatens to cave in at any moment — something that fueled by the pair’s anxieties does inevitably occur, and yet remains this moment of euphoric bliss. While Charli and Chris pose several questions across the track, none are really answered. Instead, the two end with a shared statement, “don’t search me in here, I’m already gone, baby,” and by tossing aside the anxiety of the party, the two find peace outside of the crowd. In a crowded field of tracks about wanting to leave the party, “Gone” is one of the most captivating because of Charli’s introspection and ability to bring her dystopian future into the present.
[7]

Kylo Nocom: This song is a fever dream of DJ Mustard stabs warped into freestyle-esque basslines, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis communicated through modernized rhythms. “Gone” shines in stark contrast to the notable collaboration Charli’s done with a certain other ’80s fanatic back in late 2017, substituting emotional atmospherics for feverish danceability. Charli’s unstoppable pop glee is bared down to the essentials, stripped of the dumbness that felt defining of her singles the past two years; Christine’s dense songwriting and anxious percussive affinities are polished up and displayed proudly here, with no signs of the occasionally campy production cheapness that defined her 2018 album’s weaker missteps. “Gone” pays empathetic attention to the overstimulation some feel at huge parties, and the bouncing, metallic chorus shivers with a knowing sensory discomfort that eventually culminates in a gloriously alien glitch breakdown.
[8]

Alex Clifton: A contender for Song of the Summer that isn’t “Old Town Road” (which I love dearly but does not work on its own as a party playlist). Charli and Chris are always Interesting Artists, never boring and always looking forward, and this is a perfect marriage of their strengths and sounds. It has the electro production Charli favours but never gets too overwhelming; it has a good dose of Chris’s quirk and gravitas but retains a lighter touch. Moreover it’s just a fun song–I can only imagine what it was like to record this in the studio, and that enthusiasm spills over to the listener. Like Jane Austen’s prose, “Gone” is complex and layered but performed with ease. It’s one of the hardest tricks in the book, but Charli and Chris have absolutely nailed it.
[8]

Iris Xie: “Gone” listens like the measured dissertation of an almost ideal pop song in a post-PC Music world that is more open about mental health, attachment trauma, and how it damages relationships. Out of the two, Letissier is the one who delivers the vocals with the exact emotion required to hit catharsis, due to her visceral and forceful cadence that is in tune with the chorus’s frankness: “I feel so unstable, fucking hate these people / How they’re making me feel lately.” The post-chorus is beautiful though, with one of my favorite pop-R&B vocal tropes where they both catch on the fourth word of each line, “Why do we love–” before Charli and Letissier exhale with a sharp glide before jumping back into step with the stuttering beat, with “–if we’re so mistaken?” Another treat is served with the sudden drop-off into “Why do we keep when the water runs? / Ne me cherche pas, je ne suis plus là, baby,” a dreamy and sad breakdown that then breaks down into more jagged edges and clipped and chewed up repetitions. This song could only be written by people who love pop music so, so deeply that they have command of masterful hooks and turns of phrase and expectations. Unfortunately, I also don’t like it as much as I should, because for all of what it does right, it still lacks dynamism and range to make it stick in a way that really makes me overjoyed for it, because I feel both of their solo work was a lot sharper and more evocative, and I find the sound more muddled here, even amongst all of their loving approaches. 
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: One of my favorite songs is The Tycho Brahe’s “Steel Wheels,” a song about defeat and cutting ties to pursue other defeat. “Gone” is a lot like that song, attached to a lesser song: yet another false, poppily marketed take on social anxiety. When I’m socially phobic, which is almost all the time, it’s never “those people” I hate — I don’t hate anyone without a good reason, and doing so would just add guilt and make me feel worse — but myself. It seems too simple to posit that one song is Chris’s contribution and the other’s Charli’s, but more to the point, I actually can’t tell which is whose. Neither artist seems fully themselves, vocally or stylistically. Chris’s strengths are staccato lyrics and precise bits of introspection: needles to the exact point that hurts. Charli’s strength is sweepingly cathartic songs, emotions hemorrhaging out of the music and the skin. “Gone” is the midpoint of those strengths, playing to neither.
[6]

William John: A favourite moment of mine in the Christine and the Queens catalogue is early single “Nuit 17 à 52“, which, in its English adaptation, features a speaker in a “lace-like” state of being, waiting “for the rain to come through”. It’s an image of defencelessness that’s so brusque it requires gentle piano chords to soften the mood. Water provides no solace to the song’s protagonist; the fifty-second, pivotal night of melodrama fails to leave her mind. This is an image Christine and the Queens returns to for her contribution to Charli XCX’s new single – interviews have made it clear that she penned the chorus, but it’s obvious to anyone familiar with the charming peculiarities of her brand of franglais. This time the punishment of water is accompanied by inquisition – the metaphor is not used as a mere acknowledgement of self-flagellating tendencies, but and a need to know why they might arise is attached. The contention is that in the quest to know more about oneself, water can be framed not as a suffocating force, but as one of cleansing and catharsis; that in daring to be vulnerable, we open ourselves up to freedom and greatness. Enlisting a partner-in-crime to assist with such a quest doesn’t hurt, and there’s been few moments in pop this year as thrilling as the way these two jointly bellow “loathe” before the song gives way to its chirpy coda, as together they will themselves toward liberation.
[9]

Jackie Powell: The production on “Gone” matches the exact emotional plot of the song itself. The bass synths and percussive claps are accurately abrasive and in your face. The vocal performances that both XCX and Christine give are impassioned. While the chorus might be a bit muffled and not as enunciated as I would have liked, they achieve a goal that all artists should strive for⁠–the ability to transfer their emotions through their lyrics and sounds into the soul of the listener. The mixing from their chest into their head voices that both singers do on this track brings out some sort of euphoria in me. Charli’s previous singles “1999” and “Blame it on Your Love” have been catchy, but maybe not as substantive as Charli stans have wanted. I understand her strategy. It reminds me of Carly Rae Jepsen’s approach to how she released “Dedicated.” Both artists released advance singles that were a bit lighter in content and sound. And then of course, we heard “No Drug Like Me”. The third single put out to the world was the sucker punch, the sly off-speed pitch that hits right in zone after two high fastballs that don’t quite elicit a flinch. The 52-second outro in “Gone” was confusing when I first heard it, and maybe it should be a tad shorter, but I finally understand the reason it exists to begin with. If you listen closely, Charli and Christine’s voices sound as though they are gargling water or are putting their faces into the water that they are claiming is still running. They make their point though, we’ve got to question why the water is running and it’s up to us to stop it. It’s uncomfortable, but we have the power to stop it. 
[8]

Reader average: [8.07] (13 votes)

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3 Responses to “Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens – Gone”

  1. 2 out of my first 3 blurbs have included the lowest score for that song and the other one was a [3], I PROMISE I like music

  2. Elisabeth’s Big Queer Energy got me through my day today, but Alex’s comment makes me dread just how much Jane Austen I’ll read this coming year…

  3. Charli XCX is maddeningly inconsistent. I have to say that this is one of her misses. Kind of dull. (4)

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