Friday, February 18th, 2022

Charli XCX ft. Rina Sawayama – Beg For You

Two critical heavy-hitters… one underwhelming score.


Wayne Weizhen Zhang: One can only imagine what other versions of “Beg For You” could exist: a screaming-guitar, scorched-earth rock SAWAYAMA record; an Elton-John adjacent mega ballad; a crashed-out PC music trip; a posse-cut version with Cupcakke and Pablo Vittar stitched on. Charli XCX and Rina Sawayama are both culture-defining icons and a collaboration between the two of them had so much possibility for generation and synthesis. Instead, at worst this is an anonymous Eurodance track, and at best this is a Trojan Horse for Rina Sawayama

Nortey Dowuona: It’s not surprising that two artists at the near-exact same moment in their careers are hopping back on the revitalized UK Garage craze. It is surprising that it is very good, mostly because Charli and Rina remain calm in their mid-ranges throughout until they go full melisma in the chorus. And also because that melody originally comes from their home countrymen Bronski Beat’s “Small Town Boy” by way of  Swedish singer September. Even more excellent is that all three members of Bronski Beat were out and proud gay musicians, so it’s fantastic to see them be repurposed for an openly lesbian song. It also is fantastic to see Rina Sawayama shining in the second verse and chorus, so lovelorn and worried, waiting and wailing in her feathery soprano for the return of her lover, and how she and Charli combine in such a openly vulnerable plea for that love.

Edward Okulicz: Look, friends, I know this is hard. Rina Sawayama deserves a hit, and Charli was once a creative powerhouse. But you need to listen to this on face value and realise that it is dreadful, tatty and uninspired, taking September’s glorious Europop “Cry For You,” stripping it of its simplicity and gloriously un-subtle emotional climaxes. Everything Charli and Rina add to the song is worse than the source material, and neither have September’s sheer determination to bash you in the face with big, dumb feelings like life depends on it. Your time would be better spent listening to one of the many September songs that are better than this, unless you are Charli XCX, in case, don’t get any ideas.

Rose Stuart: Have we, as a society, moved past the need for drops? “Beg For You” is a gorgeous song, tantalizing and dreamy with a light beat and a perfectly used harp driving the instrumental. Charli XCX tones down her sledgehammer of a voice to fit the breeziness of the song, and Rina Sawayama matches her note for note, even if she’s underused. But what would be an amazing song is marred by a limp drop that stands in for the first chorus. It’s not an ugly drop, not even a poorly executed one, simply… inadequate. Underwhelming. It doesn’t ruin the song but it does take up space that could have been used to take “Beg For You” to new heights. It’s just taking song-time from Rina Sawayama, and isn’t that a crime in itself?

Tobi Tella: Embarrassing tweets begging for a larger audience aside, there was no real way for this to live up to the insanely steep Gay Expectations for it. Both sound fine, the sample works okay, but it’s probably not a great sign that every time I listen my first thought is “Man, ‘Cry For You’ is kinda great!”

Oliver Maier: For one thing this reminds me of any number of the boring collaborations on Charli that failed to capitalise on the centre of the Venn diagram between each artist and turned out austere and fun-proof. For another, the awkward phonetics of Charli’s lyrics have historically been prone to deflating good melodies, and this is all over “Beg For You” — lines like “can I take you to the airport?” and the grating “way-hey-hey-hey-hey” outro fall flat because they sound clumsy and undynamic. Most of all, though, it’s baffling to remake “Cry For You” with such apparent obliviousness to what makes it such a cracker. September’s song builds to an ecstatic kiss-off rendered in brutal, brilliant absolutes. Charli and Rina’s take is not only leagues less satisfying narratively but the phrasing is weightless and vague: “Don’t you leave me this way” has all the catharsis of clearing your throat. Put simply “Beg For You”‘s problem is that it just doesn’t justify its existence from any angle. It’s underwhelming as a collaboration, pointless as a remake and feeble as a pop song.

Leah Isobel: It’s such a novelty to hear late-era Charli projecting her voice outward like this — not using pitch correction to balance her emoting, the natural grain and throatiness of her voice unshielded by robotic walls. I love it without reservations. I do not love the song that houses it, though. I just like it.

Alfred Soto: Where is this going? Who is this for? Who needs the hit?

Alex Clifton: I like this. I don’t have much of a reason aside from “it’s catchy and I think it made me gayer,” but that’s reason enough.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: At first I thought that this was inane — another high-concept low-depth pop song riffing on industry cliches, another joke that doesn’t work unless you’re deep in the r/popheads trenches on the daily. Then I thought it was brilliant — Rina’s verse especially, the way her voice cuts through the washed out garage revivalism with the keening anxiety that the song’s title promises. As of now I’ve landed somewhere between those two points. It’s inane and underbaked, sure, but in those borrowed melodies and nostalgia-bait drum patterns it’s still entrancing, almost as if Charli is showing off how much she can do with a flimsy excuse of a song.

Joshua Lu: Charli XCX’s last minor hit as a lead artist was a dancepop track that exploited nostalgia and featured a lesser-known pop figure; as her latest album era progressed without much chart fanfare, it made sense that she’d employ that formula once again. Instead of lyrical references to years gone by, however, Charli goes maximum Ava Max on “Beg For You,” with a sample so heavy that this might as well be a cover. The formula isn’t bad on paper, but the execution is baffling: Using “Cry For You” is already a strange idea considering that its melody has already been interpolated by a much bigger artist recently, but also because she neuters the best part of the original song, making its dramatic buildup lead to a bland instrumental break instead of a proper chorus. Weird creative decisions further muddle the song, like how Charli’s harsh vocals contrast harshly with Rina’s crystalline tone, or how the hodgepodge outro again fails to convey the intensity of the original song. 

Micha Cavaseno: Every time I see *Big Shaq vox* Charles protesting her label on my twitter feed, I remember that it was almost a decade ago when she was making music that aspired to be commercial that also felt… committed. I’m a long time antagonist for Chas. Ecks vs. Sever and very little has changed since then, but I can acknowledge when I think she’s done some fun experiments in rampaging, and when she’s made proper pop singles. But surely someone so aware of the history of pop would recognize that pioneering new sounds for the industry isn’t always rewarded with your own personally validated stardom? Especially not fiscally. So “Beg For You” feels in many ways like a phone in and a tantrum in a way that strikes me as dishonest and lazy. Surely, after watching PinkPanthress crib your “I Am The Modern Online Girl” bit you’d at least try to do something a little more ambitious than sing worse on even more tossed aside UKG drums if you wanted to defend your reputation. But instead, it seems she’s more interested in just sulking her way through her career’s downward spill. Hard to feel much sympathy for a war you’re not even trying to win.

Reader average: [3.8] (5 votes)

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2 Responses to “Charli XCX ft. Rina Sawayama – Beg For You”

  1. thanks wayne hehe

  2. Hahaha it’s I who should thank you

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