Monday, February 20th, 2012

Charli XCX – Valentine

And I guess we’re six days late on this, but the Jukebox isn’t here for romantic tie-ins…


Katherine St Asaph: This is blatant SEO pop, a “Valentine” released on Valentine’s Day with synths more slapdash than lush. It won me over a little anyway from the “biology lecture” line, more anxiously high-school than lesser songs might allow, then completely with Charli’s stammer, then unreservedly with “I’m starting to worry that I’m sounding like The Fray.” That exact worry tends to happen, doesn’t it?

Iain Mew: The second song this year, after Alex Day, to remind me of The Research in its lo-fi electronic bounce and sweetness. Charli does it a good bit better than him by having a much better voice and actually matching The Research for wit as well as emotion.

Erick Bieritz : Maybe this is just missing a shared ancestor or common influence, but isn’t Charli XCX reminiscent of Dan Bejar, also known as Destroyer? The arch pauses, the overstuffed narrative, the sudden shifts between dry wittiness and florid romance? It feels like a sneakier ’80s revival, much sneakier than those other ’80s revivals, stirring up the mannerisms of that vague sub-genre of sophisti-pop without relying too heavily on its actual sonics.

Alfred Soto: Hiccuping like Dale Bozzio imitating Lene Lovich, flapping her arms through incomprehensible lyrics, Charli sure knows how to make an impression. Whether she knows how to channel mannerisms into a performance commensurate with the effort is another point.

John Seroff : Everything on “Valentine” feels first take. There’s certainly nothing wrong with rough cuts or the immediacy of creation, but there’s also nothing lively or impactful to be found here. It’s the standard bleep and whine and plod, lagging about for at least two minutes longer than I needed to know I already had enough.

Jonathan Bogart : It’s probably my own lack of listening that makes me associate conversational singing in an Estuary accent with Lily Allen and no one else, but compared to the moody Cold War electro of “Nuclear Seasons,” the less dramatic and more quotidian approach taken by Ms. XCX here feels like something of an alternate universe, and one that I’m not keen to spend much time in. It’s still quite good, the burbly rush of the music and the sticky melodies and the mix-and-match with vocal registers — but it’s not as good as she has been and (hopefully) will be again.

Brad Shoup: Odd that a song with this title borrows so much from “Wonderful Christmastime”. The industry in-jokes and ragged production are more suited to a Bright Eyes hidden track.

Michaela Drapes: It’s not terribly surprising that the big, sprawling messy love song is something missing from the current ladypop renaissance. “Valentine” is the kind of song you know is a bad idea, just like you know that mix tape or handknit scarf or other hopelessly romantic gesture towards an utterly clueless crush is a ridiculously terrible idea. It’s so affecting because we all know it isn’t going to make a whit of difference with this guy. Sorry, Charli.

Jer Fairall : You can practically hear the dust leap off of the circa-1984 synthesizer, rescued from some attic or pawn shop, with each hit of the keys, as Charli XCX plays out her retro fixation with a previous generation’s tools for constructing the future. Yet where she is now is where adolescents have always been as far back as there has been pop (if not further), singing lovelorn laments to first chances not taken, to freshly discovered hopes gone just as swiftly unfulfilled, to Hallmark holidays that play like a cruel joke on the romantically awkward and disenfranchised. Some things never change, nor should they. 

2 Responses to “Charli XCX – Valentine”

  1. I wish the vocals were a little bit higher; they get kinda buried in the chorus. This is lovely, though, and the verse about The Fray made me laugh out loud.

  2. It’s perfect because “I’m starting to worry that I’m sounding like The Fray” is TOTALLY A FEELING that just now has its perfect description. It’s also perfect because this song is essentially one extended not-managing-to-stammer-out-words. (That is also totally a feeling; I didn’t give it the perfect description, obv.)