She’s the one, alright.
Will Adams: I tend to not merge the worlds of different songs together; for me, each song exists in its own space. That said, I can’t help hearing this as anything but a sequel to “Stay Away.” “You’re the One” opens the same, with buzzing bassline and cavernous reverb. Yet while Charli pushed against a dangerous lover in “Stay,” here she pulls him close, though he might as well pose the same threat. The chorus bubbles with a major-key love profession, but that angry bass is still there, violently twisting around her. That’s the first moment we sense something is wrong, but the killer is in the rapped outro: “My body is screaming,” Charli deadpans, and you’re left spending the next hour or so deciding whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Brad Shoup: The serrated gloom of the verses seems so obviously crafted to let the chorus hit like pillows. She admitted as much before an MTV performance of “You’re the One” a couple months ago: she’s transmitting “dark aspects… mysterious, haunting lyrics crossed with these kind of… more bubblegum, sort of pop tunes”. The transition to the nearly hip-hop cadence of the major-key refrain is a shock on a couple levels, coming as it does after text loaded with dark and night and moonlight and crystals. But the chorus repeats a key image — dancing in the dark — and in the moment before the groaning synths return, it speaks of a bedroom reverie, of putting on the headphones with the long cord, transmuting energy.
Edward Okulicz: This is Charli’s very own “Heartbeats,” only with the steel drums replaced by some filthy synth-pop ripped straight out of early Human League. The song’s easily as good as its reference points too.
Iain Mew: Our previous encounters with Charli weren’t quite enough to turn me into a fan, but seeing her live at close quarters last month definitely was, even before “I Love It.” Her energy and connection with the crowd were incredible and she has an awful lot of great songs. This one, blessed with a divine ’90s pop chorus, spoken word bit, and powerful synth work, didn’t even stand out as among the best.
Patrick St. Michel: The gloopy synths and dramatic lyric delivery in the opening verse indicate Charli XCX has another dose of industrial-tinged pop for the world, until the song pivots into light come the chorus. This is the most hopeful she’s sounded thus far in her career, and even when the song shifts back to shadowy corners on the word “dark,” it only makes the return of her upbeat hook that much better. Hell, she practically glows during the beat-less bridge.
Katherine St Asaph: Charli XCX understands that infatuation’s as much about giddy twitterpation as sheer terror. That’s why the synths patrol like searchlights in a dystopia, why Charli’s every note is clipped, as if she’s trying to tamp down her hyperventilation, and why the chorus is buoyant, the melody and strings and cascading-waterfall effect and love-note lyrics trying to soar over one another, but also a little like admitting defeat — those grim sounds haven’t actually disappeared. Fuck “Call Me Maybe,” rendered useless by “all the other boys try to chase me.” This is the crush song of the decade.
Alfred Soto: While the synth menace on the verses do their best to uglify Charli’s meltdown, the synth pads on the chorus soften it. I’m still unmoved by her gurgles and burps though.
Pete Baran: PARP! I love a parping bassline, and its cleverly upfront enough to distract you from what might otherwise fall into some sort of goth tinged ballad. Coupled with a wonderfully overproduced chorus, and what we used to call raps in Britain before we actually learned how to rap, it instantly gains a replay. I like music with a sense of drama and it almost demands a non-ironically waved lighter!
Jonathan Bogart: “Nuclear Seasons” wowed me from the get-go; “Valentine” was too indistinct — and too not “Nuclear Seasons” — to win my love; and to complete the trilogy, “You’re the One” started out feeling like “Valentine” but by the third or fourth listen was getting close to the awesteppery of “Nuclear Seasons.”
Alex Ostroff: There is nothing I don’t love about this. There is nothing I will ever not love about dramatic throaty gothy 80s vocals mixed with 90s teenpop crushes and 00s songs from Gothenberg and All Saints-aping spoken word bits. Nonetheless, I remain disappointed that the lyric is supposedly actually “You’re the one who came along and unlocked the cage.” Love that frees you is romantic, but more pedestrian than I want from the writer of “Nuclear Seasons.” Love that imprisons you until “I love the cage” is more interesting, and more in line with that gothstep wobble and the implicit threat of her song’s audience. Minor quibble, though, about an otherwise perfect song.