Wednesday, November 17th, 2021

Charli XCX ft. Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek – New Shapes

We count ’em.


Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Full marks will be reserved for when there’s a remix with the fourth “C” artist. (You probably know me well enough to guess who it is.)

Andrew Karpan: A deadbeat millennial failure anthem that delivers the goods better than its influences — too tedious to list or name. Instead of being about beginning or ending things, this is a record about living inside the end of things and using its wreckage to form something else, a handsome metaphor for Charli’s larger pop project and one that elevates its observations above the fare of, say, a Bleachers record. But despite these ambitions, threaded eloquently by an icy horn refrain, the architecture of the song is simple enough and not unlike a standard emailed posse remix. Charli builds her new shapes icily, Christine does so ambitiously; but of the three, it’s Caroline Polachek who most tenderly and wistfully evokes its underlying romantic wistfulness.

Michael Hong: Love the part where Caroline shows up and refuses to sing over that beat.

Nortey Dowuona: The slightly slithering synths that make up Charli’s icy chorus appear like the neck blows that end matches, while Christine is so polite she simply goes for careful bodyblows. But Caroline, enveloped in the Charlie Puth bridge synths and strings, sucker punches you with a soft, lucid coo that knocks you flat on your ass, lovestruck.

Will Adams: The trio’s respective verses seem intentionally disconnected. One would hope this result in them joining forces for the chorus, but the chorus is too underwritten for that to happen. Still, there’s plenty to enjoy here: Charli, Chris and Caroline bring each of their signature vocal styles to the song, and the track fizzes and pops like a True Romance cut that just got a manicure.

Katherine St Asaph: This is just the /r/popheads version of “Don’t Call Me Angel,” with the Charlie’s Angel references replaced with an “Into the Groove” riff that remains out of it.

Alfred Soto: A theoretical pop star who occasionally bestirs herself into recording a good song, Charli XCX gets help from the glinting metallic synthetic textures of her mates, who might’ve brought this off themselves were it for Charli XCX’s theoretical cachet. Certainly they would’ve written more than a feebly insistent top line.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The songcraft here is disappointingly half-baked until you realize that this is the vocal pop equivalent of a cypher, each singer getting a verse to demonstrate her particular approach to a rudimentary beat. Charli gets to be as straightforward as a sledgehammer, Chris riffs and backs herself up like she’s toying with a demo, and Caroline outdoes them both with a bridge performance that sounds like a compilation of her best vocal runs. It’s a perfectly acceptable highlight reel of three singers in their prime, but ultimately feels like a placeholder for something more fully formed.

Leah Isobel: Every time Charli releases a new song, I try and fail to capture both my response to it individually and how it fits into my understanding of her career — and therefore my life, as a listener, as a Charli fan, as a girl. The two are connected. I joke that I realized I was trans because of the “Take My Hand” video, but it’s not really a joke. Something about Charli’s embodiment just… hits me, in a way that’s very difficult to describe, but I keep trying. It’s in everything she does. Here, it’s in the way that she sings her verse, her breath creeping forward at the end of each lines so that the melody evaporates into mist. The only time she pulls her voice forward, projecting, brash and barking, is when she’s contradicting an earlier, equally harsh version of herself: “I ain’t got it.” It’s not a hook; more like a harpoon, puncturing. When I was 18, when I first heard about her, a friend of mine had seen her opening for Coldplay. He said she would be a star, she’d be huge. I never heard that hugeness in her, though. I always heard something smaller, something dreamier and internal. A girl, wanting to share and to be loved, but refusing to compromise her heart to do it; there’s a part of her that cannot, will not, let go. Her songs project warmth and generosity, but fear and self-doubt curl around the edges, holding them in place. You can trace each album by the those fears and how she navigates them. Like all of her past evolutions, this arch stylization will be gone one day, the new shape twisted into something else until it slips through her fingers. Mine too.

Reader average: [7.2] (5 votes)

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2 Responses to “Charli XCX ft. Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek – New Shapes”

  1. okay even the blurbs that are [5] or below are brilliant

    also leah your blurb is everything and beautiful <3

  2. Wayne when I read your blurb my mind went to Cupcakke lmao

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