Monday, April 1st, 2024

Charli XCX – Von Dutch

“If Von Dutch were alive,” said Burns, who runs a website about his friend at, “he would hate all this.”

the letters t s j representing Charli XCX - Von Dutch

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: On February 12 of this year I predicted that “we can safely give the Charli lead single an automatic high controversy [5.00] and be done with it.” History will vindicate me.

Jackie Powell: A common Charli XCX motif is her admiration and sampling of 1990s and Y2K culture, which has allowed her to write songs that are cheeky with a dash of British wit. She does this on “Von Dutch” by comparing her reputation in pop to that of a cult classic, but struggles with the extended metaphor of how she’s what Von Dutch, the LA clothing brand that has had a recent resurgence, sounds like. The concept feels incomplete. I actually prefer the song’s remix with Addison Rae and A.G. Cook. The ad-libbed scream from Rae, the added verse, and the dropping of “I’m your number one” over and over again make the remix much more compelling and zany. The original will only really bang in drag bars—a fine place for something to hit, of course, but at this point I expect Charli to be pushing her own boundaries.

Alfred Soto: Like much of her output, “Von Dutch” represents Charli XCX’s fair to middling ambition to become a global pop star. Like much of that output “Von Dutch” strikes confused poses over shrieking electronics.

Hannah Jocelyn: Charli XCX said she wants to go back to 1999, but with songs like these she clearly wishes it was 2018: all the callbacks and bombast referring to when she was “the future of music” and not halfway to the headliner of an inevitable “hyperpop” nostalgia festival. I like the gloriously tinny snare, but in 2024 the bratty chant vocals sound dated (as does the album title that’s just brat in lowercase). The most exciting songs on CRASH to me were “Constant Repeat” and “Move Me,” which proved she could bring her “kinda rare attitude” to heartfelt ballads. “Von Dutch” is just mindless comfort food for aging cis male gays, which is fine — I’m the lone First Two Pages of Frankenstein defender, I get it — but she can’t say she’s my Number One when on this song, she’s my Number

Mark Sinker: I enjoy that Charli XCX lives in a room-sized selection-box of all of the rest of girlpop, everything constantly arriving with its conscious little tweaky echo of this or that prior item. They’re nice items, and we both like them, so why not? Maybe this feels a bit more hemmed in than is comfy, though: it has big Britney-feel, which is to say echoes of an aural highpoint that actually expressed a grim life lowpoint for Brit. As for Von Dutch, they currently have the one and only Wikipedia page with “Behind-the scenes tumult” as a cross-hed, which pleases me but also makes me anxious. 

Katherine St. Asaph: Once again, the nostalgia is miscalibrated: Von Dutch was trendy in the mid-2000s, while this sounds like the late 2000s. Specifically, it sounds like every song from the late 2000s I would have given a [7] or higher.

Will Adams: I whole-heartedly support pop stars honoring the advancements made by the likes of Luciana in support of the essential micro-genre of Obnoxious Banger.

Kat Stevens: I’m down for the Bodyrox ft Luciana revival! Is there a Fedde Le Grand remix?

Andrew Karpan: Pop music tells us to want to have it all, a maximalist vision that typically gets bigger as it goes on. Counterintuitively, part of the mesmerizing appeal of Charli’s records is the fact that there is no distance left for her to run and that her sound has become the sound of pop going nowhere but the present, busily manufacturing its cult appeal now for future observers to wax nostalgic about. “Von Dutch” is the most literalized version of that idea from her yet: a squeaky saran-wrapped PC Music-affiliated beat with a middle-aged pulse that never drops but simply hangs, like a foggily-heard echo of itself, like the memory of a club night experienced from the outside while nervously waiting in line in the cold. 

Jeffrey Brister: It’s perhaps a bit unfair to compare everything Charli has made recently to the transcendent Pop 2 (“Backseat” 4evr), but when I hear something as dull as this, I can’t help but pine for its melodramatic maximalism. The sounds are just so monochromatic, pulling from a desaturated set of Charli tics like grinding revving synths and choppy autotuned vocal snippets, all snapping together like a “build your own Charli song” kit in nothing but gray tones.

Kayla Beardslee: Why does this sound so bad?

Nortey Dowuona: That last Earl album was good. This Charli single is good. Some people just never live up to your expectations because they are not you. Unlike Charli, I don’t think it’s because of jealousy, just curiosity and frustration. Charli and Earl were never meant to be Method Man or Robyn — they had different tastes and trajectories, and slumming it as a major-label balance name isn’t the worst fate. You could be Tyga. Or Rita Ora.

Taylor Alatorre: It’s caked in an air of sweaty desperation dressed up as devil-may-care hedonism, which helps rather than hurts because of how unflinchingly skeletal the beat is, showing off its shotgun scaffolding to all who will see. She’s not trying to hide anything about how she’s trying to hide something. Never mind that the phrase “cult classic but I still pop” could be used to describe everything from the MC5 to DMB — it wouldn’t have suited their milieux, but it’s quintessentially XCX. It may be the line Charli was put on this earth to sing, even if through half-gritted teeth. 

Leah Isobel: The curse of being Charli XCX is that she is an asymptote: she can approach pop stardom, but she’s far too self-conscious to allow herself to actually embrace it. As a result, the curse of being a Charli XCX fan is that she becomes more obnoxious and exhausting every time she reaches a new career milestone. After scoring her first big worldwide hit, she spent her social capital yelling at Germans and collaborating with Iggy Azalea. Number 1 Angel and Pop 2 cemented her as a serious artist with conceptual depth and longevity while simultaneously sending her spiraling into stan Twitter hell, from whence she shall never return. She wears a T-shirt denouncing critics — which I am not mad at, please drag me mom yas! — and then logs on with hot takes about Pop Music And Stardom, as a critic does. She sees herself as above mass-market pandering and yet also below it, both superior to the culture and bitter at her inability to assimilate into it. (Gay people love her because she’s relatable.) Hence, “Von Dutch.” Its corkscrewing mania has the serrated simplicity that characterizes her riffs on punk music; it feels like a cousin to the unfairly maligned Sucker. But where Sucker balanced its brattier impulses with good-natured melodicism and emotional directness, “Von Dutch” is all needling cynicism and overdriven id. The song has a nominal verse/chorus structure but no big dynamic or melodic changes, no particular idea beyond “I’m lovable and awesome; look at my chart placements.” The need to serve as a pop single also keeps “Von Dutch” from entering the realm of the dumb-brilliant dance music that so clearly inspired it; it’s too much of a branding exercise, too interested in flattering its audience for getting it. And yet in its grating repetition, I still hear her insecurity beneath the synth buzzsaws. No one who’s convinced that they’re actually Living That Life would say it so directly, with such barely concealed desperation. The curse of being Charli XCX is that, deep down, she is still convinced that she is unlovable. The curse of being a Charli XCX fan is that I love her because she’s relatable.

Isabel Cole: I don’t know that I’ll ever stop feeling about Charli XCX like she’s my brilliant daughter who dropped out of med school to pursue a career as a wedding DJ: of course, honey, I just want you to be happy, but are you sure this is what you want? You don’t want to, like, try? At all? This is the kind of gleefully, knowingly brainless fun Charli can do in her sleep, propulsive without ever really going anywhere because the point is just to drive. She’s not living up to her potential, but much like a boring mom who doesn’t “get” her daughter’s life of Top 40 hits in mid-budget venues and weeknights spent doing ketamine with her friends, I am unsophisticated enough to enjoy it when she does songs that are songs, and this one does make me feel like I’m walking through the opening credits of my life when it plays.

Ian Mathers: I like it when the synths go THWOOM and/or VOORP.

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