Crash’s cover makes me smile. You might prefer the deluxe take in which Charli XCX, crouched slightly further from us, is caked in blood, her hair in gore-licked strands. But I like the surreal perfection of Charli the popstar, unmarked and glamorous, cracking your windshield on a clear day. It’s as if we have driven into her unexpectedly and she’s none the worse for it. Actually, she’s coming after us. It’s sick album art for two reasons: as an arresting image of power, risk and contradiction, you want to consider the woman who’s leapt on the hood, but more importantly, it’s a metaphor for Charlotte Aitchison’s trajectory into the mainstream. She hasn’t arrived in fits and spurts. She has been reshaping pop in her own lane, and now, she’s on the super highway. You will pay attention because she is too big to swerve.
Anyone who’ll frantically sing along with Charli for the first time this year – and certainly, there’ll be many such people, girls and guys bumping through their biggest club nights evaaahhh with a JD and coke – may have only seen her name when ‘Break The Rules’ airs on PureGym TV. It’s part of the accepted Charli story: teenager strays from industry cliche, becomes known for dancing on a school bus, goes wild and weird, cannily assembles some of the most unusual diva music ever made, and enters the 2020s as a flashpoint for experimental poptimism. That’s the SparkNotes summary for a second-tier subject. To those who haven’t been following her career, she may reasonably be a case of “Oh yeah, her,” a two-hit wonder who emerges when you’re slamming 5k on the treadmill.