Timing is everything in the music industry; just ask Azealia Banks how damaging album release delays can be. It is even more important in the world of pop, where artists can come and go in a flash if they – or their label – don’t capitalise on momentum. Despite being a critical darling and respected songwriter, Charli XCX is one such artist who has never quite been able to get the timing right and convert her talent into commercial success.
The 22-year-old, who made a name for herself by writing Icona Pop’s infectious hit single I Love It, has repeatedly faced album delays; first with her major label debut, True Romance, and now with its follow-up, Sucker. The latter – oddly released in the ‘commercial graveyard’ of December in the US – was originally scheduled for October last year, before being pushed back to January and then finally February in the UK.
As a result, Sucker arrives with some of the wind taken out of its sails, despite the fact that the record’s lead single Boom Clap was one of the most successful songs of last year – peaking at Number 6 on the UK Singles Chart and registering more than 200,000 sales. The song repeated the success of I Love It, with its huge, simplistic, feel-good chorus ensuring that it was unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry.
It is a formula that Charli XCX is able to repeat on a constant basis throughout Sucker, proving that she is certainly no one-hit wonder. Second single, Break The Rules, continues from where Boom Clap left off, with its straightforward backing track building towards another memorable, hedonistic chorus, as she yells: “Going to the discotheque/ getting high and getting wrecked/ I don’t want to go to school/ I just want to break the rules.”
Sucker is full of these power-pop choruses and while some have rather generously referred to some of its contents as “punk”, there is undoubtedly an attitude to Charli XCX’s delivery that is reminiscent of Gwen Stefani in her heyday. The opening title track is a perfect example of her dismissal of the usual pop conventions, snarling “Well, fuck you, sucker” repeatedly over fuzzy guitars and a consistent beat.
While the record may not exactly be breaking new ground, it remains a lot of fun for large amounts of its run time, delivering plenty more addictive choruses along the way. Take the foot-stomping Breaking Up, which is just over two minutes of joyous delight, with its chanted chorus conjuring up comparisons with Cyndi Lauper. The song makes a nice pair with the equally irresistible So Over You, where she asserts her independence over a soaring synths.
Despite the impressive number of hits, Sucker is not without its fair share of misses. Doing It, which features guest vocals from Rita Ora, is disappointingly middle of the road when held up against the record’s stronger tracks and suffers from being too tightly constructed for radio play. The pedestrian Die Tonight is another that lacks any real spark, while Need Ur Love does not provide the storming finish to the album that it deserves.
Yet even when Charli XCX does not get it right, she is still pretty entertaining to listen to and – more importantly – Sucker sees her succeed more often than not. Tracks like London Queen, Body Of My Own or Hanging Around are full of life and delivered with the sort of energy that makes them hard to ignore. While she may not have the precision marketing behind her of someone like Taylor Swift, Charli XCX’s Sucker is a defiant statement of her intent to do things her way.