We’ve reached a point in music where looks and sounds aren’t created as once before, instead reflected on and used as signifiers to dramatize and reclaim. It’s not so much a parody, but a self-aware exploration of where we’ve been in order to make sense of where we’re going—the Tumblr ideology, when a reblog feels like defining your own point-of-view, though it’s ultimately exploiting the past for personal gain.
UK producer SOPHIE has garnered a reputation for this by celebrating campy pop norms through his music (Hear “Just Like We Never Said Goodbye”) and recently infiltrated the Charli XCX camp to collaborate on her newest export, the Vroom Vroom EP.
The “Boom Clap” singer isn’t naturally a pop star if we’re assessing her from our archetypal standards of early aughts Spears-style “pop.” But she’s surely completed her metamorphosis into one, which is perhaps the most post-Internet move a contemporary musician could make. Today, we’re all becoming beneath the guise of digital fabrication, and Charli has capitalized on this new norm—especially with the music video for her EP’s title track.
Where Charli once reveled in the transparent imperfections of being a young, independent artist on her debut full-length True Romance—her “Caterpillar” period—the singer has emerged from the chrysalis, ironing out all wrinkles and glossing over the rust to embody today’s expectations of a radio star. It’s an experiment, really, to wrestle with mainstream visuals and tickle mainstream listeners using a presentation that looks familiar—a sound that immediately resonates.
In the sleek music video, directed by Bradley and Pablo, Charli writhes through high-octane choreography, sometimes recruiting back-up dancers for the full effect. Donning looks that rival Spears’ iconic red “Oops!… I Did It Again” bodysuit, she poses alongside a stylized Lamborghini with PC Music founder A.G. Cook and musician Hannah Diamond. At one point, Charli flaunts a Beats By Dre Pill on her shoulder—clearly product placement, though the capitalist move plays into her project’s greater exploration of pop cliches.
Pop music should reject reality. It should reflect our most unattainable ideals. It should be fabricated and fueled by sex. It should be fun and laced with cocky lyrics, like, “Bitches know they can’t catch me,” and, “Bubblegum-pink Ferrari, yeah, I’m so bossy.” Charli XCX is doing it and breaking the rules by carefully playing by them. Watch, below: