The first album from the future Baddest Bitch in Pop Music Charli XCX, “True Romance” is the result of three years of recording and production, and maybe this is just because I listened to this album after she already had experience working with PC Music, but I never held this record as close to my heart as many people have. That said, this isn’t to say I don’t like it - in fact, I think a lot of what is explored here are early signs of what’s to come on future projects.

Created mainly with Ariel Rechtshaid and Justin Raisen, Charli develops and flexes her ability to create catchy hooks and musical ear worms on top of 80’s inspired synth-pop and dark wave. Charli already proves she’s able to create emotionally provocative pop that outshines many of her peers and an eagerness to combine those great pop sensibilities with more experimental ideas. Sure, I don’t think her writing is as strong as it would later become, but that’s more from her lack of experience than anything, and she was still very far ahead compared to her peers.

Where “True Romance” struggles is with its production. On some songs, most notably on the three track run “Stay Away”, “Set Me Free”, and “Grins”, the producers create an experimental and lush sound that compliments Charli very well. However, there are a handful tracks here have a problem with either making bizarre synth and instrument choices that don’t fit the song or just having so many synths and instruments that you can’t tell what’s going on anymore.

That said, while I think this record is flawed in execution and isn’t as exciting as what Charli would eventually do later in her career, I still think it’s an entertaining body of work. There’s quite a few overlooked gems on this record, and “True Romance” was a necessary step for Charli XCX to develop into the eclectic and visionary artist she is today.

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