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Saturday, July 20, 2024
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    HomeEntertainmentCharli XCX and Lorde End the Rumors on a Refreshing Remix

    Charli XCX and Lorde End the Rumors on a Refreshing Remix

    To a lot of people these days, “ambivalent pop music” is an oxymoron. Catchy hooks tend to streamline complex emotions into universal, legible sentiments, temporarily dividing the world into teams: the heartbreakers vs. the victims, the happy vs. the sad, the boys vs. the girls. Infectious as they are, many of the songs on Charli XCX’s incisive sixth album, “Brat,” refuse to take sides, making them difficult to discuss in the explainer-generating, SEO-baiting grammar of modern pop standom. How refreshing.

    Charli never mentioned Lorde by name on the album’s knotty ninth track, “Girl, So Confusing,” but all signs pointed to her being the somewhat socially awkward, poetry-loving doppelgänger to whom the song is addressed. (“People say we’re alike, they say we’ve got the same hair,” Charli sings, winking at those of us who remember when an interviewer asked her about writing Lorde’s “Royals.”)

    It was less clear how we were supposed to understand this song in the limited and polarized language of 2020s musical fandom, which pits female pop stars against one another like pro athletes while still insisting that they “support women” at all times with a benevolent grin. “Sometimes I think you might hate me, sometimes I think I might hate you,” Charli babbles atop a strobe-lit A.G. Cook beat, one of the many “wait, are you even allowed to say that anymore?” moments on “Brat.” The song strains the vocabulary of clickbait. Is this a “diss track” or the start of a “feud”? Are the girlies fighting? And if they are, what could Lorde possibly be doing in the V.I.P. section of Charli’s recent show?

    It’s complicated, and — blessedly — so is the surprise remix on which Lorde appears, firing off her first new lyrics in three years. After Charli unloads her feelings and projections in that first verse, Lorde responds with the run-on intensity of a late-night voice note: “You’d always say, ‘let’s go out,’ but then I’d cancel last minute,” the New Zealander confesses, “I was so lost in my head and scared to be in your pictures.” She then reveals, devastatingly, that she’s been “at war with my body,” insecure about fluctuations in her weight, and that the enigmatic aura she’s created is actually a stifling defense mechanism. That she does it all so succinctly in a cadence that effortlessly matches Cook’s beat should make everyone excited for her next album, whenever it arrives.

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