You get the impression it would be hard to keep a straight face in a conversation with Charli XCX. Her Twitter bio is “Girl Power—Round 2,” which leaves you wondering exactly who fought in Round 1 (Elizabeth Cady Stanton? Gloria Steinem? Baby Spice?), and when the bell sounded. The XCX officially stands for “Kiss Charli Kiss,” but Charli says she wanted it to stand for “Xrated Cunt Xrated.” She’s touring with Coldplay.
The video for “Nuclear Seasons” is a deliberately (one presumes) lo-fi affair involving mushroom clouds (obvi), wolves, and Charli giving the camera the kind of oh-excuse-me-did-I-just-flip-my-hair? looks you give your bedroom mirror when you’re a teenager singing along with moody electropop and fantasizing about being a precociously famous pop diva. In this case, however, Charli — born Charlotte Aitchison in Hertfordshire, UK — actually is a precociously famous pop diva, and that actually is her addictively listenable electropop song.
It’s only Charli’s less-than-faint whiff of ridiculousness that qualifies her as a guilty pleasure — she’s won stamps of approval from Pitchfork and SXSW, so putting “Nuclear Seasons” on your playlist earns you hipster cool points that you might not even score for listing the 80s tracks that producer Ariel Rechtshaid’s puréed into his mix. Born in 1992, Charli didn’t live through a minute of the 80s, but she lies languorously in this track like it’s a bed of soft-thorned roses (to use a simile that decade’s stars might appreciate).
The ear candy in “Nuclear Seasons” is so plentiful that it takes several listens to catch it all: the hand claps, the synth arpeggios, the lilting extended soprano syllables, the tealing bells, the swooshing distorted percussion, the sampled oh-OH-oh-ohs. In our 80s-mad moment (PLEASE GOD NEVER LET IT END), the likes of Bananarama and the Bangles come most immediately to mind, but it’s not hard to follow this track’s pedigree straight back to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.
It’s anyone’s guess what the future will hold for Charli XCX, but as long as Rechtshaid doesn’t marry her, hold her near-prisoner, threaten to entomb her in a gold coffin, and ultimately drive her to break out of their mansion by shattering a sliding glass door and running, bloodied, out the front gate… the world of pop music can count that as progress.