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Charli XCX Charli Asylum

Is there a pop star better suited to soundtrack these disorienting and hedonistic times than Charli XCX? Our patron saint of partying can craft a ballad about dropping ecstasy with a depth of feeling unrivalled in any of her peers, and while fans have prophesied her ascendance to pop royalty for some time, she has never sounded so sure of assuming this role herself than she does on Charli. Her third studio album is more immersive and exudes more confidence than anything in her catalogue thus far.

Doubling down on the lessons learned from her pair of 2017 mixtapes (specifically, how to effectively wrangle a corps of disparate guest artists), Charli elevates her artistry with an added emphasis on honest and vulnerable songwriting. The swoon-worthy croon on the tender White Mercedes and the melancholic new wave strut which fuels Cross You Out and Official all exemplify this tonal shift, but nothing comes close to the totemic power of Gone. Producer AG Cook’s cannon fire beats, a mesmerising appearance from Christine and the Queens, and a hook with brutally candid lyrics combine to make what already sounds like an instant classic.

Truthfully, Gone is such a strong offering that it can’t help but weaken the record’s ensuing mix of champagne-soaked floor-fillers and tear-stained confessionals. 1999 is a bop with a capital B-O-P and Shake It is a queer posse cut so futuristic it actually instills terror, but Charli’s most personal album functions best when it zeroes in on what drew us to her in the first place: her utterly captivating, wholly unique sense of self.