AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Charlotte Aitchison, better known as Charli XCX, is an accomplished pop songwriter with credits on some big hits in recent years.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LOVE IT")
ICONA POP: (Singing) I crashed my car into the bridge. I don't care. I love it.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FANCY")
IGGY AZALEA: I'm so fancy. You already know. I'm in the fast lane from LA to Tokyo.
CORNISH: Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" and Icona Pop's "I Love It," and Charli XCX is also a rising pop star in her own right. Her second album, "Sucker," was released yesterday, and our critic, Will Hermes, says it's one of the year's best.
WILL HERMES, BYLINE: Pop music has been defined this year by young women who come across as self-assured and self-directed. And while Taylor Swift sold more records and pulled more headlines, Charli XCX has made the year's most fabulous pop record, in part by updating a sound and attitude that seemed near irrelevant to the modern pop machine - punk rock.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONDON QUEEN")
CHARLOTTE AITCHISON: (Singing) Ride away from Holloway. I said, mom, this isn't a holiday. Listen up. I ain't coming back 'till I can fill the shack up with all-gold plaques. Soon come - home run. Knock it out the park with a baseball bat. When I'm driving on the wrong side of the road, I feel like JFK, you know.
HERMES: But this record is not a nostalgia trip. "Sucker" is shaped by electronic dance music, which Charlie XCX grew up on in England, rhyming over beats at clubs. It's also informed by the current obsessions of pop and hip-hop. You sense she's making fun of money-fixated superstars on the song "Gold Coins," but she clearly wants to have her cake and eat it, too.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOLD COINS")
AITCHISON: (Singing) Gold coins everywhere, dollars up in the air. It's a billionaire's love affair. Gold coins out the window. Money pours like the rain forest, and I'mma spend it like I don't care.
HERMES: A big part of Charli XCX's charm is this air of self-awareness, that she's having a blast playing pop star while critiquing the whole enterprise. After all, the album's catchy title track is basically a string of obscenities, probably not the best way to get invited onto "The Today Show."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BREAK THE RULES")
AITCHISON: (Singing) I don't want to go to school. I just want to break the rules.
HERMES: But above all, as she's already demonstrated on other people's records, Charli XCX understands how to kick you in the head with a song hook.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BREAK THE RULES")
AITCHISON: (Singing) I don't want to go to school. I just want to break the rules. I don't want to go to school. I just want to break the rules. Boys and girls across the world, putting on our dancing shoes. Going to the discotheque, getting loud and getting legs. I don't want to go to school. I just want to break the rules.
HERMES: "Sucker" remodels the punk pop subgenre for another generation of disaffected pleasure seekers, and it lives up to the tradition of Blondie and the Ramons, artists who, like Charli XCX, understood the fine line between big, dumb pop songs and brilliantly big, dumb pop songs.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOOM CLAP")
AITCHISON: (Singing) This must be love. Boom, clap. The sound of my heart. The beat goes on and on and on and on. Boom, clap. You make me feel good. Come on to me. Come on to me now. Boom, clap.
CORNISH: The new album from Charlie XCX is called "Sucker." Our critic, Will Hermes, is author of the book "Love Goes To Buildings On Fire."
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