Annot(e)tations is a column by Austin Nguyen that shines a light on the hidden gems of recently released albums or singles that may have flown under your radar. This week, he discusses Charli XCX’s “Click (feat. Kim Petras & Tommy Cash).”
There was a time in the world when Charlotte Aitchson’s music seemed curated for the Billboard Hot 100, earworms like Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Icona Pop’s “I Don’t Care” made coherent and palatable to the mainstream through the roaring, head-banging choruses she penned as a mere feature.
Since then, Charli XCX has become more polarizing, and it’s a quality she’s well aware of; in her cover story for Pitchfork, she told Bobby Finger, “I’m beginning to feel like the people who know, know. And the people who don’t? They wouldn’t get it anyway.”
I’ve been on both sides. It seemed impossible for me to get past the first track on “Number 1 Angel,” writing “Dreamer” off as an asinine attempt at a rhyme scheme (I still cringe a bit at the phrase “I’m a dreamer/ step, step out the beamer”), and I used to think the only function of the cues from PC Music was niché memes (“Vroom Vroom” gave me a decent laugh when the track appeared in my Instagram feed).
But as the artists themselves grow, become more and more confident in their own unique sound, so do the opinions of their fans and critics. “Out Of My Head (feat. Tove Lo and ALMA)” from “Pop 2” spliced melancholia and a give-zero-fu*** mentality together into one song, maybe even one line (“Party with my tears”) while “Backseat (feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)” floated metropolitan disillusionment on top of wistful and warped strobe-light dissonance.
A lukewarm, middle-ground reaction to Charli XCX’s songs seems rare — you’re either an Avid Stan or the Scoffing “You call this music?” Purist — and the same can be said about “Click (feat. Kim Petras and Tommy Cash).”
In short, if you’re looking for innocuous music along the lines of Shawn Mendes or Post Malone, this is NOT your stop.
Keep riding along the tracks of algorithmic panic towards the U.S. Top 50 playlist for those streaming numbers, but for those who stayed, full disclosure: “Click” is the reason why category (1) continues to exist, an iconoclastic flex against the mainstream with the grating and maximalist luster definitive of post-post-mainstream Charli XCX.
Even from the start, neon flair dominates “Click” with its synth bass hook, the stepwise line revving to life before its metallic roar becomes translated into Charli XCX’s lyrics, a montage of fame and a barrage of unabashed flaunts: “Get what I want like ‘click’ / They wanna pic like ‘click’ / Cheers with the girls like ‘click’ / Cash register goes ‘click’ / You can’t f*** with my clique.”
What makes the confidence of “7 Rings” feel low-key and tame in comparison though is the self-callbacks. From “Vroom Vroom” references (“Pull up, vroom vroom, oh sh**”) to idiosyncratic woot woots, Charli XCX shows up and shows out unapologetically — and not just lyrically, but sonically.
The synth bass still squirms off-key as sound is squeezed out of it the same way “Vroom Vroom EP” collaborator SOPHIE has done in the past, but the singer loses none of her energy in the scraping chaos.
Kim Petras follows suit in the second verse, proving to be the perfect complement and reiteration of Charli XCX’s ostentation and effulgence.
Sure, lines like “Cookies super sweet / Put it on a tray” teeter towards tasteless rhythmic filler, but for a song relying solely on its exuberant delivery and Bop Status, spinning “Kim Possible” from Kim Petras isn’t meant to be taken seriously; it’s just tact wordplay in hyperspeed action that keeps the ~ vibe ~ going.
And as if that weren’t enough, Tommy Cash jumps on the track to turn “Click” into the stomping grounds of a rave in Sheck-Wes style as he shouts, “FOR MY CLIQUE, let me hashtag/ WE BE LIT,” like a “Mo Bamba” for the queers.
A lull of glittery synths follows before Charli XCX comes in for the last chorus, a period for this anthem, but you won’t find redundancy here. Instead of rehashing everything with a final belt or tag (done by almost everyone who charts from Camila Cabello in “Shameless” to Post Malone in “Circles”), Charli XCX can’t even be bothered to finish her own phrase, ends the words of “Click” with a “Charli’s up in this…,” and mic drops out.
The bass glitches out to finish the song out alongside arcade-game-like synths, whirring around and skittering against the inside walls of the machine before being pulverized.
And that’s a stunt that few can pull off, and one that just (pun very much intended) *clicks* for me.