Steps in the right direction.
Charli XCX – SUCKER (Atlantic. 2014)
Spare me the lecture on her sudden maturity – she’s only 22 and her snarkiest lyrical barb is “Fuck you, sucker.” But it’s that same brand of brash simplicity which makes this record so endearing. Where she was too concerned with brooding and dark-wave aura on her 2013 major label debut, an album I admittedly overrated, here she decides to imitate Joey Ramone instead of Robert Smith. Each track comes with a riff, a hook and a chorus so delightful in its brevity you’d swear she was a seasoned pro at this shit. With music big enough to fill arenas, she keeps it quaint by playing the starlet next door. Though she dreams of perpetual fame and a bottomless bank account (“Gold Coins”), she’s not above ditching school (“Break the Rules”) and raging with friends (“Die Tonight”). Another improvement aside from her persona is the love songs. Once gloomy and full of bad poetry, here they are sensitive and thoughtful without losing an ounce of power. May she stay forever young. GRADE: A-
Jazmine Sullivan – Reality Show (RCA)
The first notable R&B album of 2015 would be easier to enjoy if she kept her story straight. One of my favorite tracks is “Stupid Girl,” a minor key doo-wop that serves as a cautionary tale for ladies tempted by double-crossing men. Fair enough, but the message is undercut considering the song follows “#HoodLove,” in which she vows to go to jail for her no-good boy toy because “that’s what a real bitch do.” I’m game for jammers centered on bad romance, but the Bonnie and Clyde shtick is forced and silly. That’s not to say she can’t be sassy and believable. She out-hustles the competition on “Mascara,” a slow burner which flaunts her natural physique and tiresome work ethic while critiquing societal eminence. A Philly native on the up-and-come since she was 15, she wishes for the break she damn well deserves on “Silver Lining,” where she’d rather win the lottery than score a Top 10 hit. Here’s hoping she scores a winner one way or another. GRADE: A-