REVIEW: Charli XCX’s “Good Ones” marks her return to radio-ready pop
It’s been a second since Charli XCX embraced her goth pop origins. If you’ve been watching the electro-pop singer-songwriter since her True Romance era, you will remember that Charli made a name for herself over dark new wave-inspired synths. Her latest single, “Good Ones,” takes inspiration from her past, while updating it for her hyperpop-hungry audience. How successful it is at satisfying that audience is up in the air, but nevertheless it provides a much-needed moment of traditional dance beats in a pop landscape currently ruled by soft balladry.
Charli has been using TikTok recently to connect with her fans. Though she’s far from the only pop star to turn to the medium for promo, she’s been more successful at it than most, able to turn Pop 2 track “Unlock It (Lock It)” into a bonafide viral hit with a choreographed dance to boot. Her comments sections are awash with “step on me, mommy”’s and declarations of queendom, as they rightfully should be. A few days prior to the official “Good Ones” release, it was added as a sound on TikTok for fans to play with to their hearts’ content. What happened instead was a small-but-vocal backlash to the song's “basic” sound. Indeed, compared to her recent experimental output, “Good Ones” appears almost quaint in its straightforward break-up song structure and lack of beat-driven breakdown. That being said, it’s never boring; its synths drive right into your brain and beg you to go out to the nearest gay club immediately.
What those fans miss in their criticism is that this may be Charli’s last chance at traditional pop stardom. “Good Ones” marks the beginning of the end of her contract with Atlantic Records. Charli has big ambitions as a pop artist; this is, after all, the same person who began performing at raves at the age of fourteen. The money a label like Atlantic will give you to play with extravagant videos, like the one for this single, isn’t something to sniff at, but you need to give them something they can sell. “Good Ones” manages to be both marketable and exciting, even if it isn’t quite as left of center as any of the tracks off of her last record, how i’m feeling now. It sounds like the kind of music she wanted to be making at the most ambitious beginnings of her career, but with the skill of someone who has years of creation behind her.
Whether you love Charli for her pop bangers or for her willingness to push boundaries in an often-stale genre, there’s something in “Good Ones” for almost everyone. As a True Romance stan, I’m more than satisfied. If it really is too basic for you, the Chromatica remix album is just a click away, after all.