Can we make sure all pop songs are as deliciously silly and unpretentious as this?
9:23am on the Jubilee line. The sweat is dripping down my back. A group of Spanish high school kids stare at me, noting my distress. I haven’t felt this hot since, well, yesterday, but I’m almost certain that Charli XCX’s new song could save us from all of this.
You see ‘Girls Night Out’, the latest bubblegum banger to be lifted from the British pop juggernaut’s hotly anticipated third record, is the definitive antidote to everything bad in our lives. This song could reverse the effects of global warming. It could slash the cost of living in London to the price of a bottle of Lambrini. It’s skin-cleansing; life-affirming – everything Charli XCX fans have ever wanted.
‘Girls Night Out’ is the Robinson’s Fruit Shoot to Ariana Grande’s spotless, San Pellegrino pop. Both are brilliant, but the former captures how so-called “low-brow” songs can give us infinite, almost excessive levels of pleasure. So grandiose, so gloriously tacky that our unworthy brains can barely handle it. Eight hours after its release, I reckon I’d listened to this song at least 28 times – and I was asleep for six of those.
Produced by SOPHIE and Stargate (the Swedish production duo behind S Club 7’s debut album), it’s reminiscent of every song you danced along to at a primary school disco back in the day. “Goin’ out on the weekend, gettin’ dressed with my girls. Put on my favorite lip gloss: Cherry Garcia swirl,” Charli sings to us, talking us through her pre-party routine. Whether you like it or not, tonight is all about face glitter, girl power and sparkly trainers – lads in flame shirts wearing too much Lynx Africa and hair gel are politely asked to take a step back.
“No boys, no boys!” this cis man sings along to himself, resisting the temptation to unleash his index finger and wag it sassily at the builder sitting across from him on the tube. “God,” he thinks to himself. “This song is so good.”
‘Girls Night Out’ – unlike Focus and No Angel, Charli’s other new cuts – has been doing the rounds during live shows for a while now. SOPHIE first debuted it during a Brooklyn DJ set back in 2015, and since then it’s been embraced by Charli’s most fervent fans as one of her strongest unreleased tracks, destined for banger status if it were actually to be released by her label. By the time the demo leaked online in summer 2017, the gay community had gone wild for it, so much so that she closed her monumental Pop 2 show at Village Underground with it last month, joined on stage by the likes of Rina Sawayama, RAYE and SOPHIE herself.
It takes real talent to be able to flit between masterful, complex songs like ‘Track 10‘ and the sugary, seemingly “throwaway” stuff too, but ‘Girls Night Out’ proves that Charli XCX is a popstar with the creative capacity to do both. She makes her fans feel excellent about themselves in the process too. As the genre hurtles down a darkly political, often personal wormhole, songs like this reaffirm the idea that pop music works best when it doesn’t give a fuck about being taken seriously.