What's the difference between a mixtape and an album? Gone are the days of recording songs off the radio and on to a cassette to listen to later or impress a potential date. In hip-hop terms, a mixtape is generally an independently created and released recording, but nowadays it's pretty synonymous with the album. Except if it underperforms, well...it wasn't the "proper" album, right?
That's a shame because 'Number 1 Angel', Charli XCX's new mixtape, deserves to be considered a full album alongside 'True Romance' and 'Sucker'. This is more than just a stopgap until the next album. It marks a consolidation of her past records whilst looking to a new future.
Really, the mixtape label hints at the hip-hop influences on much of the record. The provocative cover alone drips with audacious, sexualised glamour, before opening track Dreamer sets a moody tone with its deep, booming synths, trap beats and rap-singing. Blame It On You, White Roses (a nod to Black Roses from her debut?) and Drugs all riff on the same sound, creating a structured sense of continuity and mirroring Aitchison's sexualised image. Features from Uffie, Abra and CupcakKe only add to the underground authenticity.
The darker sound also harks back to her debut and its gothic edge, but really 'Number 1 Angel' is packed with the pop hooks we've come to expect from Charli XCX. Babygirl fizzes with 80s glitter and juicy basslines, whilst ILY2 has a stomping rock vibe reminiscent of 'Sucker' that Sky Ferreira would be jealous of. Elsewhere, MØ - something of Aitchison's Danish equivalent - crops up on the buoyant 3AM (Pull Up), Roll With Me is full of vibrant, stabbing synths, and although Brit producer SOPHIE's influence (said to be involved in Aitchison's third album) is in much of this mixtape, it's most pronounced in the kinetic textures of closer Lipgloss.
Is 'Number 1 Angel' that third album in disguise, an album in mixtape clothing? It's clear that Charli XCX is an artist with a wealth of varied influences and a willingness to experiment. If this mixtape is just a quick release before the main event, it's deserving of a lot more fanfare.
Listen: 'Number 1 Angel' is out now.