While Charli may be playing with fire thematically and visually, sonically things tend to stay safe. In the videos and press photos, she’s glammed up to the gods, dancing on her own grave, and splattered with blood. With everything so big and audacious, promising not just a new era but something so subversive, most of the songs themselves fall short of those expectationsnothing too different from any Top 40 hit. There is a bit of Charli’s typical edge present, especially on tracks like “Move Me,” but many fail to grasp true pop bliss or something truly revolutionary. Even the soft, glimmering ’70s-influenced ballad “Every Rule”—a track in a style not often utilized by the singer—fears to stray into unknown territory.

Just as songs like “Used To Know Me” and “Lightning” stay the straight and narrow when it comes to pop offerings, “Baby” comes forth with urgency. Here, Charli taps into the crucial element of any great pop album: a sense of control. It’s gripping, sensual, and high energy, akin to Spears’ “If U Seek Amy.” Charli establishes that she’s in charge, with racy synths undercutting her as she says “Imma fuck you up.” It peaks on the bad girl energy that surges throughout the album. And if being bad is the most fun a girl can have, then these moments of naughtiness are the most fun spots on CRASH.

The lasting influence of disco and ’70s pop has lead to great contemporary albums by Dua Lipa, Jessie Ware, and Carly Rae Jepsen, who flirt with these sounds well enough for it to sound effortless. CRASH is not of the same caliber, with synth characteristics and basslines plucked from other works rather than transformed into new ideas. “Good Ones” and “Beg For You” sound lifted from hit pop singles of the early ’00s, giving a sense that Charli is cosplaying as a major pop star rather than being one. Rather than testing the trappings of pop, she’s stuck in them.

Overall, CRASH’s crystal clear production and iron-clad writing has all of the force behind it to propel the album into the stratosphere. But instead of putting the pedal to the metal in pursuit of a high camp sound, it stays in the slow lane. While it reaches the same destination—a mainstream pop album—it’s much less fun this way.