Charli XCX, Christine and the Queens, and Caroline Polachek make main character music: Futuristic, avant-garde pop songs that place you—twirling, glitter-coated—at the center of the dancefloor. But a compelling main character can’t be just gloss; their music also channels the lonely confessional you had with your best friend in the bathroom right before.
Althought these three artists have worked together in different permutations in the past, it’s with “New Shapes,” a song from Charli’s forthcoming album CRASH (which will also include collaborations with A.G. Cook, Rina Sawayama, and Oneohtrix Point Never), that the full trio teams up for the first time.
With its towering swells of ’80s production, “New Shapes” feels overcome by heartache. The three singers’ claw at the wisps of a failing relationship—the titular “new shapes” signal their ineffective attempts to adopt new personalities and behaviors for the sake of a partner—as they traverse mountains of snare, blaring synth, and wailed backing vocals. Their perspectives complement one another nicely: Charli grapples with her tendency to run away, while Chris’ characteristically abstract imagery offers a temporary solution. In one of the song’s most heartbreaking lines, Polachek confesses that things would be better if she’d never met her lover in the first place.
“New Shapes” combines the euphoria of a Patrick Swayze dance number with the crushing depth of a Fleabag monologue: a celebration of a love too radioactive to last.