“X is a truth you can feel, but not confirm,” reads the opening line of Allie X’s conceptual explanation. It’s the idea that every personality is craftable, that each being can be exactly what they wish to be outside of social constructs and right and wrong. “X” is the driving idea behind Allie X, an enigmatic persona and musical mastermind, creating conscious pop with a dark twist.
Alexandra Hughes, also known as Allie X, began releasing music in 2015 and has created a deep-pop world of her own outside of mainstream radio waves and common conversations. Her message is a deceivingly-light house of mirrors, one in which meaning and sound are brought into question, each obvious facade feeling darker and more compelling than the last.
CollXtion II, Allie X’s second LP, released via Twin Music in June 2017, is a start-to-finish masterpiece with energetic, sustainable pop tracks built for sing-alongs and self-celebration.
Listen: CollXtion II – Allie X
The album is a bit of a puzzle, with pieces that feel like a page out of a twisted mind balanced with perfect bubblegum pop jams. Together, it creates an air of mystery around Allie X, a synth-pop queen with a little bit of bite. It’s enough to crown her among the likes of the musically-deranged Melanie Martinez, yet also offer a spot aside those like Katy Perry and Demi Lovato. Allie X is a taste of Halloween in the middle of summer, a windows-down jam with an unsettling edge. She’s a clear character, an image that may never be fully transparent.
The album’s strength doesn’t lie in one spot alone. Production wise, it’s strategically filled with up-and-coming pop sounds. It leans heavily on light synth progressions, yet doesn’t follow the common trend of overly-synthed, watered down vocals. Every sound is complementary to Hughes’ vocals, holding true to classic pop standards. “Paper Love,” a standout single from the album, is a high point in the album’s production, incorporating whistles and an obvious bassline. “Need You” plays with synthetically-laced vocals, yet doesn’t overdo the concept. It keeps a genuine nature to each inflection, yet capitalizes on the concept which has brought success to acts like The Japanese House and The 1975.
Watch: “Paper Love” – Allie X
Lyrically, the album is bulletproof. No line feels like filler-text: it’s all created with a purpose, and a clever one at that. Written over contagiously catchy tunes, each line is just as memorable as its beat. It’s a large victory for Hughes compared to a pop world many times relying solely on danceability and persona-strength.
The retro dance track “Vintage” shines with lyrically-melodic strength with chorus lines like “We’ve got the classic image, we’ve got the glossy finish, bringing back all that good shit, our love is vintage.” Creative in content, the lyrics feel fun, but timed perfectly with such full production gives them singable amo, a combination that makes the song a charismatic force from any angle. This trend is seen throughout the album; “Casanova,” is another dance-club strength with easily-interpretable lyrics and a unique beat.
“Lifted” speaks of staying high, whether metaphorically or literally, with a reggae influence. “That’s So Us” is a best-friend anthem for the ages, relatable to select listeners, but conceptually universal. “Need You” is an individualistic power anthem about letting go of a lost friend.
Listen: “That’s So Us” – Allie X
The album’s concepts are not foreign: everything has been said before. But Allie X gives new life and meaning to classic concepts, visiting them in her own hypnotic and alluring way. Though the messages are mostly innocent, there’s something that feels R-rated about the perfect pop. It’s an inexpiable vibe, one that clarifies the collection as an adult production. It’s in Hughes’ ability to preserve her personality and dare to be controversial, whether in promotional images of herself on a train platform with a moth in her mouth or her decision to allow explicit tunes on her tracklist.
Allie X’s mission is clear: to be unapologetically real, all while allowing character-level whimsical elements to make the cut. It’s what “X” stands for: the ability to be anything and anyone. Hughes is not shy about the idea, speaking out for the rights of the LGBTQ community and expressing her support of all humans and ways of life. While CollXtion II feels far less political in content, it embodies the message by displaying a tangible persona stitched together with quirks and obvious talent.
The album is easy listening for pop fans of any genre: Allie X is up-and-coming enough to be considered “indie,” yet powerful enough to fall into the broader pool of radio-ready artists. There is no gender, no genre, no guide for Hughes’ tracks. The collection simply displays the creative mind of a woman with a goal to advance acceptance of every personality type. It’s an album for the outcasts and the celebrated, relatable in every area and universally forgiving.
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