Music

Charli XCX Paints a Bright Future for the Art of Pop

The singer-songwriter gets candid about partying, the importance of representation in the music industry, and the one collaborator who “blew her away.” Photography Robin Harper Styling Kat Typaldos.
Reading time 10 minutes

In the gallery of pop, Charli XCX is one of the most prodigious curators. The last three years have truly showcased Charli’s full potential as both artist and A&R: her pristine ear for forward-facing pop, as well as her ability to assemble the most unexpected collaborators—artists, producers, writers and creative directors—in order to create streaming-era smash hits.

She started with 2016’s glossy Sophie-assisted Vroom Vroom, before turning her sights to the space between R&B, electro and pop on 2017’s Number 1 Angel and Pop 2, experimental mixtapes that feature collaborations with a who’s who of diverse, emerging (and underrated) musicians: Kim Petras, Brooke Candy, Tove Lo, Uffie, CupcaKKe, Pabllo Vittar, MØ, and Carly Rae Jepsen, among others.

 

[Photo: Charli wears Top Levi's Vintage, Pants Adam Selman, Earrings Jennifer Fisher, Beret and shoes Dior]

In the ten years or so since Charli first started uploading songs to her MySpace page, no single star has so perfectly captured what it means to be a fully actualized pop artist.  From the gothy new-wave of 2013’s True Romance, to the bratty sneer and punky, sticky-sweet sheen of her sophomore album, Sucker, the London singer-songwriter bared her unmistakable solo pop princess chops early on.

 

This year, Charli will take her next level pop to a new platform, one that is certain to elevate her position as one of the industry’s most innovative sure-things to new heights. She’ll join Taylor Swift and Camila Cabello on tour, hitting arenas around the globe for more than 50 dates and solidifying her status as a superstar of the genre, whether or not mainstream radio fully embraces her. (That’s not to say Charli hasn’t flirted with the Top 40 airwaves before—2014’s “Boom Clap” was a bona fide smash, and her output on inescapable hits like “Fancy” and “I Love It” still reverberate today.)

 

As for the future beyond that? Only one thing is certain: Charli XCX is already one step ahead of what’s around the bend. Below, she discusses working with Swift and Cabello, her favorite song off her new mixtape and why the conversation surrounding whether or not studio albums are still relevant is “complicated.”

ERICA RUSSELL You’re heading out on tour with Taylor Swift and Camila Cabello. What are you most looking forward to with this concert run?

 

CHARLI XCX I'm really excited to be around all this female energy. I think it will be so powerful. Both Camila and Taylor are such excellent songwriters so in a dream world, we would get some studio time too. That would be awesome.

 

ER If you ever recorded something with Taylor, what would that sound like?

 

C I'd actually love to do something super emo with her, like t.A.T.u’s “All the Things She Said”—oh my God, that would be amazing.

 

ER You’ve been in the studio with so many different writers, producers and artists over the years. Out of everyone you’ve ever worked with, who just absolutely blew your mind?

 

Honestly I'm not just saying this because you mentioned her earlier, but Camila really blew me away. I guess I just fell into that predictable, stupid mindset that people who have been placed into fabricated bands might not be the most prolific in the studio because they often, and unfairly, have very little say in their artistic process. I was totally proven wrong. Camila is so prolific and incredibly versatile and talented in the studio. And she's really only recently found her creative freedom, so I feel like this is just the beginning of her creative journey. She's going to go on to do so much incredible writing, for herself and probably other artists, too. She's amazing.

 

ER You recently tweeted that you “love listening to [your] own music.” That said, is there a particular track that you’re most connected to emotionally?

 

C I love “Track 10.” It's the last song on my latest mixtape, Pop 2. I love it because the production is like, my dream. It feels so epic and emotional. I just want to hear it loud in a club all the time. It makes me want to lose my mind in the best way possible.

 

ER Are there any songs you look back on and think, “I wish I did this one differently,” or even songs that make you cringe?

 

Oh yeah, there are loads like that! I think artists grow and some decisions I made even a couple of years ago, I'm now like, "Ahhh, what was I thinking!?" But that's just life. I like to live in the moment.

 

ER You perform and DJ frequently. What do you do to make sure you don’t get burnt out?

 

Honestly, I love partying. Throwing parties gives me life! I love throwing parties at my place in L.A. We just invite everyone we know and get them to bring people we don't know and then it kind of ends up in this crazy rave of friends and strangers that often gets shut down by the police, but I love it. I'm excited by chaos. I live for chaos!

 

Self care has been hard for me to get into just because I hate sitting still, but recently I've been going out into nature a bit more to just clear my head. I really like climbing rocks in Joshua Tree.

 

ER What are you going to do with the album that you and A.G. cooked up in just one day?

 

C One song ended up on the mixtape, "I Got It." Everything else... I'm not sure yet. Maybe it will surface one day.

 

ER You’ve been traveling a ton to China the past few months. How has that been?

 

There are a lot of things that really confuse me about China, and there are a lot of things I love. I love that hip-hop culture is growing there and I love that the youth culture there is fresh and sometimes feels dangerous. It's almost a bit rebellious, you know, to do what you want or say what you want over there. I also love the food. Like dude, Chinese food from China is on another level.

 

ER You’re so involved when it comes to your fans, whether you’re doing Q&As on Twitter or RTing funny memes they make of you. How have the Angels impacted you as a person?

 

C I honestly feel like we're very similar. Obviously, you connect with people who you understand, and I just feel like they really get me and who I am. It's like, we just share the same personality or something. They get my jokes and find me funny and I feel the same way about them. We feel like we're on a level together. They also have great taste. They put me on to CupcaKke and so many other people!

 

ER Are there any upcoming collaborations with other artists you can dish on?

 

C None yet, I'm going solo for a while. But I've been in the studio a lot with Tove Lo and also Alma. We've been writing a lot together for Alma and it's been cool.

 

ER The overall lack of representation for women artists at the Grammys this year opened up a lot of critical conversations. What still needs to change in the industry, whether it’s for women, LGBTQ artists, artists of color, etc.?

 

Basically all the things you mentioned need to change. Representation across all of those areas is key, and also education across those areas and cultures is key. I love collaborating with people from all different areas of the world, people who have led different lives than me, people who come from different places and have different things to say. I feel like I can learn things from all new people I meet.

 

ER As music listening culture shifts and streaming continues to rise, do you think albums will become less imperative for artists? Are mixtapes and EPs the future?

 

C Oh God, I don't know. This conversation stresses me out. I used to think that the album was dead, but now I'm not so sure. I think the album is dead as a "product" for a label unless you're like Taylor or Shawn Mendes or Beyonce—like a huge artist. you know? But I don't think the album is ever dead for the fans. Whether you're someone with a million fans or ten fans, an album will mean something huge for them. So I'm not really sure. It's complicated.

 

ER What does the future of pop look and sound like?

 

Charli XCX.

Listen to Pop 2, below: 

Makeup Lilly Keys (Exclusive Artists) using Cle De Peau Beaute

Hair Sami Knight (Starworks Group)

Photo Assistants Carl Duquette and Alexandre Jaras

Stylist Assistants Kindall Almond, Shari Bisnaught, Olivia Typaldos

Location and Equipment Smashbox Studio

Catering City Kitchen

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