Glitzy and outspoken, Charli XCX tells us about her plans for the future of pop, dealing with the spotlight, and her new album Sucker
Popstars often take a while to find their place in the commercial industry, but for Charli XCX, it couldn’t have happened more naturally. The 22-year-old songstress from Cambridge is the rising pop princess you might not yet recognise by name, but give it a few months and you won’t be able to avoid her. Born Charlotte Aitchison, Charli XCX is the forthright force behind Icona Pop track ‘I Love It’, and the brawny voice in the chorus of Iggy Azalea’s ‘Fancy’ – now one of the best-selling singles of all time.
“So I’m just finishing up this tour with Katy Perry”, she tells us across the line in Latvia. “She just kind of asked me if I wanted to go, and I said yes. I don’t get to play much in Europe so I thought it would be a really cool tour to be on.” Charli continues, with an air of cool nonchalance, “The crowds have been awesome, and the stages are huge. I feel very at home on them.”
Charli began her career seriously at the age of 14, performing at illegal raves in London. “Even though most people only really began to hear of me last year, I’ve been doing this since I was very young. It feels like a very long journey for me, which has enabled me to stay pretty level-headed throughout the whole process.” With barely any time to breathe between constant touring and writing, Charli lets us in on how she deals with the sudden superstardom. “I’ve realised I’m not very sociable when I tour. But I have some really great best friends who I’m always in touch with, who keep me grounded. So I don’t feel like I’m an arsehole, most of the time…well, maybe sometimes, but I think that’s kind of allowed in this industry.”
Since Charli’s second album, True Romance, was released in 2013, her approaches to writing pop music have already developed. Named after the 1993 Quentin Tarantino film, True Romance covered her romantic past; her latest album, Sucker (2014), hails from a very different place. “Sucker is very honest. It came from a place of aggression. I wanted to make some aggressive pop music- like, bitchy pop music – to show that girls can also get angry too, you know? And basically I wrote about everything from relationships and masturbating to money and the music industry.”
Though Charli claims her relationship with the industry is far from hostile. “When I was younger, I felt like I really had to fight for everything that I believed in. I had to prove that my ideas were better than someone else’s, you know? I think that was partially because I’m a girl and partially because I was very young. But, because I did that from the second I got signed, my record label and I now have a great understanding. They really trust me and they let me do my thing, which is quite rare for major record labels.”
It looks like Charli XCX will always be the one to call the shots. Disclosing her grand plans for the future of pop, she says, “I want to have an empire. I want to have my own record label and my own publishing company – which I’m already working on now. I already manage artists. The music industry now lends so well to the artists having control rather than the record labels, which is really cool.”
On the artists she hopes to cultivate, Charli continues, “I’d just like to create artists that were more flamboyant. I feel like a lot of people are so media trained and scared of what the right and wrong thing to say is these days. The whole idea of like, the crazy rock and roll side of the music industry is kind of gone. I think it would be amazing to create a star who was all of those things again.”
Drawing inspiration largely from photographers and films, Charli lets us in on her plans for Sucker live shows. “It’s gonna be beautiful. I just got this huge inflatable lollipop, and I have these amplifiers that light up. It kind of looks like a Japanese game show.” Citing photographer David LaChapelle as one of her key visual influences, Charli also recalls the opening sequence of musical film Grease (1978). “When the credits roll at the beginning, there’s that awesome cartoon sequence where the Pink Ladies and T-Birds are getting ready for school. I kind of want my stage show to feel like a bit like those opening credits.”
Charli’s chart-topping track ‘Boom Clap’ was selected to appear on the soundtrack to Josh Boone’s The Fault in Our Stars (2014), tapping into her long-brewed desire to write for film. “I didn’t actually write it for the movie though. I’ve always wanted to write a song specifically for a movie, but with ‘Boom Clap’ they just heard it and liked it, and felt it was right for the movie.” But an opportunity to write specifically for the screen came soon after, with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014), the soundtrack of which Lorde curated.
“I wrote the track ‘Kingdom’ with my friend Rostam Batmanglij from Vampire Weekend. We had just been at a Miley Cyrus show in LA, and we came back and were both really fucked up. I lay on top of his piano and we wrote this song, which we thought would be terrible. But it was alright, and Lorde ended up loving it. Then Simon le Bon ended up being on it too, which was kind of weird but it worked well on the soundtrack.”
Unlike some commercial pop figures, Charli XCX has a clear opinion on what is important when it comes to reaching for the top. “In the end, it’s just about making good music. If you make bad music, there’s no hope. You have to make work that if people heard it in ten years’ time you would still be proud of it. If you still think it would be relevant then, you’re probably making good music.”
Catch Charli XCX at the Music Zone, KITEC, on Monday 20th April, courtesy of Your Mum.
Online version of the article on Issuu, click here [here].