Since her debut, Charli XCX has been a dynamic artist in the pop music industry, with her sound shifting based on passion and self-reflection. Her recent single “Boys” broke the Internet, with the video reversing the male gaze and featuring prominent male artists in pop culture today. Charli has not always had this party-girl or pop-music vibe, but it has brought her to the forefront of the experimental pop industry. She’s the Paris Hilton of 2017, just with less autotune and reality television features.
I first discovered Charli in 2013 af- ter hearing a friend talk about her de- but album, “True Romance.” Follow- ing a great deal of success with this work in the alternative pop industry, Charli opened for the beautiful Mari- na and the Diamonds during her Elec- tra Heart tour, and the two formed a close relationship, even collaborating on the brilliant not-on-iTunes single “Just Desserts.”
“True Romance” is excellent alter- native pop music, with a just-right combination of teen angst and ro- mance. She quickly became one of my favorite artists, and her and Marina’s work defined the second half of my junior year in high school. Yes, I was that angsty teen.
“True Romance” opens with “Nuclear Seasons,” which has an ominous, heartracing intro that still gets to me. The distorted lyrics “No one is forever” are uttered in the first few seconds. “Cause I didn’t burn my skin in a blaze of glory / I come out your hands, I won’t say I’m sorry” and the refrain “We survived nuclear seasons (Good times don’t last)” define the entire album.
The track “Grins” reiterates these themes. “I can’t quite hear what you’re saying / Because my body started shaking. Beaches and oceans, earth is quaking / That’s my heart that you were breaking.” The outro echoes “Nuclear Seasons,” with “No one lives forever” repeating as the song fades out.
Overall, “True Romance” is Charli’s best work, but it did not define her as an artist. Each subsequent work she has released has shifted her sound, but not for worse. Artists should produce music that they are proud of, and I can tell that Charli is really happy with where her sound and self-perception lie today.
In 2014, Charli was featured on the soundtrack for “The Fault in Our Stars” with the single “Boom Clap,” in addition to a significant feature on Iggy (Igloo) Azalea’s “Fancy.” Both launched her to mainstream success, and suddenly people recognized the name Charli XCX and, unfortunately, had no idea who Marina and the Diamonds was. Any song my mom knows the lyrics to is automatically terrible, and thus I refuse to believe that “Boom Clap” exists. I don’t know it. But “Fancy” and its “Clueless”-themed music video will always be iconic.
Charli released her second full-length album “Sucker” in 2014, and this continued her venturing into conventional dance pop. It’s definitely not the best album, and you could argue that it’s her worst, but I think it’s still noteworthy, as its experimental nature allowed Charli to continue to find her sound. No song actually has depth, and at this point, I was definitely not a huge fan of Charli or her music. “Famous,” “Doing it” and “Break the Rules” are mediocre tracks at best, and I could probably last about a minute into each one before begging someone to skip to any other song. Sorry, Charli baby.
With that said, Charli is still a fantastic songwriter, and the lyrics in “Break the Rules” “I’m such a star / Queen Boulevard / Blaze through the dark” are stellar. Just the instrumentals and vocals that accompany them need a ton of work. Charli has writing credits for some of the biggest songs in pop music in the last decade, including “I Love It,” “Fancy” and “Same Old Love.” She is a lot more capable than you might believe.
Her sound took an electronic turn with the release of the EP “Vroom Vroom.” While it was quite different than her earlier music, I liked it a great deal more than “Sucker.” The title track is an absolute jam, and I’m still just as likely to bop to it as I was at its release in 2015.
Its hook begins “Bubblegum-pink Ferrari, yeah I’m so bossy / Speeding like Alonso just to crash your party. People are going’ loco when I’m pullin’ up, taking’ your puppy / Don’t think about consequences, cause they’re never gonna stop me.” When driving my now-dead Volkswa- gen Beetle and blasting this song after it came out, the lyrics “Bitches know they can’t catch me / Cute, sexy and my ride’s sporty” had me living.
While I was definitely ambivalent at first, Charli’s recent release of her mixtape “Number 1 Angel” has been my favorite work she has produced since “True Romance.” Its production, sound and all-female collaborations are brilliant, even featuring the iconic Cupcakke. The 10 songs go beyond the definition of experimental pop, and it does not feel as heavy as a full- length album. “Dreamer,” “Roll With Me” and “White Roses” are noteworthy tracks.
“Dreamer” opens with the lyrics, “I’m a dreamer / Step, step out the Beemer / ‘Bout to do it big / Stretch stretch limousine-uh.” I know it doesn’t seem like it has any substance, but the instrumentals and vocals are brilliant, and I am constantly bopping to this track whenever it comes on. I doubt that I can publish the lyrics in “Lipgloss,” Charli’s collaboration with Cupcakke, but give it a listen. Cupcakke is a legend.
A few weeks ago, Charli released “Boys,” which has been her biggest hit since “Boom Clap.” The sound is dream pop and features instrumentals that sound like they were meant to be in a Super Mario video game. The music video was also self-directed by Charli, and I high- ly recommend checking it out. We’re all “busy dreaming about boys.”
Charli XCX is currently touring with Halsey on her Hopeless Fountain Kingdom Tour and has had a string of festival performances overthe past few months. I was lucky enough to finally see her live at Governors Ball Music Festival, and this party girl definitely knows how to perform. I cannot wait to see what she brings to her third album, as it really could sound similar to “Number 1 Angel” or head in a completely new direction. Although I still miss the old Charli and her friendship with Marina, making music you are proud of is the most important thing for an artist, and that is exactly what she’s doing. We’re all living in an XCX world.