What is love? Well, if you’re willing to believe most pop musicians, everything. Fun, but doomed. Skyscrapingly large, but also capable of pocked-sized intimacy. Life, but, you know, also death. Charli XCX, however, doesn’t believe in tackling topics one at a time. The British musician lives in a world of excess, telegraphing emotional highs and lows through cut-and-paste pop. She’s been known to borrow from so many elements (punk, pop, Eurodance, and futuristic electronic production assists from PC Music), that reinvention occurs on a song-to-song basis.
Perhaps it’s natural that an artist with so many creative inclinations would also have a deep list of contacts. Thanks to a small fleet of mix tapes and one-off singles (including 2017’s dark mix Number 1 Angel), XCX has been associated with seemingly everyone in pop’s emerging class of stars, including Carly Rae Jepsen, Tove Lo, Alma, MØ, and Troye Sivan. She’s extending her circle with Sivan even further by presenting the upcoming Go West Fest, an L.A. Pride event that, according to the two, “celebrates the inclusivity, artistry, music, kinks, merchants, and creativity of the LGBTQ community, while really giving back to our community.”
With summer rapidly approaching, XCX has pulled another transformation, this time with an assist from Lizzo, who has also been busy blazing a trail of individuality and joy with her recently released third album Cuz I Love You. Recently the pair declared on social media that they were out to “save pop music.” Their collaborative single, “Blame it On Your Love,” is a hook-heavy, radio-friendly delivery on that promise. The summer-leaning anthem celebrates the goofiest feelings of love, and like any good seasonal anthem, there’s enough energy to bounce the listener straight into fall. But nether artist lets us forget that from power, money, or just satisfaction of the non-sexual kind, there’s more in a woman’s head than just her partner. With that in mind, CR caught up with XCX to discuss love songs, festival dazes, and super powers.
How do you know it’s worth going into the studio with a friend?
“I only work with people who inspire me and are unique in their creativity. I love working with my friends and I’m constantly inspired by my friends—basically all the songs I write are about them. Whenever I say I want to collaborate, I mean it. It’s a crucial part of who I am.”
How does the energy in the room change when you’ve got another strong songwriter present? Do you have to break the ice?
“I think part of being a good songwriter is reading the room. I like to make people feel comfortable, but I also won’t just agree to anything. This sounds cheesy, but it needs to be a safe space, somewhere you can throw out any idea and feel comfortable with it, no matter how weird or stupid. Most of my best ideas are my most simple and dumb [but] they end up being cool somehow. I like to steer the room, but I do it subtly. At least I hope.”
Do you feel like a woman’s ability to experience love while not giving up her goals has become less of a talking point?
“Not really. I feel like people love talking about women and the female experience now, which is great. Women are fierce, and there are so many different and valid versions of what it is to be a woman in 2019—and a woman in love in 2019. I would never give up my goals for love. If I’m forced into that position, that person doesn’t deserve my love. Hell no.”
You recently said in an interview that ‘Fancy,’ the 2014 electro hop song you worked on with Iggy Azalea was a “confusing experience,” and that after its release, things didn’t quite turn out as you had expected. How did you recenter yourself?
“I had to find myself. I had to figure out what I wanted and what was important to me. I’ve had commercial success, and you know what? I won’t lie, there are definitely some benefits. But did it satisfy me creatively? Not really. I felt stunted and sometimes forced into a box. I am so much more than a someone singing pretty pop songs which could be sung by anyone. I’m a pop music innovator! I needed to explore that.”
Lizzo’s got her flute—what is your secret performance weapon?
“My energy. Anyone who’s seen me live knows what I mean. It’s, like, 100 percent full-throttle speed-racing type stuff. No slowing down ever. I like to try and make my shows like raves. Honestly, I kind of wish I played the flute, though.”
When it comes to choosing your actual super power: flight or invisibility?
“I’d like to say flight so it sounds like I’m a good person, but honestly you could cause so much trouble with invisibility, so I’d probably go for that.”
Lizzo recently invited journalists into her studio to help both camps understand each other better. What is your relationship with critics? Is this something you’d ever consider doing?
“I’ve invited fans into the studio and I’ve played them demos and gotten their feedback. That was fun. My fans are smart; they get me. I’d invite journalists, too. I don’t think it would scare me. They’re just people with opinions. They’re not really right or wrong.”
Since you’ve co-written what’s likely to be a major summer anthem, what song—or songs—remind you of your teenage summers?
“Honestly, probably some like UK garage type stuff—’Flowers’ by Sweet Female Attitude. Lots of people were playing that kind of stuff at house parties in the summer.”
What song reminds you of the first time you felt some big, goofy, “blame it on your love”-style feelings?
“Lots of songs by The Cure make me feel dreamy and silly and in love even when I’m not. ‘Just Like Heaven’ really takes me there.”
When was the first time you heard one of your songs in the wild?
“It was probably on Radio 1. I knew it was coming on and so I sat down with my mom and dad around the kitchen table and we listened. I actually think they said my name wrong! But it’s all good.”
Do you listen to your own music after it’s released?
“I actually love listening to my own music. I listen on repeat up until it’s out and then I kind of stop for a year and then go back in really heavy and listen to it again. It’s a little narcissistic.”
What’s your favorite festival memory, either as an attendee or performer?
“Glastonbury—performing or just going for [pleasure]—is always fun. I can’t really remember specific details, or much at all. But that’s the best part, just kind of feeling like you’re in this weird, mad world for three days and then coming out the other side being like, Whoa, what just happened?“
The big, obvious question: What’s next?
“I’m making an album and it’s going to be brilliant, honestly. That probably sounds cocky, but you gotta believe in yourself, right? I want to do a song with Christine and the Queens next. She’s so powerful. I feel like we could make something crazy together.”
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createdAt:Wed, 15 May 2019 15:57:22 +0000
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