Charli XCX is pop music for people who think they don’t like pop music.
The 20-year-old British singer-songwriter has been riding on a critical and commercial high in 2013, those two sides complementing each other surprisingly well. While her debut album, True Romance, earned her cred from the tastemakers (including Pitchfork’s coveted Best New Music title), her song “I Love It” has been a breakout Top 10 hit for Swedish duo Icona Pop.
However, she sees a divide between her own work and the songs she pens for others.
“When I write my songs, I always have like a visual connection with them,” she recently told Radio.com (interview above). “Usually when I write a song, I’ll see a music video, or at least an idea for a music video, and that’s how I know I’m connected with it. When I wrote ‘I Love It,’ [it] was a really quick process. I wrote it in a half an hour in a hotel room in Sweden. It was just me screaming into my laptop and that was it. But afterwards, I didn’t really see anything, so I knew straightaway from the beginning that that song wasn’t right for me, but I knew it was right for someone else.”
She continued: “It was cool when Aino and Caroline [of Icona Pop] came down to the studio and they heard it. It was funny, because the lyrics for them were really relevant at that point, because they were going through break-ups. It kind of found a home with them, whereas with me I was just kind of like, I don’t know, I was just on some weird anger rush. After that, it was gone. But for them it really meant something, so it had to go to them. I’m glad it did, because they’re really doing it some justice.”
Though XCX’s own dark electropop isn’t as overwhelmingly Top 40 in its appeal as “I Love It,” she can be pure bubblegum in her tastes and influences, particularly when ’90s pop nostalgia is involved. In other words, she doesn’t believe in the concept of guilty pleasures.
“That’s just a term thrown around by people who are too worried about what people think of them,” she said regarding so-called “guilty pleasures.” “It’s kind of like a cloak to disguise the fact that they actually like a Britney [Spears] song or a Miley Cyrus song. At the end of the day, I’ve always said, when it comes to pop music, for me, if it’s good, I like it. I know that sounds like a really obvious statement, but there is a lot of really terrible pop music, but there’s also a lot of amazing pop music. Some that doesn’t even get recognized as pop music, but it is. As long as it’s emotional and passionate, I like it.”
“Emotional and dark” is how she described “I Want It That Way,” the inescapable 1999 hit from the Backstreet Boys that she recently covered during an in-store at Chicago’s Borderline Records. The cover went viral, much to the dismay of XCX, actually. She had prepared the cover for a (yet-to-be-released) episode of The Onion A.V. Club‘s Undercover video series and played it live shortly after filming, subsequently stealing the publication’s thunder.
North America will get a heavy dose of Charli XCX this fall, when the Brit spends a majority of September on her first full headlining tour here in the States.
(Additional reporting by Scott Sterling, Radio.com)