If there’s one artist that wholly represents the contemporary habit of ‘featuring’ with other artists, it’s Charli XCX (well, okay, Dua Lipa just about beats her on the ‘feature’ front).
On her fifth studio album, Crash, which was released last month, Charli does a dandy good job on delivering some solo tracks but she’s also roped in a host of guests such as Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek who feature on the single New Shapes, and Rina Sawayama on the track Beg For You.
Where Charli’s work to date has held an hyper-pop style of production, Crash boasts more of a conventional dance-pop sound, its audio cues stemming from late 1980s and early ’90s club music.
‘Crash’ is Charli’s most successful album to date, topping the charts in Australia, Ireland and the UK. It also became her first top-10 LP in New Zealand and the US.
Here, Charli XCX chats with Cream about the breaking down of stereotypes, the use of bullying as artist ammunition, and the futility of trolling online.
Interview by Antonino Tati
I can see you’re expanding into various areas of creativity. You’re born on August 2nd. Would you say you’re a typical Leo?
I don’t know. There are aspects of my personality that are Leo, for sure. Definitely, the performer aspect of who I am is a Leo stereotype. You know, obviously I perform on stage, I have crazy hair, and stuff like that, but I do also think I can be quite shy sometimes. Off-stage, I can be shy, for sure.
What is the best thing about being a pop star?
Getting to make music and performing on stage and doing what you love, but also just going to really great parties. And throwing really good parties as well!
And the worst thing? What’s something that rubs you up the wrong way?
I don’t know. I think I’m pretty chill, but I definitely don’t like it when people are unnecessarily rude. I like to treat people how I like to be treated, and so I kind of expect the same from others, and it annoys me when that isn’t the case.
Do you find a lot of trolling happens online?
Yeah. You’re anonymous online. You can kind of say what you want and hide behind the internet, and I think that’s a very cowardly thing to do. And I would encourage people to really not pay attention to people that troll on the internet. It’s just sad that they’re spending their time even doing that when they can be doing something positive, you know?
“I guess in part I’m a good role model but I also make mistakes. I’m human and I’m definitely not perfect. And I think my fans know that about me; they know I’m gonna fuck up now and again.”
Do you feel as an artist you have a certain responsibility to uphold? I mean do you have to behave as a positive role model all the time?
No. I know that responsibility sometimes comes with the territory – especially in pop music – but I didn’t get into music to be a role model. I guess in part I’m a good role model but I also make mistakes. I’m human and I’m definitely not perfect. And I think my fans know that about me; they know I’m gonna fuck up now and again.
Do you get influenced by other artists, like, when you’re making a video with someone like Iggy Azalea, does a bit of her cheekiness rub off on you?
I find all the people I collaborate with inspiring [and she’s collaborated with hundreds! Ed]. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t collaborate with them. But when it comes to my own work, I’m very much in my own bubble. I tend not to listen that much to other music when making my own music because I don’t want other artists’ styles to rub off on me. I like keeping myself to myself when I’m being creative.
In the video for the single ‘Fancy’, you and Iggy play ‘Clueless’-type characters.
Well, I’m Tai and she’s Cher from Clueless.
Do you think there’s too much of a mean and competitive culture that goes on in high schools these days?
I haven’t been in high school for years, but I do remember feeling there was that kind of ‘mean girl’ culture. There were the cliques, the ‘cool’ kids, and the ‘not-cool’ kids. I remember at the time it was, like, the biggest thing in the world and I definitely wasn’t part of the ‘cool’ kids. I just remember feeling [as though] it was a really big deal. And as you grow older you realise high school never ends, but also that high school actually isn’t that important – the cliques and stuff aren’t, anyway. It’s just more important to be yourself.
I’d like to play a little word association with you if that’s okay.
Okay then: Donald Trump.
The last UK election outcome.
Not what I would have hoped.
I’m sorry… I don’t really feel comfortable talking about such huge political subjects that have such an effect on many peoples’ lives by just throwing in one word. I’m just really worried at how that’s going to frame me. I’m sorry to be so particular about it but I don’t feel comfortable describing local terrorism with a one-word answer.
That’s okay; we can end the game there if you like.
Yes, I’m really sorry but that’s really not my style.
[It’s a pity I didn’t get around to asking about her new work, but with that last comment Charli rounds off our conversation and says her goodbyes. Probably a good thing, too, because some of the other words I had lined up for our word association game were pretty risqué.]
Charli XCX’s new album ‘Crash’ is out now.