Last summer’s mega-hit “Boom Clap” was as ubiquitous as they come. It played everywhere, even if most listeners were completely unaware of the pop star singing through the speakers. A year removed, Charli XCX is still not on the tip of everyone’s tongues. But she’s making strides, and judging by her resume, she’s already reached a level chart domination most could only dream of, in helping pen two number-one hits in Icona Pop’s “I Love It” and Iggy Azalea’s annoyingly coy “Fancy.”
“Break the Rules” from this year’s Sucker is a bit of a mantra for Charli XCX: nothing is off limits—she’s a polyglot of popdom. The album, which was equally inspired by Madonna and the Ramones, posits XCX as bubble gum queen, snarling rock star, Top 40 idol, club banger, and, given her penchant for ghostwriting, a Prince-esque persona behind the scenes. Judging from the multitude of projects that she has in waiting—a collaboration with outré-electronic producer Sophie is particularly intriguing—she’s wont for constant transformation, even if in my interview with the star she seemed content to blow it up and start again. If there’s anyone in the pop world who’s capable of shaping the pop world to her will, it’s XCX. That’s if she hasn’t already.
You started making music at a young age, so back then did you have an ideal of what it meant to be a pop star? Who did you aspire to be the most?
When I was super young I was into Britney Spears. I remember seeing one of her videos and saying to myself then and there that I wanted to be a pop star. Once it started, I thought that maybe aspiring to be that kind of pop star wasn’t the most intelligent idea. But I’ve always known that I wanted to make music.
And now, as a legitimate pop star, does it live up to your expectations?
I guess when I imagined it back then I thought it was going to be this fantasy dream world, which in some respects it is, but it’s also, for example, answering a lot of emails. Boring, mundane things like that, which you might think pop stars don’t do on a daily basis.
As an artist, writing your own stuff, does it ever frustrate you that celebrity overshadows your talents? Or is that the whole package you hope to project?
I don’t know, the whole celebrity thing I feel is something that is beneath me. I don’t consider myself a celebrity, but I suppose a lot of people do now, which is really nice. That part doesn’t bother me. I also feel like the people who need to know that I write my own songs already know that, so it’s not a big deal. The majority of people don’t care one way or the other if you’re writing your own stuff or singing someone else’s.
Now that Sucker has become a big hit, how do you balance between songs your write for other artists and those you keep to yourself?
If I see a music video or a song in my head, I usually keep it for myself. If not, I’ll give it to someone else. I really like writing for other artists. That’s an important part of what I do, so I’m definitely going to keep doing that.
In interviews I’ve heard you interpret your music in terms of your synesthesia [the phenomenon of seeing sound as color]. Using that mindset, what are you seeing for your next album?
It’s going to be cool. I can’t go into too much detail just yet, but it’s going to be very colorful.
Are you happy with the current state of pop?
Lately I’ve kind of checked out and really haven’t listened to much current music recently. But I’m really looking forward to putting new music out into that world. It’s hard to define what pop music is these days because “pop” is such a broad word. Every genre has its own pop, which I think is great.
How do you intend to shape it?
The priority is making good music. But right now I’m in a headspace where I don’t really think about how I’m going to do that. I just do my thing and it will come to me. Don’t get me wrong, I work really hard at what I do, but at the same time I don’t take anything too seriously.
See Charli XCX play the LC Pavilion on Wednesday August 12 along with Bleachers on the Charli and Jack do America tour.