It’s time to recognise that Charli XCX is the most important popstar out there

It’s time to recognise what an ever-growing group of forward-thinking pop fans already know – Charli XCX is the most important popstar out there…

Charli XCX is taking pop music by the scruff of the neck, turning it upside down and breaking every rule possible in the process. The result? The future of pop music.

In August 2015 XCX pulled out of the final leg of a co-headline tour of America with Jack Antonoff’s Bleachers. In a lengthy Facebook post she spoke of “the need to be creative” and an unhappiness at her then current inability to be so. For her, the material of sugary-sweet Suckerbecame a matter of “going through the motions” live, when Charli was dying to “perform and feel alive and like I want to be there”. For fans, it was a dramatic and unforeseen announcement but, little did they know, that creativity dying to explode in XCX was going to become the leading light for the whole industry.

Charli XCX left the tour, and left the pop rule-book that had helped produce Suckerbehind too. Six months later, the lollipop-holding face of Suckerwas replaced by a sleek, chrome sports-car on the cover of the Vroom Vroom EP and XCX revved her engine like never before.

Charli had come across daring, Scottish producer SOPHIE and in fusing her middle-finger up pop attitude with the latter’s shrill, electronic flair, a new era was born. Vroom Vroom exploded onto the scene in February 2016, upsetting many conservative pop music critics at the time, and shattered pop convention. Since that point, Charli XCX has continued to rise above expectations of pop artists as the figurehead of a fresh, electronic-pop sound of the future.

There’s been no album since 2015 and there don’t seem to be any plans to release one either: “With the album, I don’t really know when I’m gonna put it out. Or even if I’m gonna put out an album. I just don’t know.” XCX is hyper-aware of what has held back her and others like her, and strides to break those chains, as she made clear when speaking to …And the Writer is: “There was definitely a time when pop was super clean and it wasn’t cool to be like, “I’m pop”. Most of the big, especially female, artists then were like marketed products. I don’t necessarily think that it’s a bad thing, but that was how you broke a female artist. A lot of strategy, people with opinions, going into the face of this product thing.”

Charli’s own strategy seems to be record, perform and release, what she wants, when she wants to. Since the release of Number 1 Angel in March 2017, Charli XCX has either released or featured on an incredible 33-tracks, that’s not even counting ones she has penned for other artists including Camila Cabello and Blondie. That statistic is staggering. She’s just finished five monthly releases which culminated in the rip-roaring, Troye Sivan feature ‘1999’. For the business-men behind pop music of the past, it’s an incomprehensible achievement.

The sound Charli XCX is forging is pioneering too. No electronic shriek is unworkable and auto tune is a friend, not something to try and squeeze into a track without fans knowing. Continually encouraged by PC Music’s A.G. Cook, recent tracks such as ‘Lucky’ and ‘Track 10’ see her fearlessly reach never touched heights and sounds with robot-like vocals. The best thing is, it works too, whipping fans into a sweaty fervour at her sold out mixtape shows across the world.

? POP 2 LONDON LAST NIGHT WAS MAGICAL ? I feel so honored and lucky to have all of you angels. I would be nothing without you or the amazing artists and performers I was fortunate enough to share the stage with last night. It was pure magic. ?? I know we’re just a small little portion of pop music but trust me, we’re making a difference. That venue last night was a safe space for every single person to let their own flag fly. It was totally wild and freaky and free and I loved every ounce of the energy in that room. I can’t thank you enough for being a part of this with me. We are doing something fucking unique and the fact that you all support me and inspire me along the way is so amazing. Ahhhh I’m like, FUCK I dunno – it’s so overwhelming. It’s awesome. Last night was awesome. Thank you to everyone who made it happen behind the scenes and special thanks to @sophie_msmsmsm @hannahdiamond_ @raye @tommycashworld @rinasonline @easyfunnn @dorianelectra @kvrowley @sampringle @mat_collis @horridlittleboy @thetanyaslater @hredcliffe @daniellekahlani @thegriceisright @nicolekahlani and of course wonder boy @agcook404 – could not have done this without you ?? pics by @hredcliffe ??

A post shared by CHARLI XCX (@charli_xcx) on Jun 20, 2018 at 9:31am PDT

Cook and SOPHIE have played big roles in XCX’s sprint to the forefront. She tells Vulture: ““They’ve made me more confident in who I am as an artist, in my ability to commit, make decisions, and be fearless.” The new sound the three of them have honed together is now what all other popstars are chasing after – SOPHIE has already confirmed her involvement on Lady Gaga’s next album. “She [SOPHIE] is going to really change the landscape of pop music over the next few years. It’s so aggressive and beautiful and extreme. I just think SOPHIE is the future”, XCX has declared.

It is not just PC Music with whom Charli XCX collaborates, by any stretch of the imagination. XCX has appeared on tracks with 27 other vocalists since Number 1 Angel, an unheard of rate. Charli has spoken about her need to bounce off people in the studio and is into being a “mass collaborator”. Her work to promote female and queer artists has had such an evident positive effect on the industry and on fans already. It manifests itself in the sound as well. The diversity of Number 1 Angel and Pop 2 wouldn’t have been possible without the likes of Alma, CupcakKe, Pabllo Vittar, Mykki Blanco and Dorian Electra, just to name a few of her artist friends, not one like the other.

The most exciting thing: there’s so much more to come from Charli XCX. There’s music queued for release, she’s constantly in the studio, always searching for something new and a different artist to bounce off of. She may not be selling out her own stadium tour yet, but XCX doesn’t care about that either. It’s about breaking the rules, boosting other trailblazing artists and making her own music. And it’s that attitude, that makes Charli XCX THE most important artist out there today.

 

Written by Toby Bryant

Student journalist: music, sport, culture and just about anything in-between… Have worked for The Courier, NME, Daily Mirror, FourFourTwo & British Rowing, amongst others.
@toby_bryant_ on Twitter