Charli XCX skews the tradition of cookie-cutter pop “princesses” and instead advocates for women’s autonomy and sex positivity. Matthew Wade caught up the star to chat about music, Australia, and why gay men are her ride or die fans.
Having your music help a young queer person struggling through a break-up might not sound like a major feat, yet it’s one pop star Charli XCX wears as a badge of honour.
“I feel like the gay community were among the first to celebrate my music,” she says.
“They’re always the first to jump on board and rep an artist, and I’m always really happy and thankful I can play so many of my shows at gay clubs.
“LGBTI people always reach out to me and say my songs have helped them get through their relationship break-up, and that they were important to them when they were leaving their partner – I think that’s really sweet.”
Charli’s ascent to pop royalty was a slow-burn, one that found her hustling music on MySpace nearly ten years ago in the hopes of a breakthrough.
After borrowing money from her parents to help cover recording costs, the British singer self-released an album on the social media platform before landing a record deal that saw her release a handful of pop tracks with catchy dance hooks and feature on the Iggy Azalea smash Fancy. Her rise has remained steady ever since.
She says she first got into music after first hearing one of pop music’s most iconic performers, and now her biggest idol: Britney Spears.
“I remember seeing her music videos and thinking, she’s so cool, I want to be her,” she says.
“As I got older I began to record myself and play music, and then eventually got around to writing an entire song, which was probably terrible.”
Charli’s brand of pop skews tradition by subverting the typical cookie-cutter “princess” mainstream audiences often expect in a pop singer, and instead sees her sticking up her middle finger and unashamedly advocating for women’s autonomy and an openness around women’s sexuality.
The irony is not lost on the title of her most recent mixtape, Number 1 Angel, which she says she put together for fun ahead of her next studio LP slated for next year.
“The mixtape was about me wanting to release music that was on my mind there and then, I was going through an emotional time and wanted to put down my feelings,” she says.
“I think my fans really connected to that – it’s a lot different to what I’ve released before, I want to continuously change what I’m doing as an artist.”
Charli’s favourite track from the mixtape is Lipgloss, featuring LGBTI ally and perhaps queen of sex positivity and having zero chill, Cupcakke.
“I am in love with her, and whenever we’ve performed that together it just goes off, it’s crazy,” she says.
When it comes to fighting for the rights of her LGBTI fans, Charli says it’s important for musicians and entertainers with a high profile to use their power to champion change.
“I think as people in the public eye we have a huge platform, and it’s always important to champion causes you love,” she says.
“And the LGBTI community has been close to me because of how I came up in the scene and also I have a lot of friends that are part of that community.
“I always try to head along to Pride to celebrate and speak out for LGBTI rights.”
Later this year Charli will be supporting superstar Sia on her national tour down under.
She says she always loves coming to Australia.
“My best friend was living down there for two years, I’m very excited to be coming back,” she says.
“I’ll have released some new music by then, so I’m going to be excited to play that big show.
“For my LGBTI fans – I love you guys and thank you for your support, I can’t wait to party with you.”
Sia’s ‘Nostalgic for the Present’ 2017 tour, with a supporting performance by Charli XCX, will play in Melbourne on Thursday 30 November, and in Sydney on Saturday 2 December. For more information visit: premier.ticketek.com.au.