Charli XCX at the Garret at Grand Central June 8
If Charlotte Aitchison is anything, she's affable. Any other 20-year-old might have already let success go to her head. But this girl named Charli remains warm and friendly, if a little blunt.
"I have read some reviews and stuff. Maybe that's a bit uncool of me," Aitchison says when asked if she's surprised by the praise for her debut album, True Romance. "I've been really happy about how it's been received. I genuinely believe it's a really fucking great record. Otherwise, I wouldn't have put it out."
This bluntness is perhaps what makes Aitchison, known to fans as Charli XCX, so charismatic. She hasn't been polished by publicists who've programmed her with all the right things to say. Yet she makes music that's pure and simple pop perfection.
"My sound is pop. I never wanted to write a hipster record or a cool record. I just wanted to write a pop album, but I wanted to do that on my own terms.
"There is definitely that stigma surrounding pop music," Aitchison concedes. "But I think that's changing. Pop music is getting more real and emotional."
Though she's been making music since she was 14, American audiences didn't get their first taste of Charli XCX until the MTV show Snooki & JWoww chose Icona Pop's "I Love It," a track penned by Aitchison, as its theme song.
"I always knew it was going to be really big, but I never knew it was going to be this big," she says of the track. "It's good to see [Icona Pop] go for it. It's kind of nice, actually, because they are doing all the work and I'm not really doing anything. But I wouldn't want anyone else doing it but Icona Pop. I think they are so cool."
Yet while writing a lot of music for other artists, Aitchison has kept plenty of gems for herself. And those prized cuts have been gathered for her aforementioned first full-length, True Romance, a collection of material previously released on EPs and mixtapes, along with a few new cuts.
Characterized by critics as a new artist trying to find what works, the album is a bit all over the place: "Nuclear Seasons" might be the best pop song Gwen Stefani and Crystal Castles never collaborated on, while "What I Like" is a rave-meets-R&B cut with plenty of swagger.
However, True Romance's standout is "You (Ha Ha Ha)," which could easily match the success of "I Love It." The track heavily samples Gold Panda's "You," a glitchy 2010 experimental hip-hop instrumental, while Aitchison shouts a thrilling, kiss-my-ass chorus: "Good job," she sings, "you fucked it up."
From beginning to end, Aitchison's debut is an enthusiastic and earnest celebration of her influences and inspirations, including mid-2000s so-called blog house. "When I was younger, the artists who inspired me to get into music were on Ed Banger Records," she admits. "I loved French electro so much. It kind of blew my mind. I was so in awe of it."
Despite outside influences, though, Aitchison plans on keeping her work as Charli XCX personal. In fact, as a singer/songwriter, she can never see herself performing someone else's work, as is so commonplace in the pop music industry.
"I always have to be involved," she insists. "I just love writing songs."
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