Charli XCX Talks Pop: "I Never Wanted to Write a Hipster Record"
Photo by Dan Curwin
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 by how it's been received. I genuinely believe it's a really fucking great record. Otherwise, I wouldn't have put it out."
Known to fans as Charli XCX, this bluntness is perhaps what makes her so charismatic. She hasn't been polished by publicists who've programmed her with all the right things to say. And yet, she makes music that's pure and simple pop perfection.
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"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."
While she has 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 managed to keep plenty of gems for herself. And those prize cuts have been gathered together for her aforementioned first full-length, True Romance, a collection of material previously released on EPs and mixtapes, as well as a few new cuts.
Characterized by critics as a new artist trying to find what works, the album is a little all over the place: "Nuclear Seasons" may be the best pop song Gwen Stefani and Crystal Castles never collaborated on, while "What I Like" is a rave-meets-R&B cut filled 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's 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, with her work as Charli XCX, Aitchison plans on keeping it personal. In fact, as a singer-songwriter, she can't ever see herself performing someone else's work, as is so commonplace in the pop music industry.
"I always have to be involved," Aitchison insists. "I just love writing songs."
Charli XCX. With Kitty Pryde and Little Daylight. Saturday, June 8. The Garret at Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $15 plus fees via ticketfly.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-377-2277 or grandcentralmiami.com.
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