Back in 2012, Charli XCX was featured in Icona Pop’s electric pop breakup anthem “I Love It” and later rose to prominent fame immediately with the release of her single “Boom Clap,” written for John Green’s film adaptation of the young adult novel The Fault in Our Stars.
While these tracks launched her career as a pop artist, they trapped XCX for a while. Looking back on her decade-long involvement in the music industry, the singer says she “stormed out” after a meeting with her record label Atlantic Records proposing that her music should be “more real.”
As a result of the tumultuous relationship between XCX and Atlantic Records, the singer has decided to release her last album CRASH in March as the final act of her record deal. Yet, what many need to understand is the legacy of XCX’s work and how the evolution of her style has significantly changed the pop music genre.
After producing her commercial pop album Sucker in 2014, XCX immediately switched her focus. Wanting to create a song with a catchy hook and upbeat theme of owning your confidence, the singer dropped “Vroom Vroom” just two years later, which is now seen as a staple song performed at all of her shows. If you don’t get the “let’s ride” reference, then you simply aren’t a true Charli XCX fan.
Instead of worrying about chart numbers and best selling singles, the singer decided to experiment more on the 2017 release of Number 1 Angel, playing with auto tune and pitched synths. Tracks like “Dreamer ft. Starrah & RAYE” and “3AM (Pull Up) ft. MO” catapulted her into new terrain.
Just a couple months later, one of XCX’s most acclaimed bodies of work Pop 2 was the singer self-assured of her musical abilities and proof of her effervescent confidence and carefree attitude with 80s-like choruses and impressive features with artists such as Tove Lo and Carly Rae Jepsen.
What made this new addition to her catalog profound was the inclusion of new artists from different backgrounds and identities, including Kim Petras, who is a trans woman, and Brazilian drag queen Pabllo Vittar. Overall, this mixtape is perfect for a late-night dance party and will instantly boost your mood, which XCX makes clear through each song.
Flash forward to 2019 and XCX’s self-titled album Charli, a collaboration-heavy album with artists from once again all genres and identities, which are two things the singer maintains to prioritize in her work. From the electronic, club-like anthems of “Next Level Charli” and “Gone ft. Christine and the Queens” to the auto-tune wails and heartbreak-infused tracks of “Thoughts” and “Official,” this album was the intimate side of the singer that fans had been begging to see for years, and was a refreshing return to the pop music scene.
2020 was a year that left all artists unsure of where to explore next while stuck in isolation, but XCX became more inspired than ever. While Charli was intimate, how i’m feeling now was the singer at her most vulnerable. Collaborating with fans on the artwork and making all of the songs in the comfort of her LA home, the feelings of insecurity, love, guilt and prioritizing perfection is highly evident throughout. Songs like “enemy” and “forever” are XCX acknowledging her flaws but also her strong commitment to others, which can sometimes be detrimental, while other tracks like “pink diamond” and “claws” are the singer toying around with new sounds and lyric ideas.
Now, Charli XCX is ready to part ways with her current label in exchange for more creative freedom, which is expected to be present on her upcoming album CRASH. With the already amazing releases of “Good Ones” and “New Shapes ft. Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek,” the singer wants this project to make an impact. In a conversation with Apple Music, XCX says, “I want it (CRASH) to feel elevated and luxurious because I feel like I haven’t truly explored that side properly.” The album is projected to be one of the most anticipated of the year according to music critics and might just be the proper homage to her original pop roots.
With a noteworthy evolution through her music career, Charli XCX has been a pioneer in the music industry, expanding the realm of what pop music can be and allowing others to join in on the fun. She’s simply underrated and underappreciated. If more people took the time to listen to her extensive and eccentric discography, they would be shocked to see an artist so confident and capable in herself and her talent.