News Charli XCX: ‘The World Is My Oyster’

Jamie Milton introduces pop’s new superstar in the making.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about my second album,” says a flu-ridden Charli XCX, a 19-year-old with big ideas evidently unhindered by a petty virus. “And I’m in two minds. I’m undecided whether to do a massive Belinda Carlisle meets Bjork record, or I’m thinking about going down the other way by doing a Trent Reznor rap record, with witch-house s**t meeting gangster… Trent Reznor-ness.” Bold claims from someone just on the verge of bringing out her debut album proper. But it’s easy to forget that Charlotte Aitchison has been in the game for five years now, from performing nursery rhyme rap at the age of 14, up to now, where she’s been in L.A. recording with Ariel Rechtshaid. Five years is a long time. You’re bound to get restless, keen to develop bright, bold plans.

Not that any of Charli XCX’s songs to date fail to represent something daring on their own merit. This first album we’re talking about isn’t standard pop fare. During our conversation she details a debut projecting a “rush of emotion”, whether that be love, loss or a state of calm. “I suppose it’s like a ‘teenage bedroom poster world’ record,” she says. “It’s my first album, [so] it’s very much like my first love and my first loss, and both are on display.” Charli claims to have written a good chunk of the album while in a good place, in “crazy love, while I was super happy”. Recent track ‘You’re The One’ would testify such a statement. Lyrics like “Happiness cries and the tears are dreaming / My body is screaming / No I’ll never be leaving” don’t require too much in-depth analysis. In an album put together over the course of five long years, the recording mic was switched on when Charli hit her emotional peak.

She denies the idea that her debut will consist of “glitterball” pop, though. Recording in Sweden with Patrik Berger (Lana Del Rey, Robyn) had the ideal effect: “After I watched The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo I just saw another side of Sweden… So in ‘You’re The One’, which I recorded over there, the verses especially remind me of the country; dark and slouchy - something which I would never usually associate with that country.” Asked to summarise the record, she gives quite the answer: “For me this is where s**t should be going, it is pop music but it’s a mixture of dark, serious ballads, with an almost gangster style.”

You get this nagging sense though, when listening to Charli’s music, that she’s yet to settle into her own skin. Mixtapes contain sonic snippets where she’ll sing bursting choruses on top of Jai Paul or Blood Diamonds, whereas on record her experimental side is yet to fully come to light. I ask her if she’s worried about this album lacking cohesiveness, at mercy to the sheer amount of ideas she’s got going around her head. Her reply is convincing: “I feel like for me, when I listen to this record, I don’t feel like I sound like someone who’s confused, listening to loads of s**t that doesn’t make sense. I hope that’ll be conveyed when other people listen to it.”

Her ambition is almost contagious. As soon as she details her aims as a popstar, you want to see her first five albums materialise right in front of your very eyes, right this second. “I wanna be able to make people cry and breakdown, as well as making them feel amazing and beautiful… and luscious.” She cites Björk and Robyn respectively as artists capable of doing just that; “whenever I listen to a Robyn song, especially something like ‘Dancing On My Own’, I feel like I wanna cry and I embarrassingly did at a concert, when I supported her a while back. And Björk: I wouldn’t necessarily call Björk a popstar, for instance, but when I listen to her songs, I want to have a breakdown. She makes those kind of songs that gets me tingling every time I hear it. I want to be judged as one of those musicians.”

She’s not wrong when claiming that “I feel like the world is my oyster at the moment.” Second album discussions continue over the course of our interview, and you can only encourage her bright ideas, all of which sound fascinating, verging on unheard of. “Maybe I should do a Beyoncé and write a double album. I can definitely see myself doing that.” She then backtracks; “I don’t know… I might just wanna write another pop record.” One thing’s for sure; despite spending the past five years taking it slow, being on the cusp of stardom without seeing things develop quite to the stage where she’s at now, Charli’s enthusiasm hasn’t exactly been dented. You can only hope that such a scale of ambition can come to reality. If that’s the case, we won’t just be viewing the beginnings of the successful popstar, we’ll be seeing the makings of a true superstar.

Charli XCX’s new single ‘You’re The One’ will be released on 10th September via Asylum Records.

Taken from the August 2012 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

Tags: Charli XCX, Neu

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