Queen of summer Charli XCX just getting started
Between “Fancy,” her smash hit with Iggy Azalea that spent seven weeks perched at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, and her own “Boom Clap,” which racked up 60 million Spotify streams and sold more than 1 million downloads, summer 2014 was the summer of Charli XCX — from L.A. to Tokyo, and everywhere in between.
Now that summer’s over, the 22-year-old UK pop singer and songwriter has a new plan going forward.
“I’m ready for it to be the winter of Charli XCX,” she says in her thick British accent, while on the phone late last month from London. “I’m not done yet.”
With a new album on the way and a headlining tour that drops by Saint Andrew’s Hall on Saturday, she might get her wish.
She’s prepared. After being on the cusp of fame for several years, the spunky Brit finally broke through when “Fancy” and its “Clueless”-inspired video — 296 million YouTube views and counting — made her a star.
“Fancy” was everywhere this year, and XCX was everywhere performing it alongside her Australian counterpart. “Good Morning America,” the Billboard Music Awards, “Dancing With the Stars,” MTV’s Woodie Awards, “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and more — XCX and Azalea made the rounds and rode the wave together, which doesn’t always happen with two artists with difficult-to-coordinate schedules.
“It was really important for me, and for Iggy as well,” says XCX, born Charlotte Aitchison and raised 30 miles north of London. “It’s her song, it’s on her record, so she called the shots. I’m very grateful that she was open to me being a key part of every performance she did, because I’ve done collaborations before where that hasn’t been the case.”
One such situation was Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” the global smash which XCX penned and is credited on, though she was rarely seen promoting or performing with the Swedish pop duo. “I Love It” gave XCX her first hit but also taught her a lot about the dark side of the music business.
“I became kind of cynical of the whole music industry post-‘I Love It.’ It’s funny how so many people who claim to have been there all along just show up and are like, ‘Heyyy, you’re the best!’ ” she says, affecting a ditzy accent. “I learned how people can change around a hit record. And I learned how to command respect from a record label really quickly, because I made them a (lot) of money, and I felt like I needed them to pay attention to me as an artist after that song — and they did.”
XCX released her debut album, “True Romance,” in April 2013, just as “I Love It” was gearing up to spend a second consecutive summer bouncing around the world’s airwaves. A bubbly rush of pop tunes with cool electronic production, “True Romance” garnered positive reviews but sold few copies, and by the end of 2013, XCX found herself in Sweden recording a flurry of punk rock songs.
“It got some aggression out that I had been holding in,” XCX says of the sessions, which were recorded with her “I Love It” co-writer Patrik Berger, who fronts punk rock outfit Snuffed by the Yakuza. “I felt like I was having creative block prior to that moment, and it unleashed a lot of bad energy for me, and I was able to get back in my zone and record some cool pop songs again.”
That led to what would become “Sucker,” which was due out this month but was recently pushed back to December. Part of the reason is the continuing success of “Boom Clap,” the sugarbuzz valentine that was featured on the soundtrack to the hit teen drama “The Fault in Our Stars” and which became XCX’s first bonafide solo hit.
XCX describes “Sucker” as “a pop record with a punk energy behind it.” She says it’s aggressive and also vulnerable, as well as raw, wild, passionate and feminine. “I tried to make a record that I would have thought was really cool when I was 14,” she says. “I don’t think it sounds like anything that’s out right now. It’s a different kind of angle on pop music.”
She says “Sucker” has a color scheme of pink and red, and she’s drawing heavy on pink during her current tour, which marks her biggest run of headlining shows to date. She’s backed by an all-girl band — her bassist plays a baby pink bass guitar signed by Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus that XCX purchased from eBay — and her pink-and-white set is inspired by Japanese game shows and nighttime Tokyo. “It’s like Barbie punk,” she says. “I feel like I’m in Josie and the Pussycats.”
Her current dates are a warm-up to what she says is a bigger tour to come, and XCX has a lot more in store when it comes to making her presence felt in the pop music sphere.
“I want to be recognized as someone who contributed something positive to pop music and pop culture,” she says. “I want to leave my mark on the pop world and change the sound of Top 40 radio a little bit, too.”
Then she casually adds, “that would be cool,” as if to undercut herself. But the truth is she’s bound and determined to make it happen.
with Elliphant and Femme
8:30 p.m. Saturday
Saint Andrew’s Hall, 431 E. Congress, Detroit