Thursday, June 28, 2012


What the Kids Are Listening to Next: Charli XCX

As a teenager myself, I get insanely jealous when some fresh-faced musical newcomer the same age as me leaps onto the scene covered in glitter and black lipstick that I could never pull off in a million years. Especially when that particular newcomer has clearly been cooler than me since birth.

Londoner Charlotte Aitchison has huge unwashed black hair and a sexy Cockney accent that makes me constantly mistake her for a character from Skins. This already makes her cool, but the fact that her stage name is Charli XCX (which stands for “Kiss Charli Kiss” but originally stood for “X Rated Cunt Rated") makes her that much cooler.

And here’s the part where she’s way more awesome than I am: while I was still spending my evenings watching That’s So Raven reruns on Disney Channel, Charli was dressing up in raver outfits and sneaking out to illegal warehouse parties to scream out songs with self-penned lyrics "T REX! DINOSAUR SEX!” like some sort of goth-pop jailbait Madonna.

Now, at 19, Charli has one of the most highly anticipated musical debuts of the year. That she’s been featured in Rolling Stone, Interview, and Pitchfork Online is further proof that Charli XCX is growing from a British niche artist into a full-blown crossover hit. 

In 2007, the then-14-year-old Charli recorded her first two singles, “Emelline/Art Bitch” and “!Franchesckaar!” hoping to attract the attention of a major label.

After getting signed to Atlantic Records in 2008, Charli began regularly performing at raves in London’s Warehouse District, gathering a growing following among the same disillusioned British teens who rioted in London last summer. But I totally don’t blame them: listening to “Dinosaur Sex” too many times makes you want to set things on fire, in a good way.

In 2011, Charli’s career really began to take off when heavily blogged-about singles “Nuclear Seasons” and “Stay Away” were selected as two of Pitchfork Media’s “Best New Tracks of 2011.”

Both tracks spring from a species of pop music that Charli calls “dark pop” or “goth pop”—haunting, synth-heavy verses, always in a minor key, that open up into power-ballad choruses with Charli’s pleasingly-hoarse voice floating over the electronic symphony.

The effect is definitely “goth” (thanks to Charli’s love of black crop tops and photoshopping pictures of herself to look like she’s floating in a dark LSD hallucination) yet undeniably poppy. It’s dance music AND contemplative music, with the lyrical maturity of someone twice Charli’s age.

Charli’s debut EP, which includes a brand-new and already critically acclaimed single, “You’re the One," was released in early June under the I Am Sound label.

Charli recently finished up a tour across the American Southwest supporting Santigold, and she’ll be opening for Coldplay in late summer 2012.

So go ahead, listen to this girl who is totally cooler than me in every way possible! You can listen to “Nuclear Seasons,” “Stay Away,” “You’re the One,” and various other songs on Charli’s SoundCloud.


Iman Fears' essays and short stories have appeared on Minnesota Public Radio, The Holmes Education Post, Underground Voices, Unlikely 2.0., and the Newport review. She also puts a lot of songs online, half of which are Lana Del Rey covers and half of which elaborate on her weird obsession with the book Lolita. Starting this fall, you can find her at Columbia University, where she has no idea what she's going to study because she loves everything.

27 Comments / Post A Comment


If I had a 14-year-old child, I would not let her release a song with the word "bitch" in the title. Because I am an old prude.


@SarahP Hahaha my response was: where were her parents? This is because I am not a teenager, though technically I AM old enough to have parented one.


@SarahP Somehow I don't think Charli asked for permission?


looove this, so easy and cute!@k


"Stay Away" is my jam. It is the favorite song of the YA novel heroine in my head.


@cuminafterall didn't want to like this, but i really, really like this.

Ladies Who Punch

Not only do I too get insanely jealous of people younger than me doing amazing musical things, but recently a band that I've had for a couple of years has had no traction with had another band burst on the national scene WITH THE SAME NAME!!

sarah girl

Listening to her on YouTube right now - she reminds me a lot of a darker Marina and the Diamonds!


Can I get one day where I don't have to think about how old I am? Please. Please.


@JessicaLovejoy Here here.


@JessicaLovejoy Yes, but for me, that day was in 1992.


@JessicaLovejoy Hahahha. I was kind of thinking the same thing.


The person who wrote this is also a teenager, and she is also making me feel bad about myself for not being very awesome. So, yeah.


@okaycrochet But wait, there's more! She a teen on her way to Columbia!

(I hope bitterness is a preservative.)


@okaycrochet got herself a cool name tho


Her song with Starkey is p. good. About as close as he comes to EDC-style raveup garbage, but juuuuuust on the right side of excess.



Cockney accent? Not likely – she's from posho Hertfordshire.

Nice piece, though.


An old English person

oh well never mind

@Guts Yeah, she pretty much sounds like Kate Middleton to me. So, not Cockney then.


@Guts Also, Skins is set in Bristol so unlikely to be that Cockerney. Kind of like saying 'She's got a redneck accent that reminds me of a character off Sex & the City'


@disco_clone Ha! Exactly.


Another English person writes:
I don't want to sound snarky, but London doesn't have a Warehouse District.


@Anna_anna I was just going to post that. 43 years here and I still haven't found our warehouse district. Unless the writer means Feltham where there are some industrial estates and freight forwarding companies. They have warehouses. I know because I once did a week's temping in an industrial estate in Feltham. No raves though, afaik.


@dontannoyme Hackney Wick, perhaps?


Charli XCX also wrote "I Love It" for Icona Pop. I saw her do an extremely lo-fi set at SXSW, wearing a dress that looked like a crushed-velvet gymnastics leotard (points in my book), accompanied by just a guy on keyboard, and it was awesome.


Also also, how does XCX stand for “X Rated Cunt Rated"?


If only she'd been learning her ABCs instead of raving.


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