Thursday, June 27, 2013


Charli XCX and the Rules of Pop Stardom

There's a great article up at Grantland about the liminal space in the pop-star universe currently inhabited by Charli XCX, young mistress of throwback UK doom-candy (cf. the above video). Amos Barshad investigates: why is a pretty girl with serious stage presence and an album stuffed with pop anthems playing Glasslands in Brooklyn rather than arenas all over the world? And why would someone ever write the ubiquitous "I Love It" and give it away, thus catapulting a different band from the Pitchfork circuit to the very top of the charts?

For alt-pop stars — the pretty young things with radio-friendly aspirations and support from the machine who insist on writing their own material — there are facts with which to contend. Lily Allen had it for a while, and maybe could have kept it had she really wanted it. Robyn had the charts, disappeared, then came back, smaller and on her own terms. Diplo's still bummed that M.I.A. stopped listening to him after "Paper Planes."

There is another side of the divide: the polished, corporate artists. Fresh off a seven-albums-in-seven-years run, Rihanna is a malleable cypher and increasingly celebrated for it. Nicki Minaj forced down producer RedOne's screwdriver-to-the-cortex single "Starships" and grinned right through it. Stalwart Britney Spears was chewed up by the system and spat out. But after her 2008 conservatorship, she reentered the frame. Her reward: maintaining her A-list status. There are rules to pop fame.

Charli XCX is incredibly talented. I remember watching her do "Nuclear Seasons" at SXSW in 2012, and she was spellbinding even though it was all of 1 PM and 100 degrees out and she just had a guy on keyboard backing her up in the stage corner of a tiny bar. I love that she gave "I Love It" away to Icona Pop, and that she's sure she can do what she want how she wants it, and that she likes "fucking punk-ass gigs and shit." She's been doing this since she was 14, and as she says to Grantland, "I'd rather have fun than be a cunt."

16 Comments / Post A Comment


Their eyebrows are perfect.

Passion Fruit

@Lucienne I know, right? Elizabeth Taylor would be proud. Dang.


didn't notice that.


I realized I accidentally once saw Charli XCX last year in Toronto when she opened for M83 (who were awful) and Justice (who were incredible). I may have been too intoxicated to really pay attention but she was...fun? I think? She seems funny, and interesting, and certainly unique as a person, but I wasn't struck by her music live.


@cosmia I think what you mean is, you don't care; you love it. You don't care; you love it.


@cosmia I saw her open for Sleigh Bells, and she was... ridiculously incompetent onstage? Like, I've seen better performance skills in homemade Youtube clips by 12-year-olds.
Her music sounds okay though, I guess. But I'm really surprized she hasn't faded into obscurity yet.

Hot Doom

@[sic] Yeah, I agree with everything you say. Her performance was sort of like...a generic pop singer performance? But neither good, nor interesting. Am also continuously surprised she is still around as a singer.

ETA: Get off my lawn, grumble, grumble.


@Hot Doom It's more like she's doing a parody of a pop singer? Or trying to replicate a music video that she never saw, but someone vaguely described to her.

Hot Doom

@[sic] Yes! That's the ticket. Also, I had no idea she wrote that 'I don't care" song, which just makes it all worse.


She puts on such a fun show! Saw her at the U St Music hall here in DC. If having hordes of teen girls screaming for you on a school night is a sign of future success, she should be all right.


You know just what I like....@y

Amelia Bedelia

Charli XCX is fantastic! I saw her live recently and she had great energy and the crowd was totally loving it. Plus she covered "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys so... What's not to love?

Chareth Cutestory

@Amelia Bedelia That's so good to hear! I'm gonna see her live this summer, I think! I LOVE her.


The problem is there are too many of these girls to keep up with and they all sound the same. Just like their more mainstream counterparts.

Tape Recorder

@Slutface I thought she was just another Sky Ferreira until I checked out her debut album. There's something special about Charli, I just can't put my finger on it. But this is the future of pop.


@Slutface Yeah. And as much as Rihanna may be a "cipher" but even in her early days I could tell the difference between her and Ciara (RiRi had a vaguely Caribbean edge to her music.)

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