“SuperLove” is just the latest in a long line of excellent tracks from British pop star in the making Charli XCX. Released last week along with a video that follows the artist around a Japanese cityscape, “SuperLove” follows this year’s excellent True Romance, which in turn followed two excellent mixtapes and a guest spot on one of the past year’s most infectious singles. Despite all her early successes, Charli XCX still isn’t quite a household name yet. Before she hits it big — or rather, bigger — we rounded up the need-to-know essentials about her, from her early start in East London nightlife to what’s next.
She co-wrote the song of the summer
Some may not have heard of Charli XCX, but it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that any human being with a TV or Internet connection has probably heard her sometime in the last 12 months. That’s because she’s one of the songwriters behind 2013’s most ubiquitous song not attached to a highly controversial VMA performance. XCX claims to have penned the melody and lyrics to Swedish duo Icona Pop’s “I Love It” in just a half an hour before handing it off to producer Patrik Berger. Caroline Hjelt told NME that XCX’s original version was “more cute” than the song that became a global smash, but XCX has also said she thinks Hjelt and bandmate Aino Jawo are “totally owning” the track, which she performed with them onstage at South by Southwest.
Atlantic Records signed her when she was 16
XCX began making music at 14, posting tracks on her MySpace profile from her home in the English countryside. Before long, they caught the attention of an East London rave host, and soon after that, Charlotte Aitchison had adopted a stage name (a hasty substitute for her real name that she wanted to stand for “X-Rated Cunt X-Rated before her label said no) and immersed herself in the scene, where she picked up her heavily EDM-influenced style. A label scout saw one of her rave performances and signed her to Atlantic — and that’s how XCX wound up with a major-label debut under her belt at the tender age of 21.
The next Britney Spears album may feature on of her tracks
There’s big-deal collaborations, and then there’s big deal collaborations. Writing a track for Britney herself, underwhelming as “Work Bitch” may be, is perhaps the only stronger indicator that someone is an artist to watch than co-writing the earworm of the year. XCX broke the news that she’d been “doing some writing” for Spears to Digital Spy at this year’s Reading Festival, confiding that she was understandably freaked out and “worried I would fuck it up.” We don’t know if Britney actually selected the track for her final cut, but sharing studio space with Spears herself is still a stunningly impressive feat for a 21-year-old.
She’s half of British pop’s best dynamic duo
XCX’s solo material speaks for itself, but her recent track with Marina Diamandis, better known as Marina and the Diamonds, is one of both artists’ catchiest singles to date. The two are a natural pairing: each is a British pop star with an infectiously catchy style and a personal aesthetic that’s just outside the mainstream (Diamandis’ hard femme and XCX’s electro-goth looks complement each other nicely). “Just Desserts” is a vengeful ballad that’s perfectly in line with both artists’ strengths, a sonic victory lap after winning the breakup. Combined with the duo’s North American tour, Diamandis and XCX’s relationship is one of the best cases yet for coming up with a convincing female alternative to “bromance.”
Her taste in samples is flawless…
One of XCX’s most popular singles pairs her vocals with Gold Panda’s excellent “You,” complete with a music video featuring raver girls in a lipstick-gun factory. But XCX’s early mixtape Heartbreaks and Earthquakes mixes melodies from Blood Diamonds, Drake and Jai Paul, and Blood Orange with XCX’s own vocals, plus snippets from American Beauty, Cruel Intentions, and Beyond the Black Rainbow. Just five months after Heartbreaks hit the web in June of 2012, she unleashed second mixtape Super Ultra, which features production from Baths, How to Dress Well, and Art of Noise. As “I Love It” demonstrates, XCX is an insanely talented songwriter, but she’s equally skilled at incorporating other artists’ work in such a way that it enhances her own.
… and her songs make excellent remix material
Just listen to The Internet’s version of True Romance single “You’re the One.” Or Danny Brown’s guest spot on a reworked version of “What I Like.” Or Lindstrom’s take on “You (Ha Ha Ha).” Charli XCX may love re-imagining songs by her fellow musicians, but the feeling’s clearly mutual.
She’s had some high-profile tour mates
In addition to co-headlining with Marina and the Diamonds, Charli’s boosted her name recognition by opening for two wildly different acts: perennial Hot Topic soundtrack favorites Paramore and British Gwyneth groupies Coldplay. XCX’s touring history is a testament to how popular she has the potential to become, and has had the added benefit of putting her in front of 10,000-person arena audiences on a nightly basis. Charli made her reputation as a blog star, but she also has the proven ability to share an audience with one of her home country’s most widely palatable exports.
Her second album’s already on the way
One of the many reason’s Charli’s so likable is that she’s insanely prolific. Unlike other much-hyped artists (Broke With Expensive Taste is just never going to happen, is it?), Charli XCX has more than delivered on her early promise, releasing two mixtapes in 2012 and her debut album shortly thereafter, in April 2013. With “SuperLove,” fans learned that a second LP is already in progress. There’s no release date yet, and “SuperLove” won’t be officially released as a single until December 1, but new material less than a year after True Romance is impressive any way you slice it.