QUITE CON­TRARY

The self-pro­claimed “anti-pop star” who’s tak­ing over the Top 40. BY SARAH LAING

Elle (Canada) - - Radar -

charli XCX doesn’t want to be fa­mous. “The whole idea of celebrity very much scares me,” ad­mits the 22-year-old mu­si­cian (fun­nily enough, while at re­hearsals for a ma­jor Amer­i­can awards show). “It just seems very in­tense, and I don’t think I re­ally care about the rules.”

You prob­a­bly knew Charli XCX’s voice be­fore you ever knew her name. It was her Gwen Ste­fani-es­que vo­cals declar­ing “I Love It” on that Icona Pop song all sum­mer in 2013, and this year she was be­hind (both lyri­cally and vo­cally) the ear-wormy hook on Iggy Aza­lea’s hit “Fancy.”

And while that whole ride has been “pretty cool,” this Brit (born Char­lotte Aitchi­son) says it feels like it has been a long time com­ing. Raised in ru­ral Hert­ford­shire, she got her par­ents to fi­nance her first al­bum at 14 (although it was never re­leased) and was ac­tu­ally dis­cov­ered on Mys­pace by a pro­moter who worked the London un­der­ground scene. She has been writ­ing for artists like Icona Pop, but her first al­bum, True Ro­mance, barely charted.

Ob­scu­rity won’t be an is­sue for her sec­ond al­bum, Sucker, out this De­cem­ber. Bol­stered by Charli XCX’s suc­cess with Iggy Aza­lea and a canny place­ment on the sound­track for teen block­buster The Fault in Our Stars, the lead sin­gle, “Boom Clap,” is cracking the top 10 on the charts. The new al­bum is “ag­gres­sive but quite vul­ner­a­ble and very fem­i­nine,” she says. Much of it was in­spired by the grow­ing up she has done since be­ing an in­se­cure teen “try­ing to make a ‘cool’ al­bum.”

Charli XCX’s big­gest mu­sic icon is a slightly un­likely one: ’90s school-kilt-wear­ing Brit­ney Spears. “When ‘...Baby One More Time’ came out—boom—I was there,” she says of her crush. “And then the Cross­roads movie came out and that was a whole other level.”

But re­gard­less of her ad­mi­ra­tion for the ul­ti­mate pop princess, Charli XCX in­sists that she’s ac­tu­ally plan­ning to “change the idea of what a pop star is.” “I’m con­tin­u­ously messy, I can’t dance and I’m never go­ing to be per­fect,” she de­clares. “I’m ac­tu­ally kind of an anti- pop­star.” The “XCX” in her name ei­ther stands for noth­ing or “X-rated con­tent,” de­pend­ing on her mood.

“With this al­bum, I haven’t gone and tried to make a hit record; I’ve just done what’s me,” she ex­plains. (Although she does ad­mit to car­ing deeply about how the record is re­ceived.)

Charli XCX’s per­sonal style has also evolved: The sig­na­ture mane of black curls is still there, but the look is less Club Kid and more Rose McGowan circa Jaw­breaker.

“I like it when clothes have a dark en­ergy,” she says. (In a dream come true, McGowan ac­tu­ally ap­peared in the video for Charli XCX’s high-school-themed new sin­gle, “Break the Rules.”) While Charli XCX holds tightly to her iden­tity as a “rule breaker”—you get the sense that she’s try­ing very hard to re­main the re­bel­lious kid who used to flirt with her teach­ers and steal chem­i­cals from the sci­ence lab—it’s her softer side that she is most pro­tec­tive of. “I’ll still party and do stupid shit like get drunk and take drugs, but I’ll never not be nice. I’d rather [make mu­sic with] friends than get paid to do it with peo­ple who hate me.” n

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