Charli XCX review, Elsewhere, New York: Underrated star is changing the narrative of pop music, her way

By bringing women to the forefront, Charli reveals the future of pop is inclusive

Ilana Kaplan
Monday 19 March 2018 16:56
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​Charli XCX has said it herself - she's underrated. But that hasn't stopped her from establishing something of a cult-following by making some of the most innovative music in pop. However, the 25-year-old visionary is long overdue the credit she deserves.

As a master of curation and collaboration, Charli's seal of approval on an artist means you should immediately take them seriously: her keen eye and songwriting skill has helped rising female artists like ALMA, Tove Lo, RAYE, CupcakKe, MØ and Kim Petras gain exposure. And her apt work with A.G. Cook - the founder of PC Music - has pushed the boundaries of pop in a way that mainstream stars often don't.

Charli has released two studio albums throughout the last seven years - True Romance and Sucker - but it's her recent EP Vroom Vroom and subsequent mixtapes that have heightened her status as a pop icon. As undoubtedly one of the hardest working musicians in pop, Charli has written loads of songs - too many to be on one record. But she believes that many - if not all of them - are deserving of the world's attention.

Last year’s mixtape Number 1 Angel saw the pop phenom making a brilliant mix of experimental pop music with help from Danish pop singer MØ and rapper CupcakKe. Following Number 1 Angel, Charli played a set of shows dedicated to the release, priming CupcakKe for hip-hop stardom.

At the start of her Sunday night show in Brooklyn, Charli’s collaborator Cook remixed Pop 2’s opening track “Unlock It” until she burst onto the stage covered in purple tulle. Soon enough she was joined by Petras to sing a duet on her modern-day “Material Girl”-inspired song “I Don’t Want It At All”.

Charli XCX and Kim Petras onstage in Brooklyn. Credit: Henry Redcliffe

After the set she yelled “This is the future of pop”, pointing at Petras; following up the bubblegum pop gem with the slow-burning “Lucky”. Dancers dressed in lamé bodysuits joined her for the robotic sex track “Fembot,” while men and women dressed in all pink tossed roses into the audience during the shimmering crush-anthem “Boys”.

Although Jepsen didn’t appear at the New York show, Charli serenaded the audience with the ethereal “Backseat” and played a hypnotic version of “3am (Pull Up)” sans MØ. The audience was even treated to a rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier” from Polachek and Cook as Charli changed outfits.

Later she’d collaborate with Candy and CupcakKe for the raunchy Pop 2 track “I Got It,” with the Chicago rapper joining Charli on stage for a total of four songs. With the amount of women taking over the stage, it was impossible to not feel uplifted.

Shows like Charli’s are important in an era where women are fighting back against industry sexism. While Hollywood may be making strides with the “Time’s Up” movement, music still has a long way to go. National and international music festival lineups still see a lack of female headliners and featured artists, but Charli is changing the narrative in her own way, creating a space to raise other women’s voices in music. The future of pop is female, and Charli and her contemporaries are leading the charge.

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