As Charli XCX readies her second studio album for release later this year, the British pop provocateur has once again struck a chord with American audiences as a featured performer on another artist’s single. One year after Icona Pop’s “I Love It” became a slow-growing radio smash and peaked at No. 7 on the Hot 100 chart, Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” has morphed into a fast-rising breakout for the Australian rapper, reaching an identical No. 7 peak on the Hot 100 last week.
“It’s been massively different for me, on a personal level and on a Charli XCX level,” says the singer (real name: Charlotte Aitchinson) of supporting “Fancy,” on which she sings the opulent hook, as compared to promoting “I Love It” last year. “With ‘I Love It,’ there was never a plan for me to go and write for Icona Pop — they were just there, and it happened, and no one really knew what was going on. Then it was a bit of a mess that turned into a stressful experience, and something that I didn’t really enjoy. They were traveling the world and it was great, but I never felt part of that process, partly due to the nature of the song and how it sounds. I never really felt like it was my song.
“With Iggy, it’s been the flip side of that — I’ve been doing TV [performances] in America, which is so crazy for me,” she continues. Indeed, XCX has been on hand to join Azalea and perform “Fancy” on national TV shows like “Good Morning America” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” over the past two months. “I never thought that the first time I was on U.S. television, I’d be doing a dance routine, but I just went with it, and I actually really loved it. From the start, Iggy has been like, ‘This is your song as well as my song,’ which I think is very nice of her, and it made me very excited about the song. I feel valued.”
While Charli XCX says that she’s “very thankful” to have the opportunities that Icona Pop and Azalea have given her as a guest performer, the singer also reiterates the desire to no longer be seen as a featured artist. Her debut album, “True Romance,” was littered with forward-thinking pop treasures like “Nuclear Seasons” and “You’re The One,” but has only sold 12,000 copies since its release last April, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Still, XCX is not going to bend her songwriting towards “I Love It” or “Fancy” simply because they have connected at radio. “I never want to make the same thing twice,” she says. “I never want to make another ‘True Romance’ — I want to make something different and something special. I remember when I went into the studio with Stargate, and they had this beat that they wanted me to write on, and it had the same tempo as ‘I Love It.’ They were like, ‘This is your thing now!’ And I was like, ‘No! Oh no!'”
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Even if Charli XCX did want to create another crossover hit like “I Love It” for herself, she wouldn’t know how to capture lightning in a bottle like that again. “Whenever anyone is like, ‘Charli, I want to play you this song, tell me if you think it’s a hit,’ I’m like, ‘I literally have no fucking clue,'” she says. “What does a ‘hit’ even mean? I just don’t know, and I think that’s a good thing. I think when you start to pay attention to what’s going on [in mainstream music], that’s when you make really bad creative decisions and flat, boring music. I like not knowing what the fuck is going on when I’m writing music.”
Thus far, XCX has released two songs that will presumably appear on the follow-up to “True Romance”: “SuperLove,” a deliriously fun pop single released in December, and “Boom Clap,” a magnetic track that will receive a proper music video shortly. “Boom Clap” will also appear on the soundtrack to the upcoming film adaptation of “The Fault in Our Stars,” which XCX watched for the first time at a screening last month.
“Oh my God, it’s like a full-on, amazing cry-fest,” she says of the film. “The scene that [‘Boom Clap’] is in is an uplifting moment in the film. And while the song itself is very euphoric and enthusiastic about romance… it’s about wanting to fall in love, but there’s this hint of sadness in that, which I like.”