Over the course of a few mixtape singles, Charli XCX has established herself as a face to watch in the indie-pop realm: tracks like “Nuclear Seasons,” “You’re The One” and the recently released “You (Ha Ha Ha)” demonstrate an intrinsic understanding of arresting pop arrangements. Although the 20-year-old U.K. singer-songwriter was a fan of punk music when she was an early teen, she now draws upon influences from mainstream pop, art-rock, R&B and hip-hop — all while maintaining a decidedly edgy disposition.
Before Charli XCX’s debut album arrives this spring (and before “I Love It,” her recent collaboration with Icona Pop, continues scaling the Hot 100), the singer chatted with Billboard’s Pop Shop about the artists that have most impacted her craft, as well as her current faves, for the latest edition of the “Gimme Five” series. Charli admitted to being nervous about slighting any of her all-time necessities, like the Spice Girls or Kate Bush: “I actually wrote them down, because I was going to freak out that I would forget!” she says.
From Geri Halliwell dolls to Bugs Bunny rap voices, check out Charli XCX’s breakdown of her musical obsessions:
1. Kate Bush
Charli XCX: “The album ‘The Sensual World’ is one of the records that defines me. I think the album artwork is amazing — it’s one of my favorite album artworks ever. She’s smelling the rose, she’s got the rose in front of her face, and I think it’s so beautiful. I just love the production of that whole record, the way that her vocals sound. Everything about it is so dreamy. I think my favorite song on it is ‘Heads We’re Dancing.'”
“Uffie was like the first artist that I was completely inspired by, that made me work, I suppose. And that whole label that she’s with, Ed Banger, all of the artists from that — Justice and Feadz and Sebastian — the whole French electric thing did it for me when I was 14 or 15. I remember thinking, ‘Whoa, this is insane,’ and I loved that Uffie rapped. She’s got this freaky accent.”
3. Spice Girls
“Aesthetically they’re my perfect band. Their album ‘Spice’ – they have so many good pop songs on that! ‘2 Become 1’ is a fucking jam, and ‘Say You’ll Be There’ is one of my favorite videos ever, when they’re throwing all these blades and knives. It’s like, ‘Yes! That’s so cool.’ I love that shit. They probably inspired me to pick up a hairbrush when I was like five and sing into it.
My boyfriend actually bought me Spice Dolls for Christmas — they have dolls now. So I have Posh, Baby and Geri as well. I just did an interview with Geri Halliwell, so it’s, like, really creepy now that I have a doll of her, and that I also met her and I like went to her house. All of it’s creepy.”
“The first track that they put out was a cover of [‘If You Love Me” by] Brownstone, with Jessie Ware. And they put out this other track called ‘Fall in Love,’ which is amazing. It’s got this luscious but melancholic beat, like ‘4 a.m., dark-house’ kind of vibes, and I love that.”
5. Brooke Candy
“She’s this badass rapper chick, and she’s the future. She’s so cool. We did a collaboration together on a track called ‘Cloud Aura’ that was on my second mixtape, and she just put out a track called ‘Everybody Does.’ In the video she’s got iguanas crawling through her hair — she’s just so great. Her raps are really inventive and… she’s got this crazy voice that sounds like a little Bugs Bunny type. I think she’s going to like be huge.”