Charli XCX has spent the past decade scaling the heights of pop superstardom in front of and behind the scenes. From her breakthrough in 2013 as one of the writers of Icona Pop‘s “I Love It,” to writing the hook for Iggy Azalea‘s “Fancy” the next year and scoring solo hits including “Boom Clap,” “Doing It” and “1999,” the 27 year-old multi-hyphenate has seemingly seen and done it all.
But in the digital cover story in the latest issue of Billboard sister title SPIN magazine out today (Sept. 12), the singer born Charlotte Aitchison pulls back the curtain on the hard road to her success and the perils of having everything you thought you wanted. “[I go into] my thoughts and feelings about my mental state and what life is supposed to be as an artist, my depression, and my insecurities,” she tells the magazine about how she has used her music to help explore her mental health in an candid, sincere way. “I’m being more honest than ever before. It’s been very therapeutic.”
She describes how “Fancy” helped pull her into what she calls an amazing world of “real pop star whirlwind shit,” during which she got to travel the globe, appear on all kinds of “crazy TV shows” and get molded into the artist she is now. Did it bring her ultimate “happiness and creative fulfillment?” Not really. “People don’t often talk about the kind of difficulty that surrounds being a creative person…I’m not happy all the time,” she says. “I’m not stable all the time, and I don’t want to pretend that I am. I want people who follow me and care about my music to know that I don’t feel 100 percent on my game all the time, and it’s OK.”
With plenty of shiny baubles to document her success in hand, Charli says she’s more focused on making music she cares about these days than fame and commerical success. As an example, she points to 2017’s eclectic Pop 2 mixtape, which featured contributions from Lil Peep, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kim Petras, Jay Park, Tove Lo, Brooke Candy and Cupcakke, among others.
“Like me, she pushes boundaries,” says bounce queen Big Freedia, who is slated to appear on Charli’s upcoming self-titled album. “But most importantly, she creates music that makes her feel good and her fans.” But it’s her pals in Icona Pop who put it best when describing how Charli manages to keep such an eclectic stable of collaborators spinning like so many plates. “One of her superpowers is bringing people together to do great stuff,” they say. “She is a creative force.”