With a “Boom Clap,” Charli XCX has recently thundered into the top-50 pop charts.
From this summer’s mega-hit “Fancy” to her contribution to Icona Pop’s feisty “I Love It,” the 22-year-old singer has influenced the current direction of pop music. Yet Charli XCX deserves recognition not just as a background collaborator, but also as a legitimate star in her own right. Her recent concert at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club confirms that more fans will be singing her praises.
Don’t let her tiara and blue cheerleading uniform fool you: Charli XCX is angry (even though, given her musical talent and magnetic stage presence, she has no reason to be). Sassily stomping onto the stage while her short skirt swirls around her thighs, Charli seethes to the audience, and with a piercing laugh proclaims “You lied … I was right.”
Charli’s sarcastic exasperation over a bad breakup resonated with the twenty-somethings in the audience. Dismissing exes, pining for new flings, and asserting her rebellious desire to “break the rules,” Charli offered a much-needed feminist perspective, while maintaining a mainstream pop appeal. Alongside her teenage girl/cheerleader/back-up musicians, who nodded their heads in agreement with her rage, Charli formed a phalanx of girl power on stage. Her repeated prancing around, direct pointing to the audience and grinding dances with un-bemused 9:30 staff members created the image of Charli as a relatable, if somewhat wild, girlfriend.
Fusing the sweetly direct “FU” tone of Lily Allen with the angsty Goth vibe of Lorde, Charli celebrates female empowerment. Since she writes many of her songs — she co-wrote “I Love It” — she reflects intelligence and wit behind mere stage presence. It’s encouraging to know that a pop star takes the “art” of music seriously. Luckily, her writing ability is matched by her singing skills.
During the concert, I was astonished by her stamina. Charli’s voice not only sounded exactly like radio recordings, but she lasted without breaks for over an hour. In the pop world of lip-syncing and auto-tuning, Charli projected genuine talent.
As Charli progresses in her career, I hope she continues to evaluate her image. By wearing a clichéd, eroticized cheerleading outfit, Charli actually embraced the objectification of women instead of overcoming it. Despite this setback, Charli’s buyout stage persona and enthralling vocals made the concert an amazing experience. The music of Charli XCX is here to stay — and I love it.