In The Greenroom With Charli XCX
Backstage at The Shrine in Los Angeles, Charli XCX sat quietly listening to music from her laptop, waiting before her performance with Marina and the Diamonds. She was dressed in one of her signature schoolgirl skirts and sky-high platform sneakers. Make-up lay scattered all around her table. For someone who’d just penned a hit that has charted in over 20 countries, you’d expect to a huge team of hair and makeup artists, wardrobe stylists with racks of clothes, and frantic managers swarming around and fussing with the young star. In reality, we were the only people in the room; Charli had done her own hair, her own makeup, and had picked out the outfit for her performance earlier that evening.
It’s hard to believe that Charli is only 20 years old. At the age where many of us have just begun the journey of "finding ourselves", Charli exudes the confidence of a woman who knows exactly who she is, what she likes, and is already doing exactly what she wants to be doing. With 6 years of experience already behind her (she began writing music and recording at age 14), she has already proven to the world that she has what it takes to write a hit. "I Love It" (performed by Icona Pop), the song popularized by the HBO show Girls and countless commercials, was written by Charli and showcases her ability to write music that have both anthem worthy lyrics and ultimate danceability. She seems like she would be the perfect candidate for electro-pop princess status. Hailing from England, Charli XCX is cute, loves experimenting with fashion, and you can’t help but listen to all of her songs on repeat. But don’t let any of that fool you, Charli’s definitely no puppet or product of any formula. The singer is very much in control of her image and her music, the latter of which contain lyrics that give you a glimpse into a depth that would surprise you coming from someone who can’t even legally drink alcohol in the US. All of that and she’s still as sweet, fun loving, and down to earth as you’d want your college roommate to be.
While the clock ticked away the minutes until her performance, Charli was cool enough to sacrifice some of her scheduled dinner time to take a couple minutes to answer some of our questions and play around in front of our cameras.
Milk Made: I was driving over here today and listening to “What I Like” on repeat, and I thought to myself, what does Charli like? So, let’s start there. You’ve mentioned in a few interviews dressing up like the Spice Girls with your friends as a kid, who was your favorite?
Charli XCX: My favorite was Baby Spice, I always wanted to dye my hair blonde and have blonde eyebrows and stuff like that, it probably would’ve made me look like an alien.. but I always had to be Scary Spice because I had big hair. But I didn’t mind, I quite liked Scary Spice too.
MM: Favorite Disney princess?
CXCX: The Little Mermaid when I was younger definitely. But now it’s Miley Cyrus if she counts as a Disney princess.
MM: Same sex celebrity crush?
CXCX: Rose McGowan or Fairuza Bulk (Nancy Downs in the Craft).
MM: Male celebrity crush?
CXCX: Bill Nighy. Do you know who that is?
MM: Wait, Bill Nye the science guy?
CXCX: No, no not Bill Nye the science guy. He’s a British actor. He’s probably like 60, but he’s really cool.
MM: The other day, I read an article that you posted about sexism in the music industry and how female artists aren’t getting their due. You were in it along with Grimes and some other female artists and producers—as a female in the music industry, I was really interested in what was mentioned in it. Do you think it’s frustrating that being female has to even be focused on this much? How important do you think this issue is and what’s your experience with it?
CXCX: I co-write songs and write hits for other people– like the Icona Pop hit (“I Love It”) was something I wrote solely alone, along with a lot of my record, and I feel like I’ve heard from some people that because I work with producers or I co-write, it makes me into some kind of bimbo. I don’t think that’s true because most of the music industry, including credible bands.. I share the same producers as Theophilus London and Vampire Weekend, and I never see them face those kind of criticisms. And it’s fucking annoying actually because like I said, I just wrote a song that went Platinum or Gold in almost every country in the world over, so I’m doing fine on that front. I’m a good writer, but just because I’m a girl it seems to be kind of like, “oh but she’s a girl she obviously didn’t do that on her own.” And I did, I wrote all the lyrics, I wrote the top line, and yes, I wrote the song with a producer, the producer produced the beat, but I don’t still don’t understand why that makes it like, “oh, well, she obviously didn’t really do anything. ” And I think it’s important that it’s being talked about and I think that it’s really important and really obvious that loads of girls are making the most interesting music at the moment. In both the underground and the Top 40 Pop world- like Sia is writing hits for everyone, and Bonnie McKee and all of these great female writers are behind a lot of male top 40 artists but I don’t think sometimes they get that recognition. Whereas people seem to always remember the Dr. Luke’s.
MM: Very true. It’s sad that most people don’t know that. Another topic that I’ve read about in a couple other articles talk about female artists and their image—one was a comparison of Janelle Monae and Beyoncé, using their magazine cover photos as an example. Janelle Monae talks about in her interview how she purposely covers herself up and wears suits so that people notice her voice and her talent more than her body. Where do you think you stand in this arena?
CXCX: I don’t think that females should be demonized for embracing their sexuality. I think that just because you like certain clothes or you move in a certain way, I don’t think it should be said that you’re just trying to sell sex. And at the same time it really infuriates me when just because a girl has a short haircut she’s automatically a lesbian. But I think that like there’s a difference between selling sex and fashion as well. I wear what I wear because I’m inspired by Clueless and I’m inspired by The Craft and other of my favorite movies, not because I’m trying to flash my panties to the world, you know what I mean?
I think the perfect example is the Rolling Stone’s cover of Mick Jagger’s crotch. If a girl did that it would be outrageous and, “she’s selling sex!” Mick Jagger is fucking sexy when he’s on stage and when he’s taking his shirt off and whatever, but it’s seen as cool. And I’m not saying that’s what I wish I could do, like I wish I could get my tits out, that’s not what I wish. I’m happy with the way that I dress and the way I perform. It just frustrates me when you’re being demonized just for embracing your own body. But then at the same time there are days where I’ll wear a t-shirt and pajama bottoms and go on stage like that and people are like she looks a mess, she‘s a lesbian, and all of this and it’s just so annoying—because why throw that comment? It’s fashion and it’s– I see that whole thing as being a very important part of music, my aesthetic, so I treat it like that and I don’t pay attention to any of that other shit.
MM: So I think that “girl power” is kind of a silly slogan, but at the same time still very relevant and making a revival. Do you think it’s evolved at all since when the Spice Girls popularized it— what does it mean to you?
CXCX: I feel like when the Spice Girls were throwing it about, it was all about them being like, yeah we’re a group of 5 girls and we’re best friends! And if you’re a girl you can do it, you can do anything you want! And I believe that still– if you’re a girl you should be able to do whatever you want, you can do anything you put your mind to. But I feel like girl power now is kind of a word that’s being the face of a lot more serious discussions, like we were just talking about, and then there’s this whole Pussy Riot! thing— I feel like there’s a lot being put under that umbrella that’s being discussed right now. And I mean that word is kind of a cute word with a cute peace sign slogan, but I think it’s more serious than that. For me right now, in the music industry, like I said, I feel like it’s girls creating the most interesting music both mainstream and underground, and it’s girls who all have respect for each other, especially the circle I’m in– we all have respect for each other and there’s no competition. I think that’s what girl power is about: girls united rather than girls against each other. And I feel like sometimes people want to see girls against each other, but I don’t think that’s what it’s about. I don’t see myself being in competition with anyone. I actually just saw that Angel Haze did a performance with Iggy Azelea, and it was kind of like they were saying—there’s no competition, and I thought that was cool.
Photos by: Koury Angelo