How Charli XCX Made Her Most Personal Album (With Some Help From Lizzo and Troye Sivan)

The singer talks touring, iconic music videos and her new record Charli

By Winsome Walker Sep 12, 2019 8:12 AMTags
Related: Charli XCX Reveals Her Australian Tour Plans

"You are entering pop heaven. All angels welcome," the marquee above Charli XCX's secret Sydney show in August announced. It's a message Charli's loyal fanbase of Angels (think about it) have come to know and love from the British singer-songwriter.

The 27-year-old, who became famous for her boundary-pushing pop, eclectic style and thumping live shows, dug deep for her third album Charli, which she describes as her most personal record yet.

"I've put as many of my emotions, my thoughts, my feelings and my experiences with relationships into these 15 songs and I am so proud of them," the singer (real name Charlotte Aitchison) shared on Instagram.

While in Sydney, Charli told E! News she didn't have any major fears about releasing her most candid album to date.

"At the moment I'm not super apprehensive, but the day it drops I'll probably be like, did I say too much?" the "Boom Clap" singer said. "I have a really good dialogue with my fans and I feel very safe with them and able to open up. So I feel pretty good about it at this point in time."

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On the album, Charli is vocal about her insecurities ("I feel so unstable, f--cking hate these people/How they're making me feel lately," she sings in "Gone" with Christine and the Queens) as well as troubled relationships.

And while it's her most personal work, her collaborations with other artists (Lizzo! HAIM! Sky Ferreira!) are the backbone of the album.  

Perth-raised singer Troye Sivan appears on two songs. Their nostalgia-filled collab "1999" saw the pair dress up and pay tribute to a host of ‘90s references like The Sims, Skechers sneakers, The Matrix and Eminem. (Do yourself a favour and watch it here if you haven't already.)

"I really loved working with Troye and doing that video with him. We laughed the whole time," Charli told E! News. "It was a fun experience to dress up in all of those outfits. He was so convincing as Eminem as well. He really nailed all of the hand moves and the body positioning. It was cool to see him get into character like that."

The Cambridge-born artist reunited with Troye for the futuristic follow-up "2099", which closes her album. 

"After we did "1999" I was like, I know you're a freak. I know you want to do something a little weirder, so should we just go for round two?" she recalled. "That's what I really love about Troye, he knows what he likes and he's very open to experimenting with his art. We thought it would be fun to do this song "2099" and it's about being very braggy about how we think we're the best."

Another huge collaboration on the album? "Blame It On Your Love", featuring the "queen of everything" Lizzo. The singer is a long-time fan of Lizzo's infectious music—as well as her moves. (Anyone who's been to a Charli XCX show knows there'll be sweaty dancing.)

But she didn't try and get any twerking tips from the "Truth Hurts" singer while on the set of their music video.

"No one needs to see me trying to twerk," she laughed. "But I very much enjoy her moves and love what she does. I love her Instagram. Whenever she's twerking on Instagram, I'm like, yes, go off."

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In the five years since her second album Sucker, the "I Love It" singer hasn't slowed down. She's released two mixtapes, guested on tracks and clocked up a bunch of songwriting credits (including the Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes chart-topper "Señorita"). In 2018, she supported Taylor Swift on her Reputation Stadium Tour with Cabello.

But last month, the singer came under fire on social media after saying opening for Swift was like "getting up on stage and waving to 5-year-olds". She later clarified her quote, explaining that playing all-age shows after predominately 18+ clubs was a new experience for her and insisting there was "absolutely no shade."

Matt Winkelmeyer/TAS18/Getty Images for TAS

And while Charli's relationship with social media has had its lows, she's in a good place with it now.

"Sometimes I feel super positive and hyped to be on social media and I really have fun with it, but other times it's like a hellhole. But I feel like everybody kind of feels that way," she said. "When it's playing your game you love it, and when it turns against you, you hate it. Also, it's tiring. But right now, I'm good. I like it. The internet is funny if you don't take it too seriously."

Up next for the singer? A headline tour across the US and Europe, hopefully with dates in Australia next year.

"I definitely want to come back to Australia. I imagine it will be in 2020 and I'll play some shows all over the country," she said. "You guys know how to party, so it would be really fun to perform the album here."

Charli is out September 13. 

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