Scouting around the half-empty 02 Academy, I realised swiftly that, barring mums, I was pretty much the oldest person at the Charli XCX concert. I headed to the bar, and bought a pint of the beer I am legally permitted to consume, giving an awkward “No really, I’m not grooming anyone” grin to the bartender. As she poured the pint, and the teenagers looked on in scorn and envy, Charli came on stage with ‘Sucker’, the title track of her upcoming album.
And then it got quite sad. Because although Charli XCX is like, legitimately famous – famous enough to have more than two songs regularly played in Park End – the combination of mindless enthusiasm and thoughtless album tracks wore thin quite quickly. The art-school pretension that brought Charli to the attention of major labels has been ditched in favour of lowest common denominator pop, and her audience has changed from pinging East London ravers to sullen teens. Maybe if I myself had taken some ecstasy pre-show, I would have felt more engaged. But though she may have that special glow only famous people have, she clearly hasn’t mastered their secret crowd-manipulation and mind-control techniques as well as this man thinks:
The hollowness of the whole set up was upsettingly obvious. On one side there was a crowd of parents and disappointed teens, increasingly aware that they are being fleeced. On the other side was a singer, who knows she is only five hits away from bigger venues and bigger paychecks. On both sides, enthusiasm about as convincing as my ex’s when I took them to see the darts. No one was loving it, apart from possibly Icona Pop, who are still coining in royalties from ‘I Love It’. Some music is better live; some is better in the original. It is a sad indictment of Charli XCX that her best song is best presented in the episode of Girls where Hannah goes to a rave:
When an artist asks the audience, “How are you doing tonight?” the noise that greets them should sound like an infinite number of monkeys have been finally freed from their infinite number of typewriters. The noise should not sound like it’s trying to say, “Not bad, you?” Charli XCX inspired the latter reaction. ‘Boom Clap’ is fun and all, but the only way that Charli XCX is in the best thing from LA to Tokyo is if she’s going by way of the International Date Line. And even then she’s got to compete with Lorde and Flight of the Conchords.
Charli XCX is the kind of vacuous act that allows people to dismiss pop music, even to dismiss modern music, on grounds of ‘inauthenticity’, or ‘stupidity’, or some other label that clearly doesn’t actually apply to Drake and/or Taylor Swift. She is the test-tube baby of a shadowy committee, engineered to exploit whatever trend is going, just after the moment of its relevancy. Beyond any arguments of appropriative and/or incompetent co-stars, it’s worth noting that ‘Fancy’ now functions as a marker for the end of 90s revival, and the ratchet, DJ Mustard beat as a ubiquitous West Coast style (Also, can we talk about how Charli XCX replaces Dionne in that video? Because if that’s not whitewashing then I genuinely don’t know what whitewashing is). Charli, or ‘The Charli Function’, as it may be more accurate to call her, is the beast that makes you hate your favourite scene. In 1994 she would have been releasing grunge pop. In 2003 it would have been shabby New York indie pop. Nerds of the world take note, when your sub-culture crosses over into the mainstream, Charli XCX will be amongst the first landing party.
So be warned now that when hell freezes over, and the devil himself must come on the face of the earth to buy ice skates, he will first make himself known to his pitiful subjects through a collaboration with Rita Ora. In other news, Charlie XCX has a new single out, watch it below.